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Revenge porn laws prioritize violators over victim’s safety

Collin Mims

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In some ways, this has been a good year for addressing rape culture: the callout of Hollywood sexual assault scandals, the conviction of Bill Cosby and the rise of the #MeToo movement all point to a necessary social change in which issues of sexual violence are taken seriously and addressed properly. It may be taking a while, but it’s progress, and that’s something to take pride in.

That being said, with progress comes blowback, and the blowback that necessitates this article is something that rises out of our own state. The 12th court of Appeals in Tyler, Texas recently ruled that state revenge porn laws undermine free speech and go against the First Amendment, as “it violates rights of too many third parties by restricting more speech than the Constitution permits.”

Now for some context, revenge porn is defined as sexually explicit media of an individual that is spread without their consent, which is commonly spread by past partners or scorned lovers, hence the “revenge” portion of the name. The definition already presents a problem: if the individual has not given consent to the distribution of their pictures, videos, etcetera, the person distributing said explicit material is absolutely guilty of exploiting and harming this individual.

Explicit media is still access to an individual’s body. It’s access to a person’s intimate life, and in consuming or spreading this media without consent is a violation of that individual and it contributes to socially ingrained rape culture. To elaborate, some people own naked pictures of themselves. Some people also choose to share these pictures with partners, are okay sharing them with potential partners or even posting them on the internet themselves. In this instance, the individual has agency in the way their pictures are consumed: they have given consent here.

However, this can easily turn into an instance of sexual violence; someone having explicit pictures of themself is not giving consent to have those pictures spread. Someone sharing explicit pictures of themself with another is not giving consent to have those pictures spread. The only time that spreading these pictures is acceptable is when the individual posts them themself. That’s it. In any other circumstance, it negates consent and is constituted as sexual violence.

To have a court say that revenge porn is a part of free speech is just baffling. Revenge porn is an actively harmful behavior that contributes to the normalization of sexual violence, and that is something that is absolutely unacceptable. Revenge porn has the potential to ruin lives: the spreading of explicit material can result in people being fired, it can spoil someone’s public image and, in some situations, it can result in victims committing suicide. Revenge porn should not be protected by the law. It should be persecuted by it, and the fact that in 2018, the year of our Lord, we are having to spell that out to courts is completely and utterly ridiculous.

Victims of revenge porn are still victims of sexual violence, as their consent has been breached in the process of distributing explicit material. We have to make an effort to protect them, not the people who harm them. The courts in Tyler have done a huge disservice to sexual assault survivors, and it’s up to us as individuals to make up for it.

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Revenge porn laws prioritize violators over victim’s safety