What Is Revenge Porn

What is revenge porn and how to avoid becoming a victim (or a perp)

It’s one of those perfect storm headline phrases, the kind that’s guaranteed to grab your attention no matter who you are: ‘revenge porn.’

Of course, we all like a little titillation – or a lot as the case may be – so if you throw the word ‘porn’ out there, people are going to perk up their ears.

And when it comes to the ‘revenge’ portion of the program, well, people are pretty fascinated with that as well.

Just check out reality television. Humans are endlessly fascinated with revenge tales of people getting back at someone for some perceived slight.

Unfortunately, when you put the two words together and ask what is revenge porn, you’re about to launch yourself into a pretty disturbing area.

But exactly what is revenge porn?

We’ll look at revenge porn from a few different perspectives, and talk about a famous case involving revenge porn, and also at how the law works.

We’ll discuss what you need to know about avoiding becoming a victim of revenge porn – and why you should think twice if you’re mad at an ex and you’re tempted to post some nude photos or videos.

But first, let’s define our terms.

What is revenge porn?

In the U.S., the law defines revenge porn as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.”

Sure, distress here means embarrassment – but it also means more than that.

There’s so much more potential damage from revenge porn: People can lose their jobs, they can lose partners in relationships that started after the aforementioned break-up, or they can be psychologically traumatized.

Oftentimes, perpetrators of revenge porn go beyond simply posting an ex-lover’s nude photos or videos and go further down the road of awfulness by also posting personal information.

This kind of doxxing (the internet term for posting personal data or documents – as in docs or doxx) can put people in real danger.

Beyond this information having personally devastating effects, publishing someone’s full name, address or other personal information alongside their nudes can lead to harassment, stalking or worse.

What Is Revenge Porn

Revenge porn definition: Is it really revenge – and is it really porn?

The thing is, even with all the awareness and the data surrounding the phenomenon of what we call revenge porn, there are some people who work in both law and psychology who push back against the popularization of that term.

And looking more closely at their arguments actually goes a long way toward helping us to see what revenge porn really is, albeit through a different lens.

For starters, take the word ‘revenge.’ That term is defined as ‘to avenge oneself or another usually by retaliating in kind or degree.’

But ‘retaliating’ against someone for making the choice not to be with you anymore, or because they’ve chosen to date someone else, or even because they’ve chosen to cheat on you implies that that person has no agency in how to run their own lives.

It’s an admission that you demand and expect to be in control of them. It’s a demand they stay with you under threat of you burning everything to the ground, an expression of your frustration that you have no control over their actions.

Revenge porn meaning and loss of control

That’s exactly the point of what we call revenge porn: it’s a way for someone who has been hurt to assert a kind of nasty, brutal control over the person who hurt them, and forcing that person to endure whatever horrific consequences might follow.

Some people who work in victim rights law point out it’s not really ‘revenge’ if the other person doesn’t deserve it – and no one deserves to have their life ruined because of a break-up, no matter how ugly that break-up might have been.

Consider even the worst-case scenario: we’ve all been cheated on; we’ve all probably cheated on someone in one form or another at some point in our lives. Humans are fallible and we all make mistakes and we all hurt people and get hurt.

But to then take that hurt and exact the kind of ‘revenge’ that results in a former partner’s life being turned upside-down, psychological damage, potential loss of employment, estrangement from family and friends – even suicide?

It’s hard to imagine what anyone could do to really, genuinely deserve any or all of that – especially someone whom you presumably loved at one point.

Keep in mind too that ‘revenge’ is also wildly inaccurate when it comes to people who threaten to post nudes in order to extort money, or when celebrity nudes are posted. Neither of those has anything to do with getting back at someone.

Revenge porn victims: Katie Hill

Then there’s the infamous case in which ‘revenge porn’ being posted derailed the career of a sitting U.S. Congressperson.

Former U.S. Rep Katie Hill (D-Calif) was a freshman member of Congress who essentially got chased out of the House of Representatives because she was divorcing her husband.

Forget about the fact that she was a former director of a homelessness nonprofit, or that she was a bright, young and idealistic 29-year-old ascending star on the left. None of that mattered after her divorce and an angry soon-to-be-ex-husband ended her career.

Photos were published in the right-wing news outlet RedState and the Daily Mail showing Hill in intimate photos with a campaign staffer, photos that Hill said were provided by her ex, along with personal text messages and emails.

Hill at first tried to push back, presenting evidence that this had been a consensual relationship, and that she and her former husband actually had had a polyamorous ‘throuple’ relationship with this same staffer prior to the divorce.

But Hill finally chose to resign from her seat rather than ‘…find out what might happen next.’

Makes the husband sound an awful lot like a child who has his toy taken away and proceeds to break all the other children’s toys in a fit of rage, no?

What Is Revenge Porn

Revenge porn meaning: Why it’s not really ‘porn’

So, we’ve established that it’s not really ‘revenge’ if it’s not an equal response or equivalent retaliation for something like being dumped, no matter how much it hurts. Now let’s talk about why it isn’t really porn either.

There’s a name for something of a sexual nature that’s done to you without your consent, and it ain’t porn.

It’s actually called ‘assault’ in a court of law. At the very least, revenge porn should properly be called ‘cyber sexual assault’ or ‘exploitation’ or something along those lines according to legal experts. 

Which brings us to the legal ramifications of what we commonly call revenge porn.

Revenge porn and the law

While there is no federal statute in the U.S. outlawing revenge porn, 46 states and the District of Columbia have laws addressing it on the books.

Unfortunately, most of those laws have an ‘intent’ clause, meaning that in order to get a conviction, you have to prove the perpetrator meant to cause distress to the victim.

Keep in mind too that the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act absolves websites and ISPs from responsibility for what their users post there. That means that, yeah, the old saying is true: the internet is forever when it comes to getting something taken down.

On the other hand, in the U.K., posting revenge porn can get you up to 2 years in prison.

What can you do to prevent becoming a revenge porn victim?

Look, nude selfies are a thing that happens. We all get horned up and share more than we sometimes ought to.

So here at Blitz’d, we’re not going to adopt the line that many sites try to navigate, saying ‘well, just don’t take any naked pics.’

While it’s true that a lack of nude photos would prevent nude photos from being exploited, that’s a trite and over-simplistic answer. And in a way, it smacks of blaming the victim.

So, we won’t tell you not to, just be aware that if you do share nude pics online, you might consider doing the following:

  1. Obscure your face or any birthmarks or distinguishing tattoos.
  2. If you do break up with someone, don’t be afraid to ask to have any compromising photos deleted – both of you can do this together.
  3. Don’t share your passwords, and maintain good security practices on all your devices.
  4. If you do store naughty photos on your computer, put them in a password-protected folder.
  5. Keep an eye out for any postings of your photos by doing a reverse image search.
  6. Don’t engage with anyone who goes over the top in pressuring you to ‘send noodz.’ If it feels like coercion, it probably is, and it probably doesn’t bode well for the future.

Look, the internet and sex are inextricably intertwined.

But we can be smart about how we conduct our sexual lives in the internet era, and at least reduce the potential for damage. Play safe, even online!

Blitz yourself better!

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