‘Revenge porn’ is about degrading women sexually and professionally #Vaw


What does it say about society that websites where angry men shame their ex-lovers are thriving?

 

Stalking

Ex-lovers can now torment women online by posting naked photos of them and other personal information. Photograph: Robin Beckham/Alamy

In the centuries-old tradition of human beings looking at images of other human beings naked, the internet is perhaps the biggest game-changer since the film camera.

Porn sites are some of the most-visited places on the web, and just about anything you could imagine (and lots of things you probably couldn’t have come up with on your own) is a mere Google search away. While that’s great news for folks who have, say, an unrequited zombie fetish or a deep desire to see old men swaddled in mohair diapers, the almost entirely unregulated buffet of internet pornography also has a whole host of downsides – one of the most odious being the popular genre of “revenge porn“.

On revenge porn sites, users upload x-rated photos of women (often ex girlfriends or lovers) without the women’s permission. Send a naughty photo to your boyfriend and when it turns out he’s a pig, your image is all over the internet, often with your name, location and links to your social media accounts. 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.

Luckily, some of those women are refusing to be shamed into silence.More than two dozen of them have filed a lawsuit against one of the websites, Texxxan.com, as well as its host, GoDaddy.com. Some of the women have lost their jobs; all of them have been exposed and exploited, first by men they trusted and then by entities simply looking to make a buck off of misogyny.

Gender cyber harassment is nothing new (pdf), and revenge porn sites are part of a widespread, deeply sexist online culture everywhere from blog comment sections to YouTube videos to message boards. Anonymous sexualized harassment of women online has been around since AOL chatrooms, and it seems to be getting more mainstreamed, more organized and more efficient. The internet is not a nice place to be a woman – something I found out first-hand, and not just through the ongoing threats, harassment and stalking I’ve received as a feminist blogger.

When I was a law student at NYU, I found myself the subject of hundreds of threads and comments on a website called AutoAdmit. Reading post after anonymous post about how your classmates and future professional peers want to rape you is not a particularly pleasant experience; seeing those posts right next to details of what outfit you wore to school yesterday, how tall you are or what kinds of comments you made in class feels awfully threatening.

It’s hard to explain the psychological impact these kind of anonymous posts have, when these people know your name, face and exactly where you are during the day. You can’t walk down the hall at school without wondering if that guy who just made eye contact with you is going to go home and write something disgusting about you on the internet, or if anything you say in class is going to be quoted on a message board as evidence that you are a stupid cow, or if any one of these anonymous commenters is going to take their sexually violent urges offline and onto your body.

My reaction was to shut down. I felt like I was in a fishbowl, so I just refused to look outside of the glass. I’m a very social person, but in three years of law school I made only two friends. I skipped a lot of my classes; when I did go, I kept my head down.

I tried to ignore the online postings, hoping they would go away. When they didn’t, and I finally screwed up the courage to write about them, I received a barrage of harassing and threatening emails. One man, a graduate of Georgetown Law Center, claims to have gone to NYU and met with one of my professors to discuss what a “dumb cunt” (his words) I am. Even after I was out of law school and practicing, that same man sent more than a dozen emails to every single partner and attorney at my law firm in an effort to get me fired.

I graduated law school in 2008. Five years later, the process of writing about this still makes me tense up, triggering the same old anxiety, anger and fear. I still avoid going to large professional gatherings, and when I do go, my heart starts to beat a little faster if I catch someone looking at my name tag for what seems like a few seconds too long.

I’m a feminist writer who even before law school was used to receiving my share of online abuse. I get called all sorts of names on a daily basis and usually just roll through it. Yet I was still devastated by those postings.

And I was lucky. I wasn’t naked. My job opportunities were surely limited, but I didn’t get fired. But there are serious long-term consequences to internet harassment, both professional and personal. It’s undoubtedly much worse when the harassment involves naked pictures, your face on a porn site and the permanent stigma of being a “slut”.

It’s easy to say, “Well if you don’t want naked pictures on the internet, don’t send men naked pictures” – or in my case, I suppose, just don’t be female on the internet. But that simplistic view overlooks the way intimate relationships operate today, and, in fact, how they’ve always operated.

Within romantic relationships, people have always exchanged tangible things that would be highly embarrassing if publicly revealed, whether that’s a sexy note, a suggestive article of clothing or raunchy photo. You’re already engaging in an act that involves nudity, exchange of body fluids, the potential for reproduction, two human bodies intertwined skin-to-skin and, one hopes, some level of mutual trust. Once you’ve been face-to-genitals with someone, sending them a nude picture doesn’t seem like it should be such a big deal.

Society sees it differently – at least when the nude photo is of a woman. There aren’t popular revenge porn sites with pictures of naked men, because as a society we don’t think it’s inherently degrading or humiliating for men to have sex. Despite the fact that large numbers of women watch porn, there are apparently not large numbers of women who find sexual gratification in publicly shaming and demeaning men they’ve slept with.

And that is, fundamentally, what these revenge porn sites are about. They aren’t about naked girls; there are plenty of those who are on the internet consensually. It’s about hating women, taking enjoyment in seeing them violated, and harming them.

The owners to Texxxan.com practically said as much when, in defending their website, they posted a message saying, “Maybe [sic] the site provided an outlet for anger that prevented physical violence (this statement will be very controversial but is at least worth thinking about).” In other words, these are men who hate women to the degree that they’d be hitting them if they didn’t have revenge porn as an outlet for their rage. They’re angry because women have the nerve to exist in the universe as sexual beings.

Unfortunately, the law hasn’t quite caught up with the internet. I hope these women win their lawsuit. But as Emily Bazelon details at Slate, they’re fighting an uphill battle. Our current laws were written with an old media system in mind, and they need to be updated to protect free speech while also defending against defamation and gross invasions of personal privacy.

In the meantime, we can all do small things to marginalize the appeal of revenge porn. Not looking at the sites is an obvious first step; finding a host other than GoDaddy for your own site is another. Refusing to participate in the sexual shaming of women is also key – these sites would never survive without the pervasive view that sexually active women are dirty. Support the women who have the nerve to stand up to these privacy violations. Read, promote and raise up women’s voices generally, online and off. And push legislators to modernize our laws.

Right now, the law and our culture are both on the side of those who shame and humiliate women for sport, instead of those of us who just want to go about our normal lives, whether that’s going to law school or having sex with our boyfriends, without putting our careers, our reputations, our psychological well-being and our basic ability to trust the people we’re closest with on the line. Here’s hoping we win the long game.

Sexy letters and Men’s Health? — banned by new #prison #censorship rule


By Alan Prendergast Thu., Sep. 27 2012
Thumbnail image for prison clip art 5 long shot of corridor with cells on either side.JPG

A recent push by state prison officials to crack down on the sexual content of inmates’ mail has greatly expanded the range of books and magazines intercepted by prison censors, including such staid fare as Rolling Stone and Men’s Health. The move has also prompted complaints from inmates’ loved ones that even the most innocuous references to sex in personal letters are being censored.The Colorado Department of Corrections has had a ban on hardcore porn — anything visually more explicit than Playboy or Penthouse — in place for years. But concerns about female staff being exposed to a hostile work environment or sexual harassment evidently prompted a major revision of administrative regulation 300-26, which dictates what publications inmates can receive.

Venus de Milo.jpg
Inappropriate.

The new policy goes much further, prohibiting not only sexually explicit photographs but any nudity or descriptions of intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, bestiality, necrophilia, S&M or “discharge of bodily fluids” — a ban that would seem to encompass everything from soft-core “laddie” mags like Maxim to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to a drawing of the Venus de Milo to James Joyce’s Ulyssesto a Depends ad. Since the new rule went into effect in June, publication review committees at various prisons have rejected a staggering array of incoming materials. Laurell K. Hamilton‘s bestselling novels about vampire hunter Anita Blake have run afoul of the censors. So has a not-so-sexy article in Men’s Health about skin. Muscle and Fitness turned out to be unfit, or maybe too fit. Even an issue of Reason was found to be unreasonable because the cover illustrated an article about entitlement programs with a cartoon of an elderly woman in a wheelchair pointing a gun at a young worker. (This last one wasn’t too sexy, though; it was just politically incorrect enough to be labeled as “promotes violence, generational.”)

Inmate families and supporters say the worst part, though, is that the ban also applies to any references to sex in personal letters, whether incoming or outgoing. Diane Martin of Golden says she’s had letters to her inmate boyfriend rejected for sexual content for statements no more explicit than “I want to kiss you.”

“Our letters are the only form of intimate contact that we have,” Martin says. “He can’t write anything personal to me any more, and I think that’s going a bit far.”

Since the new rule doesn’t allow for “grandfathered” porn, prisoners are expected to surrender any ragged issues of Playboy or Maxim they may have squirreled away under the old policy. Although the regulation spells out a laborious appeal process, the decision to ban a publication can also be designated as unappealable.

Complaints have piled up at the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which has successfully sued the DOC before over its publication policies (including its frequent censorship of Westword). “We have spoken to DOC officials,” says ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein, “and they acknowledge that the new regulation has problems. We have urged them to make substantial changes.”

As of this writing, DOC officials have not responded to a query about the new policy.

The Dirty Picture or how not to be a Porngate hypocrite


First Post, Feb 9, 2012

by M. Svairini

Confession: I have sex. I watch porn on the Internet and on film. I write erotic stories, I’ve stripped for audiences, and, so far, I’ve acted in one film that could be considered “blue.” I talk about the sex I have and the sex I want to have and the sex I think is hot.

This makes me a lawbreaker in some places, but not a hypocrite. And if you don’t want to be a sexual hypocrite either (listen up, Karnataka state legislators), if you don’t want to keep on colluding with a nation of hypocrites, read on.

Warning: It will be an uphill battle.

All over India, at this very moment, thousands of boys and men and even some women are huddled over mobile phones and laptops, or sitting in internet cafes or at their office computers, watching porn.

In the urban epicenters, crores of rupees are trading hands in order to shoot, edit, market, and distribute “blue” films. Businessmen watch pay-per-view porn delivered by satellite from their five-star hotel beds. In each of India’s 5,500 cities and towns, men know which vendors keep an under-the-counter stash of illicit DVDs.

And in the Karnataka legislature, three men watching porn on a mobile phone were forced to resign. There are reports that 40 more lawmakers may have passed around the dirty picture.

In their defense, the men have claimed they weren’t watching porn; they were watching a rape. That, apparently, is supposed to be better.

Today in India, hypocrisy is the only moral constant. The shamed politicians belong to a right wing that has vociferously asserted anti-sex “family values” in India in recent years. But the opposition, which in its outrage about “defiling the Temple of Democracy” has called for criminal charges to be filed against the phone-wankers, suffers no shortage of its own sex scandals. Everyone is appalled and shocked by sex and porn; no one has ever, you know, apparently enjoyed it.

Blame, if you want, Queen Victoria. It was her men who wrote our first obscenity laws. Back on their cold little island, the British now embrace most of what they once criminalised in the colonies. Pornographers, like everyone else in the UK, possess a right to free speech that covers everything except the most “extreme” sex acts.

But here in the former Jewel in the Crown, Victorian hypocrisy lives on. Brown sahibs carry on their former masters’ work, criminalising sexuality and shaming its many expressions. They sit in government offices or organise street protests or come on television to deliver longwinded speeches about morals.

And these moral guardians, too, watch porn.

Somehow, Indians have forsworn their older heritage of sexual choice. Somehow, we have decided that freedom of speech does not extend to the freedom to go beyond titillation. Authors routinely sign contracts guaranteeing that they have not written anything obscene or profane. People who want to make work about sexuality do so underground, in secret, by paying bribes, or by going overseas.

At the same time, sex and the consumption of sexual content is widespread. As Delhi-born sexpot Anjali — well known to fans of Bangkok porn — says, “I think I am and was way better than those hypocritical girls who look homely and docile but live secret lives of sin.”

Countries where sexual hypocrisy runs deep, love sex scandals. In India our sexual hypocrisy runs especially deep. So India’s response is even more heated. The reported mobs of impromptu protesters in Karnataka are not composed, surely, of cold-blooded young men who have never looked at or been titillated by pornography. At least some of the journalists frothing over the story are surely aficionados themselves. They aren’t morally outraged; they are excited. A scandal gives everyone an excuse to talk and think and write about sex, while keeping absolutely quiet about their own desires.

In the pre-intermission climax of the Bollywood film “The Dirty Picture,” based loosely on the life of the late actress Silk Smitha, Silk delivers a powerful speech to a film industry audience.

“You call me ghatia, sexy, dirty. … But it’s you who make sex films, sell them, watch them, distribute them so others can watch, even give awards for them.” (Here she brandishes her golden statuette award before the audience.) “Don’t worry. I’m going now. But I won’t leave you alone. I will go on making your dirty pictures, and I will go on showing people your dirty secret.”

Personally, I’m not interested in being or having a dirty secret. I like having a dirty, filthy, fulfilling real life.

I know there is confusion out there. You see it in #porngate and every other time a sex scandal rises to the surface: mass confusion and debate about what, exactly, the problem is. Is it that they were doing the naughty thing, or that they were caught? Or was it where they were doing it and on whose time? Was it sex that someone enjoyed, or was it rape? Which is worse? Who was turned on, and when did they know it?

In all this confusion, no one seems to understand the right way to handle sexuality and its stories. The problem is, if you talk one way and act the other, you will always be confused.

When it comes to sexuality, there is only one rule to living to a non-hypocritical life. Repeat after me: It is ok to have and enjoy sex. Really.

By sex, I don’t mean “only within marriage,” “only in the missionary position,” “only if you are a heterosexual man,” etcetera. I mean that all expressions of sexuality between consenting adults are 100% acceptable and healthy.

The key word above is “consenting.” By consent, I don’t mean “she dressed like she wanted it,” or “he didn’t actually say no before I put it in him,” or “she needed medicine for her kid so she said yes to the money.” I mean that you are 100% sure that the other person is 100% passionately excited about being there, doing that, with you.

And that includes pornography. Generally speaking, you can tell when you’re watching whether the people want to be there or not. If you have any doubt, you can look for films and clips with the names of porn stars who have clearly taken charge of their own business. You can tell because they give interviews, and they talk about their work without a sense of shame.

Besides Anjali, women like Priya Rai, Poonam Pandey, and Sunny Leone are making a name — and loads of cash — for themselves. And for fans of vintage shake-and-wiggle, there’s always Silk Smitha. As her Vidya Balan filmi avatar says:

“You feel you can’t watch my films with your family. But watching my films in secret, you’re inspired to make bigger families!”

Those are my kind of family values.

M Svairini writes naughty stories online and can be followed slavishly at http://www.twitter.com/msvairini .

Web providers hit out at ‘censorship’ of internet porn


Pornography

Pornography (Photo credit: bigcityal)

7th feb 2012-IRISH internet providers have criticised a decision by their counterparts in the UK to impose a blanket ban on pornography — branding the decision as “nothing less than censorship”.

Under a new scheme introduced last year aimed at protecting children from explicit material online, subscribers to four of the UK’s biggest internet service providers now have to ‘opt in’ if they want to view sexually explicit websites.

Customers who do not specifically ‘opt in’ for access to adult content will be unable to log on to pornographic websites.

However, the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) has dismissed such measures as ‘censorship’, saying the responsibility should lie with parents to regulate what children access on the web.

“If internet service providers are dictating what can be accessed, then that could be seen as nothing less than censorship. Essentially we would be deciding what would be the inappropriate material. That should be left to the parents or guardians,” said Paul Duran from the ISPAI.

The ISPAI represents 20 Internet Service Providers in Ireland including the likes of Eircom, O2, Vodafone and UPC.

UCD lecturer and digital law expert JP McIntyre believes there are massive practical issues involved with the measures.

“Many of these blocking issues are easy to circumvent, but what they do tend to do is damage people who have been wrongly blocked. You’ll find that shops selling things like lingerie get blocked by these filters,” Mr McIntyre said.

He added: “Very often there are no appeal mechanisms or they are very hard to use and in the meantime people find that their businesses are suffering because people can’t access their sites and they don’t know why.”

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald admitted that the UK was “further ahead” in terms of protecting children from inappropriate online material, but she refused to comment on whether there were any plans to persuade Irish internet providers to adopt the British model.

Yesterday, the minister launched ‘Safer Internet Day 2012′ at St Brigid’s Primary School in Dublin. The event aims to promote safer internet use for children, and marked a new Garda Primary Schools Programme module dealing with online bullying.

‘I Caught My Teen Watching Internet Porn

Mark O’Regan and Kevin Keane

Irish Independent

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