Celebrity nude leaks, sex tape scandals, revenge porn, oh my!
We hear about or see these things being publicized and we have a knee-jerk reaction that tells us there’s something not okay about this. If we’re a little more informed about consent and digital media, then we know that these aren’t just mere invasions of privacy, they are full blown sex crimes. As with other types of sex crimes, they come with an awful lot of victim blaming and shame that is directed towards the person in the picture or video. We live in a world that often refuses to see people’s bodies and personal property as private entities that cannot be shared without that individual’s consent. It’s a worldwide issue that we have seen played out time and time again.
But what about when these exact same sex crimes are occurring on a smaller scale, even right within our own community? Here at JMU, we’ve run into the issue of consent and digital media quite a few times, but rarely have I ever heard reactions that treat these situations with the severity and seriousness that they deserve. The first example of such an issue would have to be the twitter account @TheJMUMakeouts. Started in 2013, this account featured pictures of people dancing and making out, usually at a party setting and presumably under the influence of heavy drinking. These photos were not selfies sent in by those being pictured, but often taken by someone else and usually with a third person pointing at or making fun of the couple. Accounts like these are just another example of the ways in which we publicizing people’s private lives without their consent. Although this specific twitter account has been less than active in terms of recent picture posts, the jargon is still often used among the JMU population. People still talk about “JMU makeouts” and make jokes surrounding the idea of posting these things without the consent of those involved.
More recently, the app Snapchat has become another platform for sexualized photos of JMU students to be released through. From my knowledge, this has mostly taken place under two accounts, “dukesnudes” and “jmu.nation”. “Dukesnudes” was a short-lived account that allegedly posted nude pictures to its Snapchat Story that had been sent in by JMU students. While I had never viewed this account, I immediately had to wonder whether the individuals being pictured were the ones sending in their own nudes, or if third parties were submitting pictures without the consent of the individual. Another Snapchat account was “jmu.nation”. Although this was not strictly meant for publicizing nude pictures, the account’s Story seemed to usually involve at least a few, always of girls. Some were selfies while others were taken by another person. While it’s possible that some of the pictures were consensually sent to the Snapchat account, I have to wonder how many of them weren’t. More likely, these pictures were taken by or received by the person who sent them in, without the individual’s permission. While both these accounts seem to currently be inactive, the potential damage they could have caused is still relevant. Simple screenshots and downloaded pictures are real threats to consider for someone who was victimized by these accounts.
As I’m sure we’ve all learned from social media and the internet, once something is posted, it’s there forever. It’s on us as JMU students to make sure that what’s being posted, viewed, and shared is not the private property of a non-consenting individual.