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Time to ban ‘revenge porn’

Secrets of an Essex GirlAnother Sunday, another case of celebrity revenge porn. This time Lauren Goodger from The Only Way is Essex is the victim and the piece itself is said to be a six second clip of her performing “a sex act”. You don’t need a particularly filthy imagination to work out what that might be. The alleged culprit is apparently an ex-partner, Goodger’s “co-star”.

As I’ve argued before, ‘revenge porn‘ is something of a misnomer. Porn, regardless of content, is performed by willing participants who also consent to its dissemination. Performers might be professional and do it for payment, or amateurs giving it a go for kinky kicks. Revenge porn on the other hand misses one or both elements of consent and therefore is a form of sexual assault. In Goodger’s case this is doubly so as she has not consented to the clip’s circulation, and wasn’t aware she was being filmed.

There have been calls to make “revenge porn” illegal, and I broadly agree for the following reasons. It is a form of sexual bullying. Regardless of whether the victim is a woman or a man its sole intention is to shame, degrade, and humiliate. As things on the internet have a tendency to stick around forever revenge porn is calculated to damage the victim now and, crucially, in the future. It can destroy careers, wreck life chances, and poison relationships. It already has – there’s plenty of testimonial evidence to back it up.

As far as this case goes, a celebrity like Goodger might weather her assault in terms of future career – as unpleasant and deeply hurtful it feels at the moment – but others not in the public eye will be as fortunate. And let’s also be realistic about this. While men are and will continue being victims of revenge porn, it’s women bearing the brunt of it. Revenge porn is very much part of the slut-shaming subculture that’s everywhere, from casual internet misogyny to a continuing blockade and occupation. Leaving it unhindered is basically giving the reduction of women to objects, to sexual latrines a cultural free pass.

Western culture has a screwed up, confused, and confusing attitude to sex. In Britain, it’s best summed up by the two conservative papers who scream loudest about morality and family values. The Sun and The Mail also happen to, respectively, publish half-naked photos of women and revealing snaps of under age celebrity offspring.

At the root of it all is our cultural understanding of sexuality, of how it somehow speaks to the truth of our character, that finding out what one gets up to in the bedroom and with whom is the reference point for the quality of their soul.

Most of us treat our own sexual behaviour this way too. Yes, people do talk about their sex lives with friends and acquaintances, especially when you’re young, but it is mostly done so from a position of control, of revealing tidbits in terms of managing the self. It’s frequently abused. Indiscretion about sexual partners is the stuff of gossip, but that tends not to carry too far.

Revenge porn is different. Because sex and quality of character is so bound up, wilfully exposing someone else’s body and what they like to do with it is charged with psychological damage, made worse by the betrayal of trust it implies. And thanks to the wonderful sexual hypocrisy we live with, it is the victim who is blamed for allowing the photos or film to be taken, not the perpetrator who uploads and shares those intimate moments with the world.

Revenge porn is a type of sexual assault. Time for considered action to be taken against it.

The article first appeared at All that is Solid

Image credit: cover of Secrets of an Essex Girl by Lauren Goodger

One Comment

  1. Robert says:

    No argument from me this is a type of blackmail, use4d to make money I suspect.

    But if people do this then the person who has not consented should be able to sue.

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