Ten years after Paris Hilton’s sex tape scandal, the socialite was still traumatized by its unauthorized release. Her experience was probably the first time many of us heard of the concept of revenge porn, which is the publication of sexually explicit images or videos of someone without their consent, often in retaliation for some perceived wrong such as a nasty break-up. Of course, it wasn’t called “revenge porn” back then, and that type of personal violation was mostly a celebrity concern. Toward the late-2000s, though, we achieved equality for the masses when smartphones, social media, and websites like XTube and IsAnyoneUp meant the rest of us could also become targets of disgruntled exes. Yay for technological advances!
Just how many of us have been affected by this horrific trend? A 2016 study by the Data & Society Research Institute found that 1 in 25 Americans — about 10.4 million — have had someone share compromising images of them or threatened to do so. Revenge porn doesn’t discriminate, either. The study also revealed that “LGB internet users are far more likely than those who identify as heterosexual to have experienced threats of or actual nonconsensual image-sharing.”
In other words, revenge porn can happen to anyone, and that’s why we need everyone to raise their voices against it.
Well, today we have a burst of inspiration from an unlikely partnership. The oldest women’s organization in Denmark, The Danish Women’s Society, and online pornography hub YouPorn have paired up in the #AskFirst campaign to bring awareness to the problem of revenge porn and its serious consequences.
“We are gratified to support the #AskFirst campaign with The Danish Women’s Society because revenge porn is not only life-threatening but completely unacceptable,” said Charlie Hughes, Vice President of YouPorn.
You Might Also Like: Where's All The Good Porn For Women? 4 Female Adult Film Producers Weigh In
Still need a push to join the fight? Check out the supremely emotive two minutes and thirty seconds of “Ex-girlfriend doesn’t know that I shared this!." Produced by Gorilla Media, the short video portrays the devastating emotional and psychological effects of revenge porn, which can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, trust issues, and suicidal thoughts.
“You know this is revenge porn, right?” the actress pleads into the camera. “You saw the title of the video. You heard what my boyfriend just said, that no one would see this. . . . Can you imagine what I’m going through? What victims of revenge porn go through every single day, and you are just sitting there watching this, sharing this. You don’t even care. Fuck. You.”
#AskFirst comes on the heels of limited legal progress on combatting revenge porn, including the 2015 conviction of Kevin Bollaert, founder of UGotPosted.com, which allowed users to publish photos of others without their consent. Bollaert was found guilty on 21 counts of identity theft and six counts of extortion and was sentenced to eight years in prison and an additional ten years of mandatory supervision (reduced from 18 years’ imprisonment, ugh).
Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have made nonconsensual publication of pornographic materials either a misdemeanor or a felony, which is certainly good, but there’s been no movement on the federal level in years.
The Intimate Privacy Protection Act, which would make revenge porn a federal crime, looked promising when it was introduced by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) in 2016, but it has apparently languished in committee preventing it from coming up for a vote.
Moreover, no state has a specific civil cause of action available to revenge porn victims (read: the kind in which one can recover money damages). In most jurisdictions, plaintiffs can pursue claims such as harassment, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, but those can be difficult to prove in this context, which means victims are often left without adequate recourse.
In the meantime, just like in the Paris Hilton days, celebrity cases involving revenge porn continue to be those that make the news —and attorneys like Lisa Bloom are using this as an advantage to spread awareness. Bloom has been one of the most influential voices about the dangers of revenge porn (and its tacky cousin, slut-shaming) through her representation of Blac Chyna and her brushes with the subject, first with her ex-fiance Rob Kardashian and more recently with a video released on Twitter without her consent.
Denouncing the latter, Bloom tweeted:
Revenge porn -- posting explicit images without the consent of everyone in those images -- is a crime, a civil wrong, and a form of domestic abuse.
It's also a way to try to slut shame women for being sexual.
Girls have killed themselves over revenge porn.
It's not a joke.
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) February 19, 2018
Revenge porn — posting explicit images without the consent of everyone in those images —is a crime, a civil wrong, and a form of domestic abuse.
It’s also a way to try to slut-shame women for being sexual. Girls have killed themselves over revenge porn. It’s not a joke.
Still, the wheels of justice and legislation turn slowly, and there’s no question that revenge porn is a serious concern that requires a multifaceted solution. Innovative partnerships and campaigns such as #AskFirst offer not only a direct, practical approach to address the problem but also hope that we can all work together in our own ways to fight back.