THE BLOG

Revenge Porn Is More Than a Violation of Privacy It Is Digital Sexual Assault

06/23/2015 01:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016

Naked photos and sexting are as much a part of sex for our generation as the missionary position was for our grandparents. Telling us not to do it is like preaching abstinence to teenagers. It's grossly unrealistic and it doesn't work. It is also beyond outdated and is just plain ignorant to how modern dating works.

The narratives we're listening to as revenge porn reaches mainstream news aren't just about victim blaming, they're about negotiating a new age of digital interactions and an ugly manifestation of how women are viewed and treated. We're just looking at it through the brutally honest mirror of social media.

Social media now, is like the town square in the dark ages. We haven't yet figured out our laws to govern the way we treat each other. Back then, if suspected women weren't burnt and boiled to death, their reputation was.

2015-06-23-1435029257-4013789-JOA.jpg

Revenge porn now is the public shaming of women, onlookers are the townspeople and some throw stones.

Sexual assault is legislated for in our societies. It is illegal and it is still largely committed by men to female victims. On the crudest level we think of this as the natural order of things because in the classic sense of rape, men are bigger and stronger and have a penis they can penetrate you with.

But in the digital world, both men and women are equally capable of posting photos. Strength is a non issue, neither is the ability to penetrate. So if we look at revenge porn as sexual assault, why is it almost exclusively committed by men to women?

It's the control group feminists have never had. Remove the physical dominance and all you have left is the misogyny. Revenge porn is a manifestation of how men are taught to think of women and women are taught to behave.

Without getting carried away, this is still a slim minority. If stats existed for the sheer volume of naked photos sent, the proportion of those that found their way onto social media or revenge porn sites would be miniscule.

It is however, as horrific as it is criminal and the real issue of our times is we don't know how to talk about it yet. We are still finding our feet in the negotiation of online harassment.

The addage that this kind of shaming is a violation of privacy is true but it's not the conversation we should be having. Revenge porn is digital sexual assault and should be approached with more accurate language.

The issue is of consent and criminality.

Sending a naked picture to a lover who then posts that picture to a public forum is like consenting to sex with one person once and getting a gang bang, over and over again.

When outspoken feminists use language we associate with sexual assault when discussing revenge porn, it is considered novel because we haven't yet caught up with ourselves.

If news commentators discussed conventional sexual assault in the same way they discuss revenge porn, they just wouldn't get away with it.

Here in Australia, on a national radio program called Hack, Adam Creighton agreed with a caller's analogy, that you shouldn't take naked photos as a precaution, in the same way that you should make sure you lock your car. Victim blaming is still alive and well in cases of physical sexual assault but at least the concept is in the lexicon of politeness. He then called those women who send naked photos, stupid and bloody idiots.

America is just as bad. Watch John Oliver make mince meat of this kind of coverage.

The thing is, that in the sexually active world of a digital generation, not sharing naked photos is more like ditching the car altogether.

Besides, women's bodies are not cars. Having sex is not stupid.

Revenge porn sites almost exclusively feature women. Because it works. Revenge porn does not stick to men because no one really cares. Your capacity to be shamed is about the distance between how you are represented and how society wants you to be. In the online world, this normative forcing is brutal and anonymous.

Men are rarely shamed as a result of a consensual sex act. Women and their sexuality are shamed on a regular basis. We are all just as able to post revenge porn. The reason men have more power in this situation is because they have less to lose. Male consent is more respected and male sexuality is less examined.

2015-06-23-1435029690-3083456-malleus.jpg