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Circulating People’s Nudes Isn’t Cool, Okay?

Circulating People's Nudes Isn't Cool, Okay?

Opinion

Circulating People’s Nudes Isn’t Cool, Okay?

Revenge porn targets women (who are over 90% of victims) because society shames their sexuality and views women’s bodies not as belonging to themselves, but as objects, commodities and public property.

Let’s be honest, quarantine meant our sex lives went online, be it sexting or phone sex. I have one question for people who spread others’ nudes or sex tapes to spite them for clout or amusement: “For 10 marks, explain why you used your last two brain cells to circulate someone’s nudes.” Your essay will probably begin:

The main argument in this essay is I was hurt when bae dumped me. My second argument is I have no game, so I had to spread her nudes so people know I have hoes. Thirdly, gossiping is my pastime.
Sources cited: my ego and shallowness.

As your examiner, the score I give you is “wtf/10 marks” and my comment in red ink is: take my hand, let’s go get you a life.

First, I’m addressing people who leak nudes, whether you are a bitter ex, or you want something to laugh at with your peers, or you’re brandishing nudes as a trophy of your sexual conquest to impress your dude bros. I’ll also critique society’s reactions and implications of “revenge porn”, because cyber exploitation (online distribution of intimate photos or videos without consent) is a form of sexual violence and should be treated as such.

If you must prove your sexual prowess by spreading nudes, you really need to up your game, because if you really have game, your reputation will speak for itself. This toxic masculinity must stop; feeling like spreading nudes proves your manhood, yet it only proves that you took a DNA test and it turns out you’re 100% douche bag. If you leaked nudes because you were cheated on, take your L and move on. While you’re showering, give an imaginary speech roasting your ex; I promise, your shampoo bottles would be clapping if they could. Go hit a punching bag, watch Winx Club for all I care—anything but spreading nudes.

Revenge porn targets women (who are over 90% of victims) because society shames their sexuality and views women’s bodies not as belonging to themselves, but as objects, commodities and public property. Guys leak nudes like women are products in a catalogue rather than people with feelings and families emotionally impacted by seeing their loved ones humiliated and abused. Then people who see the nudes repost and laugh, forgetting it’s more than a picture, it’s a person.

Why call a woman a whore for sending you nudes yet you’re the one who requested them? Suppose you didn’t ask, you happily received and jerked off to the nudes with one hand then point at women with the other. Guys’ parents will ask why they’re up so late on their phones then they’ll claim they’re doing their assignment—because assignments moan and say, daddy, right? Then have the audacity to judge photos/footage of naked women. Posting explicit content without their consent, even if they consentingly took the photo, is a form of abuse.

When we discuss dismantling rape culture, revenge porn and other cyber sex crimes must be part of the conversation because rape culture is “a culture that normalizes sexualized violence and blames the victims of sexual assault, particularly women.” Seeing revenge porn as inevitable is part of a culture normalising this exploitation while dismissing its problematic nature. People always find ways to blame the abused rather than the abuser. We’ve normalised it as an inevitable result of using internet rather than a sex crime ruining lives.

It harms victims’ personal lives because they’re ostracised. Their academic lives are ruined when expelled, lessening chances of acceptance into new schools. Careers and employment opportunities jeopardised. Cyber exploitation victims suffer financially, face violent harassment and are often diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders, PTSD and 51% contemplate suicide. 93% of victims said they suffered significant emotional distress. So how could you leak nudes? How could we further victimise the abused by shaming them for being abused? Trauma is worsened by body shaming of the victims e.g. penis size, pubic hair or saggy breasts.

The term “revenge porn” shows our twisted understanding of this sexual violence. Cyber exploitation isn’t porn—it’s not consensual or produced for public entertainment. We might as well call suffocating “non-breathing breathing” and call pimples biological mountains. Secondly, it’s not revenge, because that implies it’s been circulated for a righteous reason deserving retribution. Some call it “cyber rape” because it’s repeated victimisation each time against our will, our bodies are subjected to another person’s gaze, comments, harassment and abuse.

People say, “she was stupid to send nudes knowing there was the risk of him circulating them.” Well then, he was stupid to request nudes knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist sharing them without her consent, he should’ve known he was going to violate her privacy and commit a crime; he should’ve deleted them. But people never say that, because the scrutiny often focuses on women as though men weren’t part of the transaction. People forget that men can coerce women into sending nudes (or take them unawares/hide a camera)—my first boyfriend guilt-tripped me, claiming I didn’t love him if I didn’t send nudes and I almost fell for it because he got into my head (if you’re reading this, take two teaspoons of inhloni).

Every form of intimacy has the risk of things going awry or someone spreading the details. With that “she knew the risks, so she shouldn’t have” logic, people mustn’t have sex knowing there’s the risk of sexual assault. Men shouldn’t have sex knowing their ex might tell everyone their dick is small. Victorian women must never have kissed the man they loved knowing if it gets out, society would completely ruin them (cough BRIDGERTON cough). In high school, I kissed a guy then he spread rumours that we had sex and his entire school was discussing what a hoe I was. With that logic, I should never have kissed him knowing there was the risk of him spreading lies.

Truth is, we have the right to participate in consensual sex acts even those involving filming and photography; engaging in those acts doesn’t mean we deserve to be degraded, abused and humiliated. Our sexualities and bodies belong to us and consenting to be photographed for someone you trust isn’t consenting to having those pictures viewed by others, or using them to abuse and manipulate us. People must “just expect” explicit content to be leaked as if consenting to a private activity is consent to public humiliation.

“But Zoleka! The picture/video is hers but when she sends it, it’s no longer her property!” As a law student, I assure you, you’re wrong. If I send you my book’s manuscript, stipulating you mustn’t share it; yes, you have a copy, BUT IT’S STILL MY MANUSCRIPT AND YOU CANNOT SHARE IT WITHOUT MY CONSENT! Same with nudes. If we shoot a sex tape together, we are co-owners of that content, and you cannot share it without my consent. We need laws reflecting this crime’s seriousness, to deter and hold perpetrators accountable, and protect victims.

Since a whopping 88% of people admit engaging in sext via texts, revealing pictures or both, I wonder why people act like permanent residents of Holyville Angel Estate of Righteousness when explicit content leaks. Sending nudes doesn’t reflect someone’s character. People judge people whose sex tapes leaked like they don’t have sex themselves. You judge leaked nudes yet enough strangers to fill a soccer team have seen your naked body after nights at the club.

Yes, you can just show them your body in person or exclude your face. But what happens after the nudes are leaked?

1. Call out the people who leaked them, report them to the police for illegal porn and privacy violation. Report their accounts for cyber bullying and exploitation. Do the same for people reposting. Suspend high schoolers leaking nudes because that’s a crime, yet it’s always the female student who suffers. 

2. Don’t repost the nudes/tape don’t even look for them. Till today, I’ve never seen Blac Chyna’s sex tape because she didn’t consent to me seeing her private property.

3. When people slut shame/laugh at the content, call them out. Educate them about the issues I’ve raised above.

4. Protect victims, don’t fire your employees for leaked nudes. It’s not their fault the partner they trusted used these photos against them without consent then posted them online. Blaming the person in the photo amounts to the victim-blaming and slut-shaming sexual assault victims face. You can’t penalise someone for a sex crime against them.


In conclusion, if my friends really loved me, they’d start an OnlyFans then take us to the Maldives with that money. Just sayin’.

***

References: https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/6-reasons-why-revenge-porn-is-actually-really-fcked-up-and-how-one-woman-is-pushing-back/

When I'm not smashing the patriarchy, I debate, paint, and work on my YA African feminist fantasy novel on Wattpad--which I guess is also smashing the patriarchy. Currently stu(dying) BA Law at University of Pretoria. I may or may not be a mermaid masquerading as a human. Pro-LGBTQ+. I'm just out here not hearing problematic people over the volume of my Afro.

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