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“Revenge Porn” Is the New Form of Sexual Harassment

Contact Attorney Jason Chan

Attorney Jason Chan

267 North Beacon Street, Suite 3
Boston MA 01235


Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: 617-226-7986

What is “revenge porn” and why it should be criminalized?

Revenge porn is the newest form of nearly legal sexual harassment. Essentially, scorned or malicious individuals post nude or barely clothed photographs of men and women on websites like YouGotPosted.com (hyperlink omitted) in order to embarrass and sexually harass them. Relationships that end badly are no longer resulting in tears, but in resentful and still-legal revenge porn.This trendy Internet concoction is one part sexual harassment, one part stalking, and one part cyber bullying. Thus, it is not only hurtful to persons’ personal reputations and emotional stability, but to their professional careers as well. Since revenge porn websites also display persons’ names and neighborhoods along with their naked photograph, employers become privy to much more than they saw during the interview.

Why is revenge porn still legal?

The concept of revenge porn is difficult to place in one legal category. On one hand, individuals consent to, or intend to send naked photographs, which is legal. On the other hand, the receiver of the naked pictures posts the images online without the person’s consent, which should no longer be legal.  Despite the person’s initial consent, revenge porn can qualify as stalking if the person is sufficiently harmed by the effects of the photographs. According to federal statute 18 U.S.C. §2261A, stalking is willful and malicious behavior that “seriously alarms or annoys that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.”  The federal statute also outlines that email or cell phone-induced forms of stalking and harassment are criminalized. Revenge porn evidently raises a privacy issue, and while it could be aligned with stalking, it can also be aligned with cyber bullying. An individual’s unintentional display of nudity on the Internet will not only cause severe emotional hurt, but also a virtual rape of his or her privacy. At the local level, Massachusetts’s law deals with bullying in schools, but adults do not have the same protection.

State law has barely skimmed the surface of sexual harassment crimes

Despite current legislation, the harrowing effects of cyber bullying remain in the news. The finger could be pointed to the fact that the states have not truly recognized forms of harassment like “revenge porn” and cyber bullying. Massachusetts’s statute M.G.L.A. §265 43 (a)(1), which criminalizes stalking, only applies if the person is also put in danger of physical harm. New Jersey is the only American state which upholds that a person who photographs, films, video tapes, records or otherwise reproduces the image of another person’s exposed genitalia or who is engaged in sexual contact is guilty of a third degree crime. There was the case of a fifteen-year-old Silicon Valley girl who hanged herself after photographic evidence of her sexual harassment ended up on all her classmates’ cell phones. Accordingly, California is considering tightening up the laws with Senate Bill 225, which would criminalize revenge porn as a misdemeanor with up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.

Revenge Porn Raises Public Policy Concerns

The fact that revenge porn remains legal in most states speaks to recent social trends. People already give Facebook, Instagram, and other social media websites the permission to display intimate details about their lives. Thus, we are more lax about Internet etiquette and privacy laws when we are the ones posting bathing suit shots. The caveat, however, is that people post this information themselves, and they have the ability to decide what the world can see before they click “post.” However, once this information enters the World Wide Web, tame wedding pictures as well as raunchy nudie shots become floaters in a no man’s land. It should not be shocking, then, that so many people are negatively affected by revenge porn; their personal information is posted without their consent for everyone to see.

Opposition to Revenge Porn Criminalization

As expected, those who reject Bill 225 are emphasizing the First Amendment, and are weary of creating a Senate bill against freedom of speech. Electronic Frontier attorney Nate Cardozostated that the bill might “criminalize victimless instances.” However, this argument seems neither strong enough, nor reassuring enough to outweigh the deaths of innocent teens and the “victimless,“ yet affected lives of others. Revenge porn should not enter the American jargon as a taboo topic, but as a crime punishable by the legal system.


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