Revenge porn

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By Akola Thompson

GUYANA has, over the years, seen an increasing amount of “revenge porn” in which nude or semi-nude women are most often plastered across the Internet by their ex-partners.A recent study has shown that, out of ten ex-partners who threatened to reveal their ex’s nude photos Online, more than 60% of them have made good on the promise.

Due to lack of proper laws to punish the perpetrators, many have had to get creative with existing laws, so as to get some semblance of justice. Often, these creative endeavours do not work, and leave the victims feeling as if they have once again been violated.

There are cases in which these persons kill themselves due to being shamed for their sexuality, and being betrayed by those they had trusted. Victims often develop coping mechanisms to deal with their feelings of worthlessness, such as isolating themselves, or drinking excessively.

That is why I was particularly pleased when I learned that the Cyber Crime Bill, which touches upon revenge porn, has been published in the Gazette.

Desensitisation, I know, has caused many of us to be of the belief that the offended persons deserve to have their nude or semi-nude photographs plastered across the Internet, as they were the ones who had decided to be so photographed.

I will be the first to admit that I was one such person; but it’s funny how a little age, coupled with academia and a developing love for justice, can change one’s mind drastically.

Not many persons understand revenge porn; their only view on the matter tends to be that the person should not have taken a photo they would not want the public to see.

You hear of the term “revenge porn” and you realise that even the name of the act seeks to disempower the victims and trivialise the serious emotional damages they face.

It is an offensive term coined by the very ones who seek to shame us, and perpetuate that shame. While the word “revenge” suggests that the perpetrator is justified in his/her actions, the word “porn” merely seeks to place that abuse in the mainstream. What it does well is display society’s stigma against nudity, especially in the case of women who are shamed for showing too much legs, torso, or even breastfeeding their babies in public.

It’s one of society’s most pervasive and ridiculous concepts of morality, and it does more harm than good, as society sees it as a “deserved” opportunity to humiliate and destroy the reputations of these persons.

People also tend to think of it as an isolated phenomenon, when in reality “revenge porn” belongs to an Internet milieu in which “crowd source” misogyny can take place.

They fail to realise that since “revenge porn” is an outgrowth of misogyny, which takes a number of forms Online, telling women not to send nude photos to their significant others will most likely have a limited effect.

I am not saying that there should be no education on the potential dangers of sharing in our increasingly technological world. It only makes sense that one knows the potential consequences of one’s actions, whatever they may be, and the permanence of content posted Online.

However, the approach that is being taken – in which girls are predominantly told not to take such photos — neglects to comment upon the root of the problem.

We need to stop telling our girls what not to do lest boys shame them, and rather tell our boys not to shame our girls.

I am not quite sure what Guyana’s stance on sexual education is, but if there is any such existing programmes in our schools, the attempt should be made at educating our children, especially the boys, on why shaming women is not okay.

Members of society also need to tell each other that it is unacceptable, and change the narrative that the victim has done the most wrong; as, what we are essentially doing is becoming complicit in an act that can potentially affect us and the ones we care about.