The rise of revenge porn

AMY GRAY
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013
Revenge porn

REVENGE PORN: Uploading private photos to get back at an ex.

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There are many intimacies we share during relationships, none greater than the trust placed in your partner, a trust we hope will extend beyond the life of the shared connection.

For men like Ryan Seay, however, this honour rattled differently. When he broke up with his partner of a few years, he flicked through his phone and inbox decided some intimacies weren't that important at all.

At first, he logged into his ex-girlfriend's Facebook account and uploaded explicit photos. Then he bundled up images and videos and sent them to her bosses before spreading them and her contact details to as many porn sites as he could find.

"It's called 'revenge porn', but it is really cyber rape. It's just another way of exploiting women," Holly Jacobs told the Miami Times. The PhD student has sued former boyfriend Seay and is campaigning for laws to protect people from revenge porn.

Revenge porn is the act of sharing the erotic souvenirs from previous relationships, in a deliberate attempt to humilate an ex. Some are posted across social media but many amateur porn sites are enabled to receive submissions. Some sites are even specifically designed and marketed as revenge porn, even becoming a genre of its own within the industry.

Get revenge on your ex! or Look for people you know!, the sites say. Any risqué image, from posing in underwear or performing sexually, is considered fair game by their exes and often accompanied with their name, location and a tale of how horrible the ex is, because we should never forget it's the porn submitter who's the real victim.

As a form of amateur porn, which is already highly popular and a threat to traditional porn outlets, revenge porn brings an added layer of voyeurism, allowing viewers to watch amateur performers who never intended the material to go public.

Revenge porn has grown in popularity possibly because it reintroduces high stakes to the already jaded field that is pornography. The combination of amateur porn, identifiable participants and chance to revel in the combined misery of others, a fetid clang of sexualised schadenfreude in an arena where the ante is always being upped.

While some revenge porn sites feature men, the majority of victims humiliated are women, their names and images seared into search results and leaving them open to further attack, damage them professionally, personally or psychologically or, in some cases, end in suicide.

But they're fighting back.

Thanks to women like Holly Jacobs, grassoots campaigning has begun in the US. California and Florida are two states currently debating 'revenge porn' or cyber harassment bills to give greater privacy and protection to people exposed by these attacks. Holly Jacobs has also started EndRevengePorn.com, giving a voice and support to victims, advising people how to remove images easily, read up on cyberstalking laws and deal with offensive web sites.

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Closer to home, Australia has some legal protection for victims. Ravshan "Ronnie" Usmanov was recently found guilty of uploading explicit photos of an ex-girlfriend and sentenced to six month's jail (later reduced to a suspended sentence). However, this appears to be the only criminal case using web site transmission in Australia to have gone to court and, with revenge porn sites and image sharing featuring Australians, there is potential for more cases and a call for Australian law to catch up to the escalating demands of modern technology.

There will be people who dismiss these concerns, insisting that it is the victim's fault for taking and sending such pictures. It's a predictable refrain in a society that often seeks to place guilt on the victim rather than the truly guilty, the person who deliberately broke trust in an attempt to humiliate their victim.

Such blaming fails to take into account that many separated couples have maintained trust and respect despite the apparently compelling fact the internet exists. While the choice to create material may lie with the victim, the choice to share it against their will lies with the vengeful - who deserve real humiliation.

Visit Holly Jacob's web site, EndRevengePorn.com, for more information and resources on the topic. If you believe you have been the victim of revenge porn, please contact police.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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