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12 February

Revenge porn: the era of leave me and I’ll out you

 

“Revenge porn” consists of distributing sexual content online without the consent of the individuals concerned. Revenge, outrageous trading or media recuperation... are all contained in this terrifying phenomenon, so characteristic of the Tinder era.

By Lolita Mang

A screenshot of the sextape of Kim Kardashian and singer Ray J.

In the corridors of an English high school, walls lined with lockers, every telephones start ringing simultaneously. Laugher and insults ring out as a photo of a vagina does the rounds in seconds. The first season of Sex Education, the new series by Netflix, hits hard on the theme of adolescent sexuality. Between coming outs, fantasies and lesbian sex, all the taboos are thoroughly raked over. In the fifth episode, Ruby, ultimate bitch, inseparable from her gang, is the victim of revenge porn…

 

In the eyes of the law, revenge porn is the act of diffusing content of a sexual nature online without the consent of those involved and with the intention of doing harm. A contemporary phenomenon that seems to affect everyone, from movies stars to everyday teenagers. What follows is an overview of revenge porn, with a few emblematic examples in the era of Tinder and the culture of “leave me and I’ll out you”. 

 

1.    An essentially sexist phenomenon

 

Intrinsically linked to the development of new technology, revenge porn is, in fact the prerogative of the youngest in society. In 2012, UNICEF declared that sexting (sending sexually explicit text messages) was common behaviour among adolescents. In addition, in the book Secondary Sexting Among Adolescents (2019), crime researchers Marion Desfachelles and Francis Fortin demonstrate that girls are more involved in their friendships and romantic relationships and are therefore more likely than their male counterparts to put themselves out there: photographs in their underwear – or completely naked – in suggestive poses, and videos of masturbation. In most cases of conjugal revenge or hacking, the malicious individuals who retrieve and then broadcast these videos remain anonymous.

 

Schools thus become the ideal claustrophobic atmosphere for the unleashing of people’s private and darkest passions.

 

Blackmail or childish teasing… the motivations of those who post this kind of stuff online are difficult to define, because they’re so varied. In the imaginary high school in Sex Education, Ruby, who searches among her former lovers for someone to blame, is actually the target of her best friend, who can no longer endure her repeated humiliations. However, according to a study by Nicholas Longpré published in the collective work Introduction to cybercrime: between misconduct and organized crime(2013), boys are the source of 70% of pornographic content uploads. Even more alarming, notes Nicholas Longpré, is the 25% of adolescents who on receiving these images proceed to disseminate them. School thus becomes the ideal claustrophobic atmosphere for the unleashing of people’s private and darkest passions.

SEX EDUCATION Official Trailer (2019) Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson

2. The most hated man on the internet

 

"What all of these people have in common is that they are retarded whores. All I do is take advantage of that.” This quote is enough to paint a picture of Hunter Moore, a major player in the development of revenge porn sites. In 2010, his website Isanyoneup landed on the web. Explicit photos were regularly posted there. At first, Hunter Moore himself fed the site with pictures of the young women he met at parties: “The girls would do anything to attract attention, to have more followers on Twitter, more likes on Facebook, ”he says. The American is fast becoming the most hated man on the internet, but paradoxically the traffic generated by his site is increasing on a daily basis. Hunter Moore himself regularly hires the services of hackers in the hope of gathering more photos and videos.

 

On the web, porn revenge sites are proliferating. They’re becoming places of supreme decadence in the digital age, a sort of Babylon 2.0. For example, the Myex site, launched in 2013 and closed in 2018, allowed internet users to post photos of their former girlfriends or boyfriends for free, along with their surnames. 84% of the victims were women aged around 27 years old.

Hunter Moore

3. Exposing yourself for a better reign

 

But celebrities aren't immune to porn revenge either. In August 2014, the Celebgate scandal tarnished the actresses Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Mary-Kate Olsen, and the singer Rihanna. Dozens of pirated celebrity photos were retrieved from iCloud, Apple’s remote storage accounts. Behind this hacking, a certain Edward Majerczyk admitted to having access to nearly 300 Apple accounts - and therefore, to 300 email addresses. He was finally sentenced to nine months in prison with a fine of $5,700. While the motivations of the hacker remain vague and clearly differ from pure conjugal revenge, the case is not so far from the revenge porn phenomenon.

 

The first resounding case of revenge porn concerns none other than Kim Kardashian. In February 2007, the studio for the production of pornographic films Vivid posted a sextape online of the young woman in the throes of passion with singer Ray J. Kim Kardashian sued Vivid but finally sold the rights to the video to the tune of 5 million dollars. Later, it was revealed that her own mother and manager, Kris Jenner, was behind the leak. And thus Kim Kardashian laid the first brick of her empire… 

 

4. What’s the solution?

 

From 2014, Israel declared revenge porn a sexual crime. The same year, the state of California condemned a man to a year in prison following the leaking of photographs of an explicit nature online. In France, we had to wait until 2016 until the Lemaire Law was adopted for a digital republic. For any disclosure of sexually explicit content, the perpetrator now faces up to two years in prison and a fine of 60,000 euros.

 

But then, how does one go from being in a couple, the very seat of intimacy and trust, to public humiliation? According to Dutch sociologist Sebald Rudolf Steinmetz, revenge is intimately linked to a feeling of superiority and is expressed when an individual’s ego is injured. In the era of the social media, where online life is blurred with real life, the backlash has made a logical move onto the net. Consequently, revenge porn becomes inevitable as the reflection of an era where the borders between the private and the public disappear altogether. 

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