The First Amendment to the US Constitution grants citizens many essential rights including the right to free speech and freedom of the press. Generally, the First Amendment is a boon to citizens- allowing us to express our opinions freely and without consequence. However, in the context of “The Fappenig”/”Celebgate” and revenge porn, the First Amendment often acts as a roadblock for victims.
Currently only 13 states have enacted revenge porn legislature. So, if you don’t happen to live in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, or Wisconsin, your private pictures are not protected. If sensitive media is posted, the only way to force a site to take down the images/video is to enact legal action for either harassment or copyright infringement.
For example, when thousands of nude pictures were stolen from over 100 female celebrities two weeks ago, popular sites like Reddit allowed the content to remain on their sites for several days and even vowed not to take the content down despite requests by the victims to take down the images. Only after some celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence filed copyright suits were the images removed. With the way our laws currently stand, victim have to jump through legal hoops just to get images removed, and bringing perpetrators to justice is an extremely complicated and arduous process.
That being said, how do we create effective legislature to combat this issue that will only get worse as technology evolves yet protects citizens’ intrinsic First Amendment rights? There’s no clear cut answer which is why many drafted laws have been deemed unconstitutional.
Although legislative action on a federal level may be months or maybe even years off, there are actions we can take as citizens to reduce the prevalence of revenge porn and invasion of privacy:
1. Stop engaging
Before Reddit banned the subredit r/thefappening, it was the quickest growing subreddit ever. I understand the appeal of looking at naked pictures of your favorite female celebrities, I really do. Women’s bodies are beautiful and interesting. Celebrities are beautiful, and the aspect of nudity is just kind of intrinsically exciting, but engaging with stolen, private media violates the right to consent.
David Futrelle put it best:
“The enthusiasm with which so many male Redditors – and skeezy dudes in general – have greeted this latest leak of celebrity pics makes one wonder if it is not the celebrity of the women in question that is the draw but the lack of consent. After all, there are plenty of other celebrity nudes out there that the celebrities in question consented to have taken and published… I suspect the real thrill comes not from seeing the nude bodies of these particular celebs – which, after all, are pretty similar to the nude bodies of porn actresses that can be found everywhere online – but from the violation of privacy that these pictures represent. There is a real sadism here, driven in part, I suspect, by resentment that many female celebrities don’t agree to appear nude in their movies or to pose nude or topless for magazines. Sharing these stolen nudes is a way to punish JLaw and other female celebs who have so far refused to share every inch of their bodies with their male, er, fans.”
2. Stop victim shaming
Whenever someone is the victim of having sensitive media shared without their consent, the response is generally some variation of “assume everything you send will be shared.” The problem with this argument is that it shifts the blame from the unauthorized sharer to the victim. Stop. Just stop engaging in these types of dialogues.
If people want to have naked photos of themselves on their computer, THAT IS THEIR RIGHT. We need to stop blaming victims and start blaming the people who are committing blatant invasion of privacy and theft… which are actual crimes.
3. Support victims
Unfortunately, most victims who are not also celebrities see no justice for the crimes committed against them. Pursuing legal action is extremely costly, sites that host pictures are often uncooperative, and there is very little public support of victims.
Some resources for victims and people who want to impact change are:
Women Against Revenge Porn– resource for discussion forums and impacting legislation
Without My Consent– support for victims, resource for attorneys and legal professionals who would like to help
America is known as “the land of the free” and if I choose to express my sexuality through nude selfies, that’s my prerogative. As a consenting adult, I’m not breaking any laws by photographing myself or posing for photographs. Instead, we need to change the dialogue surrounding revenge porn/stolen pictures and start prosecuting the people who actually commit the crime.