Thoughts on Revenge Porn Laws

Revenge porn laws criminalize distribution of sexually explicit media without the consent of the individual/s involved. Often, it’s done by ex-partners who wish to harm the individual, usually a woman.

Are they necessary?

My first thought, when hearing about them, is that it’s another way to overregulate things and make every little assholery behavior illegal. I’m not a fan of legislating morality – I think the state should protect its people from the worst offences, but leave people to figure the small stuff out for themselves. The personal is not political.

1)They’re Superfluous

It’s already illegal to secretly film people if they are not in public. Secretly filming your partner while you have sex might land you in hot water, if ever released. The only obstacle would, perhaps, be lack of evidence. It would be hard to prove that the victim didn’t know he/she was being filmed. But that would be true with revenge porn laws, too. It would be hard to prove that the accuser didn’t initially consent to having their pictures released on the internet, and then lie that they didn’t consent. So it doesn’t seem to help.

2)The Consequences Aren’t Enough to Make it Illegal

There are concerns that having your naked pictures be made public can lead to job loss, marital prospects being negatively affected, and reputation being ruined. Is it a good reason to make it illegal?

*If potential for job loss was a good reason to make something illegal, it would make gossip illegal. Also, revealing other people’s secrets, such as HIV status. Do we really want this much restriction on free speech?

*Why does revealing that you do normal, harmless things (have sex, and make home videos/photos) have to lead to job loss and a ruined reputation? Why can’t someone be a powerful CEO by day, and an amateur pornstar by night? If nude pictures lead to job loss and shame, then society/employer was the problem, not the person whose pics were released, and not even the person who released the pics. Btw, I’m not convinced job loss and a ruined reputation would even happen over nude pictures. At least not here. Maybe more likely in puritan USA?

*A person who is greatly concerned with their marital prospects would not film themselves having sex, or take candid photos. And even then, I’m not convinced it’s that big of a deal. Even porn stars get married. Some men might not accept a woman who has a sex tape, but many others will see it as an opportunity to create their own sex tape with her. Plus many men get upset that she used to do kinky acts on tape, and refused to do the same with him, not that she did them at all.

3)They are Oddly Specific

Why do we need laws specifically against releasing naked pictures and porn? Lots of things except sex are private. Lots of things except sex can be embarrassing. If the logic behind revenge porn laws was to protect privacy and reputation, then posting prank videos should be illegal. Same would apply to pictures of drunk sleeping people, who have been drawn on with a marker. Or reading and revealing someone’s personal diary.

IMO, the focus on sex reveals revenge porn laws to be another manifestation of the feminist fear that a woman’s sexual capital will be stolen or tarnished somehow. It’s not just about provacy or consent.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Feminism, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Thoughts on Revenge Porn Laws

  1. Dragonfly says:

    I’m not sure you understand the nature of “revenge porn.” For most of the cases that have actually happened, it was not an ex-boyfriend using pictures or video of his girlfriend on the internet, but was actually a hacker using webcam video, pictures etc. found on an innocent woman’s computer. They then link it to her facebook and social media accounts so that all her contacts see the footage or pictures. They also harass the victims, post their addresses, or personal identification belongings, and encourage other men to contribute to the harassment (and they do). You should look into the actual cases where it has happened. I do think it needs to be very specific in regulation because it was far more worse than what it sounds like.

    • I do know that revenge porn laws cover hackers who steal intimate pictures. And revenge porn laws also cover people who distribute sexual pics of their exes (example: http://www.ibtimes.com/revenge-porn-laws-see-first-conviction-36-year-old-man-sentenced-one-year-jail-1732107?rel=rel1 ).

      What I don’t understand is why a separate law is needed, when hacking and distributing anything personal (sexual or not) could be covered by a general cybercrime law. Why do we need a law specifically for sex, and why does it need to cover distribution of pictures that were freely given?

      I also don’t see how posting someone’s adress is relevant. Our adresses and other information is often freely available in goverment sites, such as those related to taxes. And doxxing is not illegal at the moment. Should it be?

  2. Liz says:

    ” But that would be true with revenge porn laws, too. It would be hard to prove that the accuser didn’t initially consent to having their pictures released on the internet, and then lie that they didn’t consent. So it doesn’t seem to help.”

    There is a very easy remedy for this.
    I started an organization a few years ago for spouses of military members. I wanted to send group emails through this organization, so I asked everyone to sign a statement to allow me to put them on a mass email list where their emailing addresses were made available to everyone else on the list. If they didn’t want to be on the list and didn’t sign my paperwork, I sent them the email separately.

    If the person on film agrees to the public disclosure by signing some sort of document like the one I came up with and asked everyone to sign, it should be fine.

    • It would probably work. Although like in case of signing a contract before sex, a lot of people don’t bother with that stuff in the heat of the moment. How to deal with cases where nobody bothered to sign a document?

      • Liz says:

        Without signed consent, it would depend on whether or not there was a reasonable expectation of privacy when the (distributed) material was taped. In most cases involving sexual activity this would be true (outside of a public orgy or something). If there was a reasonable expectation of privacy during the filming, it should be against the law to distribute the material without consent. It’s one thing to make a videotape to keep in order to protect oneself legally (for trial evidence to combat a rape accusation, for instance), or just for personal use, and quit another to distribute it publicly. It’s pretty obvious the material could easily be potentially exploitive, not just for “prudes” and “puritans”, there are any number of ways that sort of material, if distributed, could impact a person’s family or professional life. Lots of blackmailing potential.

      • But how do you know the person did not initially consent to having the tape be distributed, and then changed their mind (due to a breakup, regret, or wanting revenge)? Just gonna take the accuser’s word for it?

        And I still have to disagree that it’s not just for puritans. Nudity and sex are natural things, and we’d be better off accepting that, instead of whipping up an aura of criminality around it. Either that, or punish nonconsensual distrubution of all things that appear private with the same hefty prison sentence. Anything else reveals an excessive focus on sex at the expense of other private things.

      • I want to write a clarification on why I don’t think it should be criminal to nonconsensually distribute pictures/movies taken with people who consented to being photographed/filmed.

        Each time you tell someone a secret, you risk having that secret revealed. Now I’m talking about regular informal secrets, shared by regular people. And if a secret is revealed by the confidant, they do not go to jail, no matter how ruined your reputation becomes. The confidant is then called a traitor and is not trusted anymore, but the person whose secret was revealed has to move on. I think the situation is analogous to spreading naked pictures and porn. One can’t completely insulate people from social risk and pain using criminal laws, and it should be obvious.

      • Liz says:

        “But how do you know the person did not initially consent to having the tape be distributed, and then changed their mind (due to a breakup, regret, or wanting revenge)? Just gonna take the accuser’s word for it?”

        Again, for the case of something that was taped when there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, and then disseminated to the public, verbal consent doesn’t count (excepting if the verbal consent was documented on the actual disseminated taped material, that would obviously be proof of verbal consent).
        Something like this should be written agreement, just like the case with my e mail distribution list, or a conversation taped in private.

      • So if a woman and a man make a movie, he releases it with her consent, she should be able to change her mind and say “Arrest him, he released a porn video of me!”?

      • Liz says:

        “Each time you tell someone a secret, you risk having that secret revealed. Now I’m talking about regular informal secrets, shared by regular people. And if a secret is revealed by the confidant, they do not go to jail, no matter how ruined your reputation becomes.”

        As a healthcare provider, I’m privy to a great many personal secrets that I could definitely get into legal trouble for distributing without written consent. It’s a privy rights violation, and as a healthcare provider I am in a position of trust, a position that could be exploitive. I guess one could argue that only prudes and puritans would care if their personal information (of any type) was distributed too, but I’d continue to disagree.

      • It’s different for healthcare providers, and other people who are usually under non-disclosure agreements. That’s why I said I was talking about informal secrets. Like secrets one friend tells to another friend. Friends are not legally obligated to keep each other’s secrets. Should it, in your opinion, be illegal to gossip and reveal other people’s secrets (no healthcare relationship involved)?

      • Liz says:

        Privacy, not privy, intended to say above.
        Freudian slip.

      • Liz says:

        “Either that, or punish nonconsensual distrubution of all things that appear private with the same hefty prison sentence. Anything else reveals an excessive focus on sex at the expense of other private things.”

        We could lop off people’s hands if we were REALLY serious about stealing too, I guess. There’s a cost to gains equation. A penalty should exist to dissuade people from violating the privacy of others but it doesn’t (necessarily) have to be a hefty prison sentence (or any prison sentence) to be effective.

      • Ok, so you’re for making it illegal to tell other people’s secrets, even if they are informal.

      • Liz says:

        Want to add, the “only prudes and puritans would care” argument is’nt so very different from the rationale some folks use when they argue that other types of privacy infringement are “okay…becuase if you aren’t doing anything wrong why would you care if they pry into your private affairs.” I’ve debated online quite a lot and this type of argument comes up pretty frequently in certain topics. Typically when the subject of privacy infringement occurs, the debater demands that the person explain why they have a problem with it and asserts that he or she must prove harm (for the “non-criminals” of course…if the person the government is spying on is guilty it’s all fine and the infringement was warranted).

        People are entitled to their privacy, it’s pretty important to a lot of humans. Most of them, in fact, even non-relgious or uptight people. If it wasn’t, I guess no one should have any problems with whatever inspections any government agent wants to give on the spot, “drop your trousers bend over and spread your cheeks and sacks (if you have one)!” And routine apartment checks! Only the guilty would care! Right?
        Comeon now, you know that isn’t so.

      • But we are not talking about spying, hacking and filming people without their knowledge inside their home. We’re talking about people who let someone have a tape/picture of them, or tell someone a secret, and then expect that person to keep those things private under threat of punishment by the government. There is a huge difference. Protecting the former is protecting privacy. Protecting the latter is nanny statism – trying to protect people from every little social risk (relationships with healthcare providers, lawyers and priests not included). Come on now, you know it’s not the same thing!..

      • And the only reason why I added the part about puritanism, is because of the obsession with sex. I wanted to show that this is NOT just about privacy (or else telling other people’s secrets/showing their diary would be taken just as seriously). It is about SEX. The fact that it’s all about porn and nudes makes it look puritan, not the insistence on privacy.

      • Liz says:

        “Ok, so you’re for making it illegal to tell other people’s secrets, even if they are informal.”

        No. But that isn’t a proper comparison. A proper comparison would be a hard copy (like copying a private document that happens to be in the same room, and then distributing it to others without consent). That is illegal in certain cases.

      • Liz says:

        “So if a woman and a man make a movie, he releases it with her consent, she should be able to change her mind and say “Arrest him, he released a porn video of me!”?

        Consent should be documented or it isn’t consent. Is there some reason he couldn’t get this in writing or stated on tape?

      • Why is it not consent unless it’s written? In any case, the accuser and their legal team would have to prove no consent took place, beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s credible that a couple would make a photoshoot and release a tape without going through the trouble of documenting their consent. There is plenty of reasonable doubt. Your idea seems to be the opposite – guilty until proven that he secured consent.

      • Liz says:

        He can’t really claim he didn’t have the time or enough of her attention.

      • So the burden of proving his innocence falls on the accused.

      • Liz says:

        The e mail list is really a proper comparison, I think. I could claim until the end of time that I was given verbal consent to distribute the e mail addresses. That wouldn’t matter, it is still illegal for me to distribute them without written consent. A lot of law depends on intent, of course. Here is a scenario:
        Hypothetical guy is a professional and has a sexual relationship with a woman who videotapes the encounter. His penis is very small. She distributes the tape and he gets the nickname ‘thinny’ and ‘needle wee’ (or whatever demeaning crap people throw out in anonymity on the world wide web). He is mortified and emotional and professionally damaged. The girl claims he agreed to the tape distribution. Harm intended? Yes. Personal damages? Yes.
        Why SHOULD the above be legal?

      • What is this law forbidding you from giving emails to other people unless they document their consent? Is it not the other way around? You need a special document (non-disclosure agreement) to explicitly prohibit the sharing? Otherwise, you can share all you want (but it’d be rude)?

        Perhaps this is what your example man should have done, if he wanted to secure himself. Make a non-disclosure agreement in advance, and then sue the client for breaking the contract and damaging his career. Of course, he’d still have to prove he didn’t release the tape himself, or consent to letting it be released just to claim the money.

        The question, IMO, is not “why should it be legal”, but rather “why should it be illegal”. You need a good reason to give government the power and monopoly on violence over the issue. I simply think “protecting people from social risk because they themselves informally told their secrets/gave their pictures to someone” is a lame reason. I think it’s good to protect people’s secrets when it comes to lawyers, doctors and priests, and it’s good to allow regular people to sue each other if they had non-disclosure agreements. But generally? It’s too much. People should be able to take care of the rest themselves. People can’t be insulated from all social risks, especially if they don’t bother to lift a finger to protect themselves from that risk.

      • Liz says:

        “The question, IMO, is not “why should it be legal”, but rather “why should it be illegal”. You need a good reason to give government the power and monopoly on violence over the issue. I simply think “protecting people from social risk because they themselves informally told their secrets/gave their pictures to someone” is a lame reason. I think it’s good to protect people’s secrets when it comes to lawyers, doctors and priests, and it’s good to allow regular people to sue each other if they had non-disclosure agreements. But generally? It’s too much. People should be able to take care of the rest themselves. People can’t be insulated from all social risks, especially if they don’t bother to lift a finger to protect themselves from that risk.”

        It should be illegal because the material is potentially exploitive and coercive.
        “Do x, y, z or I’ll release this material onto the world wide web”. There are any number of reasons why a person would object to that and something like that might impact them socially or professionally. It might even have catastrophic consequences for the whole family. That is what my example intended to illustrate. Yes, professional healthcare providers are in a special position of trust…but WHY is that the case? Because the release of personal information can have devastating consequences. Why do the Geneva Conventions protect prisoners from “public curiosity”? To protect them from being placed in demeaning situations and to prevent exploitation. It’s the same premise.

        By contrast, PUBLIC activity is different because there is no reasonable assumption of privacy. If someone is having a public orgy, or sex on the subway, they are not entitled to privacy protection. If something is taped in private and they do not consent to the release, privacy should be assumed and protected. The onus is on the person BROACHING that privacy and making it public to demonstrate why his or her actions were legal. Otherwise it’s illegal, just like if I walked into a person’s home and put something in my purse and then walked out and claimed the owner “gave it to me”.

      • Liz says:

        “What is this law forbidding you from giving emails to other people unless they document their consent?”
        I don’t know the name of the law, I only know that it is the law (according to a friend of mine who is a lawyer and drafted the disclosure agreement to be signed for the small organization we started).
        “Is it not the other way around? You need a special document (non-disclosure agreement) to explicitly prohibit the sharing?”
        It is not the other way around, privacy is assumed (and protected) unless and until the person signs a document stating otherwise.

        You’re an artist and writer, if I remember correctly Emma? Your original work is ipso facto protected by law unless and until you do agree (in writing) for it to be duplicated. A person can’t just (legally) duplicate your work and claim you verbally agreed to it (if you decide to pursue legal action against him or her).

      • I’m not conviced your friend told you it’s illegal to resend people’s emails. It sounds like he/she drafted a non-disclosure agreement for you, without which the law would not apply. Since it was done for an organization, I assume such things were important for a formal relationship between people in the organization. Even if this was the law as you say, it would not apply to social informal relationships, such as friends and lovers. Just to coworkers.

        As for my artwork, people can repost it all they like. I can probably get them for copyright violation if they claim it’s theirs, or if they make money off of it, though.

      • Liz says:

        I should add, I’m unsure of copywrite law for material published on the world wide web however…I know there are some protections but it’s probably similiar to the public versus private aspect mentioned earlier. Something already available to the public en masse (I’m assuming) has different guidelines.

  3. Liz says:

    Just to add, per this bit:
    “Btw, I’m not convinced job loss and a ruined reputation would even happen over nude pictures.”
    Doesn’t matter. If a person could justifiably sue over only the release of his or her personal e mail account without prior consent, so it stands to reason that a person should be able to sue over the release of his or her image if consent was not given. There are some exceptions to that, and those would be public personalities who don’t have the normal level of privacy the rest of us experience ipso facto by their positions…they DO have SOME privacy, but not as much (politicians, famous entertainers, and so forth).

    • Liz says:

      A person would have to provide evidence of harm in a negligence case.
      Not so with a violation of privacy case (which is wise, IMO, because this is the type of case where direct harm would be virtually impossible to prove regardless). Harm via disclosure is assumed, and ipso facto illegal.

    • Suing is another matter 🙂

  4. Dragonfly says:

    “But we are not talking about spying, hacking and filming people without their knowledge inside their home. ”

    That is what a lot of revenge porn actually is.

  5. Dragonfly says:

    “And the only reason why I added the part about puritanism, is because of the obsession with sex. I wanted to show that this is NOT just about privacy ”

    Even people who are far far from “puritan” just do not want their sex lives or nude pics shown. It’s normal. They don’t want their coworkers seeing these things, their bosses, or potential bosses. And if you don’t think that it affects employment, you haven’t lived enough in the real corporate world yet. Sadly, things like that really DO affect employment. When I worked in a very posh research setting with many people from all over the world, they warned us about things like this coming out (that you would lose your job). Even if someone was caught having an affair… it would be the same stigma (they told us) as using drugs.

    • Dragonfly says:

      And “they” who were warning us were the head people of Human Resources. They people in control of situations like that – they’re called “scandals” for a reason.

      • Yes, the way things are is rather hypocritical. Women are so sexually liberated that they share their pictures, but still need the nanny state to protect their “virture” once the guy decides to share them with others. I disagree with adding to that hypocrisy by adding more laws, such as revenge porn laws. If you act sexually liberated, there is no going back. If you believe you did nothing wrong the first time, then continue. You’re in the right, and judgemental people are in the wrong. To think otherwise is to be a typical modern feminist, who always wants things both ways.

    • I know sex is very private. So are our diaries and other very personal secrets. Lots of those things could get you fired, if ever revealed.

  6. Dragonfly says:

    Sex and nudity IS a privacy issue, otherwise everyone would be fine being nudists. In reality, that is a very tiny % of people who would be ok with that kind of lack of privacy of their sexuality or nudity.

  7. sa says:

    “IMO, the focus on sex reveals revenge porn laws to be another manifestation of the feminist fear that a woman’s sexual capital will be stolen or tarnished somehow. It’s not just about provacy or consent.”

    Listen to this, you all

    the reason why porn laws are bad is that they could help women maintaint their capital and property over their own body.
    A woman shall not have the right to not be tarnished- that would be such shame.

  8. Pingback: I Have a Sex Tape | Emma the Emo's Emo Musings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s