If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, you’ve probably never seen her jealous ex-boyfriend.
Now, due to the vast power harbored by websites like xHampster and IsAnyoneUp, ex-boyfriends, ex-lovers, friends, coworkers, stalkers, or sworn enemies can post a woman’s personal information, but, perhaps more lucratively: her personal, sexually explicit media online. Talk about scorn.
This notion, coined by the media as “revenge porn,” provides yet another medium in which to marginalize and degrade women in online spaces.
The idea is simple.
Say, for example, eighteen year-old Chrissy Chambers is courting an older man. He is controlling and domineering, but doe-eyed Chambers has fallen head-over-heels…until, one day, she realizes she needs a break. She approaches her boyfriend about the situation and suggests the break-up. “The day I suggested we take a break was the day he suggested that we have an evening of drinking,” Chambers notes in her exclusive video interview with The Guardian’s Jenny Kleeman.
But, instead of respecting the desires of someone he cares about, Chambers’ ex decides to exact revenge on her by getting her drunk, secretly videotaping their intoxicated intercourse, and uploading the evidence to PornHub; titling his work “Me Fucking my Ex-Christy Chambers.”
This story is not a hypothetical scenario, but an actual experience that Chambers, YouTube celebrity and actress, has undergone since 2013. Though she has gone to great lengths to defend herself and other victims both online and in court, there are still websites and forums like Encyclopedia Dramatica who directly condemn Chambers as a “whore,” and, “not the victim of revenge porn.”
According to an article in the Guardian published in 2013, “the purpose of revenge porn isn't to allow regular guys the opportunity to see some naked girls-next-door; it's explicitly purposed to shame, humiliate and destroy the lives and reputations of young women.”
Chambers is not the only woman to speak out against revenge porn and explain the devastating effects of being a woman on the Internet.
Annmarie Chiarini, an English Professor at the Community College of Baltimore County, Maryland, was the victim of a different kind of revenge porn. After her seven-month relationship went sour, her boyfriend started a comprehensive E-Bay auction, auctioning off the personal photos she had given him, illustrating her in suggestive poses. The items’ description simply read, “(Name of college), MD English Professor Nude Photos!” Though the auction was eventually taken down, her nightmare was just beginning.
As Chiarini claims in a 2013 Guardian op-ed, “I Googled my name, and there I was, on a porn website. The profile included my full name, the city and state where I live, the name of the college where I teach and the campus. There was a solicitation – HOT FOR TEACHER? WELL, COME GET IT! The site had been up for 14 days and had been viewed over 3,000 times. He was pretending to be me.”
She immediately printed out seventeen pages of commentary left on the site, and marched to the police who claimed that there was nothing that they could do. Which was not surprising, considering that at the time, Maryland did not have any laws explicitly stating that revenge porn was illegal. She returned home, defeated, and because of the permanence of information on the Internet, and attempted suicide. She tried to reconstruct her life, even attempting to take a medical leave from her job teaching English at the Community College of Baltimore County, but her supervisor claimed, “she perpetrated the incident.”
Since the post on the website, and since no one could rightfully defend her, she decided to change the law. But it would be easier said than done. A Slate.com article written by Emily Bazelon details the legal constraints surrounding revenge porn-prevention laws. As she states, the great barrier is, “Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, a federal law that governs speech on the Web…section 230 means that ISP providers and websites generally aren’t liable for the content that users post…they don’t have to patrol for porn photos, and, generally speaking, they don’t even have to take them down when the subject complains—as they would have to if accused of a copyright violation.”
Since her ordeal began in 2010, Chiarini has advocated for judicial reform in regards to victims of not only revenge porn, but cyber harassment as a whole. In 2012 she appeared before Maryland’s General Assembly and stated her support of Senate Bills 175 and 107, which both passed into law in April of that year. These pieces of legislation amend a statute condemning the misuse of “electronic communication” as a whole. According to Chiarini, “there are still amendments needed, and they shall come in time.”
Since Chrissy Chambers’ case, the United Kingdom has passed legislation in 2015 making it “illegal” to publish or share revenge porn online. However, the government, like that of the US, finds it nearly impossible to thoroughly police. In order to advocate for a similar law in the United States, Chambers has garnered over 124,000 signatures on her Change.org petition. As she states to the Guardian, “at least the UK has this law – we really need to see it in the US. I just hope that I can turn this traumatic event into something more positive.” We clearly have a long road ahead of us, yet.
In what instances can you justify posting revenge porn? Are there any? Be sure to share!