By: Brooke Throckmorton,

The rise and improvement in technology in the recent decades is monumental. In 2000, GPS went mainstream, and texting was forever embedded into our world.[1] Wikipedia has only been around since 2001.[2] Google went “public” in 2004, making all the answers to life questions available at our fingertips.[3] Technology has no doubt made our lives easier; however, it has also made many lives a living hell through the embarrassment, harassment, and humiliation that is revenge porn.

Revenge porn is an epidemic that has swept across the entire world. Revenge porn is known more formally and preferably as nonconsensual pornography.[4]  It is defined as the “distribution of sexually graphic images of individuals without their consent.” [5]  This includes images originally obtained with and without consent.[6]  For example, as image obtained with consent could be in the context of a private relationship whereas an image obtained without consent could occur by means of a hidden recording or a sexual assault recording.[7]  While a popular view on nonconsensual pornography is that it is not very harmful, in all actuality, nonconsensual distribution of intimate images is not a “minor inconvenience” but rather a form of “sex abuse.”[8] Nonconsensual pornography affects average people as well as celebrities. Some celebrities who have fallen victim to this crime include but are in no way limited to: Kate Middleton, Rhianna, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Prince Henry.[9] Even male marines were not above posting nonconsensual pictures of their female comrades.[10] In reality, “we are all a moment away from being a psycho’s target.”[11]

A brief history of nonconsensual pornography reveals how far we have come, yet still have so far to go, in combatting this dilemma. Nonconsensual pornography was initiated by Hustler Magazine’s “Beaver Hunt” issue in 1980 which published nude photos of an “unwilling and unknown woman” taken by her husband on a camping trip that were later stolen.[12] In 2000, an Italian researcher coined this new “genre” of photos as “realcore pornography” where photos and videos of ex-girlfriends initially sent for private use, became public.[13]  In 2008 through 2010, the revenge porn sites really stepped up their game. Websites emerged solely dedicated to posting nonconsensual porn, even going as far as mixing “real” user-submitted photos with staged versions and a scoundrel launched a website featuring naked photographs along with the victims’ full names and links to their social media pages.[14]  In 2010, a man from New Zealand became the first to go to prison for posting nonconsensual pornography on Facebook.[15] Fast forward to today where 38 states plus the District of Colombia have nonconsensual pornography laws on the books.[16] However, society’s still very problematic view towards women does not help the situation. As President Obama said when he launched his campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses called “It’s On Us,” prevention of these types of acts is “going to require a fundamental shift in our culture.”[17]

It would not make sense to write this article without mentioning a woman who has led the vigorous revolution in fighting back against nonconsensual pornography. I had the pleasure of being inspired by her when she came to speak here at University of Richmond in September of this year. This woman’s name is Carrie Goldberg. She is an attorney who started her own law firm in Brooklyn, focusing on the types of crimes discussed below, after falling victim to this hateful crime herself.[18] In addition, she lectures about revenge porn and online privacy across the country; has been featured in articles in the New Yorker, Glamour, The Huffington Post, Nightline and CNN; and was named Cosmo’s “Fun, Fearless Female” in August 2014.[19] Her firm specifically focuses on obtaining justice for victims of revenge porn, domestic violence, sexual assault, blackmail, extortion, sextortion, and anti-abortion terrorism.[20] Goldberg describes the act of nonconsensual pornography as “bodies put on a platter for the internet to consume.”[21] As if Carrie Goldberg is not inspiring enough, her law firm’s website provides access and support to victims of these crimes in its structure and empowering quotes including “You are not crazy. Your situation is.”[22] Ms. Goldberg’s firm has removed 18,101 nonconsensual pornography photos and videos, and de-anonymized 164 harassing emails as of today.[23] With an empowering figure such as Carrie Goldberg heading a firm that combats one of society’s most pressing issues, nonconsensual pornography does not have a bright future in this country.

While not everyone can be Carrie, you can bring recognition and understanding to this problem. For example, stop victim-blaming. By this I mean, stop telling victims of nonconsensual pornography that they should not have sent the picture in the first place. Instead, society should be telling the perpetrator, A.K.A. the person who put the photos online, to not post the pictures in the first place. This situation is comparable to what happens in sexual assault situations. People may say, “you should not have worn that dress” or “you should not have drank so much tequila that night.” When in reality, society should be telling the perpetrator of the assault, not the victim of the assault, to refrain what acting in a certain manner.

 

[1] Ki Mae Heussner, The Top 10 Innovations of the Decade, ABC News (Dec. 1, 2009),  http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/AheadoftheCurve/top-10-innovations-decade/story?id=9204931.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, http://www.cagoldberglaw.com/how-to-report-revenge-porn-on-social-media/ (last visited Oct. 19, 2017).

[5] Danielle Keats Citron & Mary Anne Franks, Criminalizing Revenge Porn, 49 Wake Forest L. Rev. 345 (2014).

[6] Id.

[7] Id.  

[8] Jojo Marshall, Why We All Need to Worry About Revenge Porn, Elle, (Sept. 24, 2014), http://www.elle.com/life-love/sex-relationships/news/a15497/what-is-revenge-porn/.

[9] Janelle Griffith, Revenge Porn: Well-Known Celebrity Victims, nj.com, (Jan. 9, 2015 at 9:12AM),http://www.nj.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/01/celebrity_revenge_porn_victims.html; Keith Perry, Revenge Porn: Some of the Biggest Celebrity Victims, The Telegraph, (Sept. 30, 2014, 12:17 AM), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11129357/Revenge-porn-some-of-the-biggest-celebrity-victims.html.

[10] Luis Martinez, US Navy Makes Distributing Nude Photos without Consent a Punishable Offense, ABC News (Apr. 20, 2017 at 12:59AM), http://abcnews.go.com/US/us-navy-makes-distributing-nude-photos-consent-punishable/story?id=46902843.

[11] Carrie Goldberg, Esquire, Founder of C.A. Goldberg PLLC, The Future of Sexual Privacy: 5 Ways to Combat Revenge Porn on College Campuses (Sept. 19, 2017).

[12] Alexa Tsoulis-Reay, A Brief History of Revenge Porn, New York Magazine (Jul. 21, 2013), http://nymag.com/news/features/sex/revenge-porn-2013-7/.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, https://www.cybercivilrights.org/revenge-porn-laws/ (last visited Oct. 19, 2017).

[17] See Marshall, supra note 8.

[18]  See Goldberg, supra note 11.

[19] C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, http://www.cagoldberglaw.com/team/carrie-goldberg/ (last visited Oct. 19, 2017).

[20] Id.

[21] See Goldberg, supra note 11.

[22] C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, http://www.cagoldberglaw.com/ (last visited Oct. 19, 2017).

[23] Id.

Image Source: http://www.vocativ.com/339362/federal-revenge-porn-bill/index.html.

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