Academic journal article Boston College Law Review

The Naked Truth: Insufficient Coverage for Revenge Porn Victims at State Law and the Proposed Federal Legislation to Adequately Redress Them

Academic journal article Boston College Law Review

The Naked Truth: Insufficient Coverage for Revenge Porn Victims at State Law and the Proposed Federal Legislation to Adequately Redress Them

Article excerpt


In today's ever-evolving highly digitized world, one constant remains true-technology has changed the way people break up.1 Drew Barrymore's character in the popular film, He 's Just Not That Into You, quipped on her experience with the following:

I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work, so I called him at home, and then he e-mailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell . . . . and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies . . . . It's exhausting.2

Although Barrymore's remarks are satirical, they are not baseless.3 More relationships now end digitally rather than personally.4

The aftermath of the modern-day break up can be equally distressing.5 Consider the following hypothetical: Jane is in a long-term relationship with Joe.6 Jane allowed Joe to photograph her in the nude so long as the photos were for Joe's viewing pleasure only.7 A few months later, Jane and Joe break up and, in retaliation, Joe uploads the photographs accompanied by Jane's contact information to a "revenge porn" website.8 Jane receives countless e-mails, calls, and Facebook friend requests from strangers soliciting sex.9 Local police officers inform Jane that Joe's behavior is not criminal because the photographs were originally taken with consent, notwithstanding the fact that consent was conditioned on privacy.10

Unfortunately, Jane's story reflects the increasingly common cyberbullying phenomenon known as "revenge porn."11 Revenge pornography-also known as nonconsensual pornography-is the act of distributing sexually explicit photographs of individuals without their consent.12 Many identify revenge porn as intimate photographs previously taken with consent during a relationship and later distributed by a vengeful ex-lover.13 The term also comprises nude photographs or videos originally obtained without the victim's consent.14

As an additional means of harassment, many nonconsensual photographs are posted on popular revenge porn websites.15 These websites specialize in hosting user-uploaded nonconsensual pornography with the implied or explicit purpose of humiliating an ex-lover.16 The most damaging websites also divulge personal information such as the person's full name, home and e-mail address, place of employment, telephone number, and links to their social media profiles. 17 For example, Hunter Moore, the 26-year-old founder of the now defunct revenge porn website, encouraged users to include full names and other personal information when uploading explicit photographs .18 As a result, many subjects receive solicitations for sex or even threats of violence from strangers who view the nonconsensual porn.19

Once these photographs are posted on the Internet, the consequences can be devastating to the victim's personal life.20 Many isolate themselves from relationships, relocate to a different state, and some even change their name in an effort to distance themselves from the posted images.21 The unbearable distress can also cause irreparable damage to a victim's psyche.22 A study revealed that 93% of revenge pom victims suffer significant emotional distress.23 More than half consider suicide and, sadly, some follow through.24

The professional costs of involuntary porn are equally grim.25 The sexually explicit images are often distributed to or discovered by employers and coworkers.26 The distribution of these images swiftly undermines a victim's professional reputation, and some are even terminated as a result.27 Moreover, job prospects for victims are severely limited by the fact that the photographs readily appear with a simple Google search.28 Nearly 80% of employers Google prospective employees and reject candidates based on their findings about 70% of the time.29 Employers frequently cite concerns about an applicant's inappropriate online image as a reason for rejecting someone's candidacy. …

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