• Sat, May 11 - 1:00 pm ET

Please Don’t Let My Daughter Fall Prey To Revenge Porn

white-bra-hangingI am obsessed with the blessing/curse dichotomy of my daughter growing up surrounded by technology. I get excited about educational video games, meanwhile I’m terrified of Facebook bullying and how quickly information (and misinformation) spreads online. I love the idea of my daughter knowing how to create and edit family movies, a task that took me months to complete when I was a teen.

But my absolute worst nightmare is in that same vein: that she will make a video, or a photo album, meant for a close loved one and it will fall into the wrong hands or go public without her consent. This article by Woodrow Hartzog in The Atlantic refers to it as “revenge porn,” and highlights some efforts to regulate it:

Some organizations, including Without My Consent, have already started by educating victims, attorneys, and the public. Statutes to criminalize non-consensual pornography are being considered at the state level. Many of these solutions are promising, but most solutions with any hope of being successful will take time.

Wartzog also explains that “confidentiality” is actually a legal term that protects information that’s implied to be private (think of doctor/patient relationships: he’s essentially saying a romantic relationship is legally protected in the same way). But this gets sticky when you bring the world wide web into the picture:

While romantic partners who receive explicit materials might be prohibited from further disclosure, websites and other third-party recipients are not bound by the same rules because they presumably have no relationship with the person depicted in the media.

So how on earth do I address this with my daughter when she is old enough to understand? I could just tell her not to take naughty pictures of herself, but come on. Even if she doesn’t, she might have a boyfriend who snaps a few shots while she’s sleeping, or when she’s too drunk to know what’s going on.

This happened to me. In college, I was casually seeing a guy. We got drunk one night (well, I did, I’m not sure about him). Things went their way. At school the next day, his friends are snickering and joking about some video of me. Turns out he sent a short video to several of his friends without so much as mentioning it to me. I don’t know if the video still exists, but the memory of it still freaks me out. And this was before smartphones and before internet bullying was a widespread thing.

There is one major defense against this that I hope to have up my sleeve when the time comes. I never felt empowered in my own body as a young girl because I grew up with the notion that sexuality was shameful. I was also led to believe that women exist to please others, to be nice, to play the martyr even when they don’t want to. This translated into some really horrible romantic relationships and situations that could have been avoided if I’d had any sense of self-worth.

I’m going to teach my daughter to say no, starting with the little things. You’ll never hear me tell her “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” And she most certainly won’t grow up like I did, thinking a woman with sexual urges is some kind of abomination.

(photo: RGOMEZPHOTO / Shutterstock)

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