Opinion

Revenge porn is cruel; it should also be illegal

You shouldn't face humiliation for sharing naughty photos with a partner

Landing a spot on Santa’s naughty list this year? You may want to think again before texting those dirty pictures. Publicized sexually explicit content isn’t just for celebrities and politicians anymore.

It’s called revenge porn. Defined as “a form of sexual assault that involves the distribution of nude/sexually explicit photos and/or videos of an individual without their consent,” its main goal is to humiliate the subject for revenge. Photos are most commonly distributed by exes to websites tailored to this genre of pornography. It’s a serious breach of trust and privacy that can potentially destroy a person’s life.

Revenge porn has been referred to as cyber-rape, and with good cause. Just as you can’t say a rape victim had it coming for dressing a certain way, you can’t say a revenge porn victim had it coming for sending the pictures. The photos or videos are sent in confidence, usually to a significant other, with the expectation of privacy. Sending sexually explicit content to one person does not mean you want the rest of the world to see it too. It’s non-consensual, traumatizing, degrading and wrong.

Even if they are never sent, having sexy photos on a phone or computer can put a person at risk. Hackers have no problem submitting those photos to a porn site or using them as leverage to threaten or stalk.

I think this issue isn’t so much about whether or not a person should take scandalous pictures, but rather Internet security and privacy. These people are victims, not amateur porn stars. If they wanted to be porn stars, they would have distributed the material themselves. But they didn’t. These are ordinary people with careers and ambitions who are being exploited on the web without their knowledge or consent.

A person’s body and sexuality should never be used against them, especially as a means of humiliation.

Though it’s been around, revenge porn has only recently become a major problem. And the even bigger problem is that no one really knows how to deal with it.

Holly Jacobs, founder of the End Revenge Porn campaign, created a petition along with existing revenge porn legislation to criminalize revenge porn in the United States. Currently only two states have laws that criminalize it. This October, New York state Senator Phil Boyle proposed a bill that would make revenge porn illegal. Unlike California’s law, this will also cover photos and videos taken by the victim.

Without legislation, only the victims are penalized. It’s extremely difficult to have content removed, and sites often demand huge payments in return for taking down photos or videos. It ruins public and personal lives, careers, relationships and can even lead to suicide.

We should also consider intent: Why should the woman — who sent naked photos with the intention of showing affection to only one man — suffer, while the man — who distributed the photos to porn sites with the intention of hurting her — can get away without consequence?

If you really want to share naughty pictures with someone you trust or spend some quality time video chatting with them, you should be able to without worrying about seeing yourself all over hundreds of trashy websites when the relationship ends. But for now, revenge porn is still legal. So if you’re still going to send your partner those pictures, just be careful and aware of the repercussions.

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.