Revenge porn affects a surprising number of Americans, according to new study

Revenge porn: An edgy term for a truly horrific phenomenon wherein posting explicit pictures without someone’s consent is somehow equated with pornography. Um, there are already words for violating sexual consent, and “porn” isn’t among them. We need to find new terms for this, especially since a recent study found that revenge porn affects 1 out of every 25 Americans.

The study, carried out by the Data & Society Institute, surveyed 3,000 internet users aged 15 (!) and older across the country and asked them about their experiences with so-called revenge porn. About 10.4 million respondents said someone had posted and/or threatened to post explicit images of them online without their permission. What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Surprising no one except maybe meninist shitlords, young women were disproportionately affected; 6 percent of women said their explicit images had been posted online without consent, and 10 percent had been threatened with that possibility. LGBTQ people were even more disproportionately affected, with 15 percent of internet users who identified as LGBTQ saying that they’d been confronted by someone threatening to post an explicit image of them, and 7 percent reporting that such images had been shared without consent.

Oddly, the racial breakdown wasn’t very thorough. The only categories featured in the study were “White (Non-Hispanic),” “Black (Non-Hispanic),” and “Hispanic.” (Black women reported the highest rates of both threats and actual postings, by the way.) Is the Data & Society Institute unaware that Asian women are highly fetishized practically every moment of our lives, or that Native American women suffer the highest sexual assault rates in the country? Kind of important facts for a study about digital sexual assault.

Internet Addiction
CREDIT: Artur Debat/Getty Images

What is surprising is that although men received fewer threats than women, they were nevertheless victims of revenge porn postings too; 4 percent of men reported seeing explicit images of themselves posted online without consent. Sure, that’s a smaller proportion than the one for women, but anything above zero percent is too much, no matter what the person’s gender may be.

The study also found a strong correlation between hacking and nonconsensual posting of explicit photos. Forty-three percent of people who suffered threats about or nonconsensual posting of nudes reported that their devices, online accounts, and personal information had been hacked. While a causal relationship between hacking and posting photos without consent hasn’t been established, it’s not unreasonable to argue that someone willing to commit one major breach of ethics would be more willing to commit another.

In addition to highlighting our society’s utter disregard for consent, the most troubling aspect of these findings is the degree to which people who don’t conform to the heteronormative Eurocentric patriarchy — or in other words, anyone who isn’t a straight white man — are systematically targeted, objectified, and degraded. However, for those of us who aren’t straight white men, this study just reveals another avenue used to deny us our sexual and bodily autonomy, because we’ve known how this works for a long, long time.

Tags: revenge porn