What adults do in their private lives is their own business. If they want to take nude photographs of themselves for private or personal use, that is their decision and their right.
Likewise, if they want those photos to be posted online or published elsewhere, that is also their right.
In the past couple of weeks, this issue has come to the forefront of public discussion. A number of nude photos of various celebrities have been leaked, including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton.
Moreover, shortly after Emma Watson gave an incredible speech on feminism and gender equality at the United Nations, reports started surfacing that hackers wanted to punish her for her convictions by releasing nude photos of her.
This turned out to be an elaborate hoax, however, but it is a sign of a more troubling trend in our society.
Perhaps the worst part is that the threats weren't surprising, as there is an evident backlash against feminism and the conversation surrounding gender equality.
Furthermore, there are a lot of seedy and misguided individuals out there. These people see women as objects, and are a testament to the fact that we desperately need feminism.
In other words, trying to degrade the movement for gender equality by attacking someone's gender is exceptionally oxymoronic. Any time that someone is criticized or attacked on the basis of his or her sexuality, it provides more evidence that society desperately needs a reeducation on gender.
Correspondingly, as Watson so eloquently put it during her speech:
For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.
For the purposes of this conversation, her mention of "social equality" is particularly important. In essence, a man's body image is rarely, if ever, used as a point of attack against his beliefs or place in society. Unfortunately, the complete opposite is true for females.
Thus, regardless of whether or not the threats against Watson were real, it's disconcerting that there are people out there who feel they need to attack a woman's sexuality in order to diminish her convictions and public standing.
Unfortunately, there are not enough laws to protect individuals who fall victim to online harassment or "revenge porn." Indeed, there have been many disgusting instances in which disgruntled ex-boyfriends have posted nude photos and videos of their past girlfriends online without permission. What's worse, they usually get away with it.
Cyber harassment is real, and it's a very poor reflection of our society.
Therefore, there is never a justifiable reason to post nude videos or photos of women without consent, particularly if these photos have been obtained by illegal means (hacking).
Clay Aiken recently stated, "Anybody who takes inappropriate pictures of themselves deserves exactly what they get."
No, Mr. Aiken, you are wrong on so many levels -- it's never the victims fault.
1. It's Immoral
Violating someone's privacy is not only a violation of human rights, it's simply wrong. We all deserve a space in our lives that no one else can access, at least not without permission.
This is particularly true for women, who are frequently sexualized in popular culture and celebrated for their physical attributes rather than their personalities and capabilities. Likewise, women already endure enough harassment, threats and physical violence in the real world, they certainly don't need it online as well.
There is really no difference between hacking people's personal devices and breaking into their homes. Either way, you are violating their personal space, and both are illegal.
Moreover, how would you feel if a stranger took your most personal moments and shared them with the world?
Perhaps it's even worse when people do this to friends or former significant others. What kind of a petty and pathetic individual would you have to be to take nude photos of your ex and post them online for millions of other people to see?
No one deserves that, regardless of how badly that person may have hurt you, you don't want to stoop to that level.
Revenge porn is wrong, plain and simple. In some places, posting nude photos of other people without permission could lead to a fine or criminal conviction. Thus, it's not only immoral, it could land your ass in some serious trouble. Simply put, don't do it.
2. It's A Sex Crime
If a person takes nude photos of someone else and posts them online without permission, it's a form of sexual assault.
Let's put it this way, by posting, or even threatening to post, nude photos of people without permission, you are using their sexuality to attack their public image. Hence, you are sexually assaulting them by attempting to make them feel ashamed for something that is as natural as breathing.
Moreover, it takes the lowest and most cowardly person to attack someone else anonymously on the Internet. It's even worse when it relates to this individual's private life and sexuality.
If you have a problem with a person's beliefs, fine, find a way to logically argue against them, and don't hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. Be courageous enough to stand up for your convictions, you might even learn something in the process.
Don't take a person's gender, which isn't a choice by the way, and use it as a form of insult. This only proves your own ignorance.
3. It's A Violation Of Civil Rights
When it comes to the Internet, it's true that we have to permit a relative amount of freedom of expression. The web, after all, is meant to be a place for people to exchange information and ideas. Yet, freedom can be taken advantage of when left completely unregulated.
Correspondingly, University of Maryland legal scholar Danielle Citron worries that people are too dismissive of these issues.
In essence, people seem to argue that online harassment of women should be expected, so people should not be making such a big deal of it. In her view, this is akin to the dismissive attitude surrounding the harassment of women in the workplace in the 1960s and 70s.
As Citron puts it:
What we're talking about isn't mean words, like 'you're ugly,' the sort of things that are meant to hurt peoples' feelings. We're talking about online harassment that takes away victims' life opportunities. Harassment is accomplished with true threats, privacy invasions, involuntarily disclosed nude photos, and reputation-harming lies. We're talking about systematic harassment that destroys peoples' lives and careers.
A prime example of this is that of Anita Sarkeesian. Two years ago, she started a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter in order to create a video series surrounding the objectification of women in video games.
Consequently, a number of people on the web started attacking her with graphic rape threats and other violent scenarios. People have even threatened to kill her family and come to her house.
At what point do we say enough is enough? This is unconscionable.
Unfortunately, it's often very difficult to narrow down exactly who is doing the harassment when it occurs online. Perhaps this is another reason people don't take it very seriously, as it would take law enforcement officials a great deal of time and effort to locate these individuals.
However, Citron is working vigilantly to change this. She wants to ensure that violating someone's privacy via the Internet is punishable by law:
I've been working with lawmakers, in particular in Maryland. I worked very closely with the ACLU in Maryland. What we together came to was a narrow understanding of a crime, which involves the intentional disclosure of sexually explicit images, the knowing invasion of privacy. ...It's the initial privacy invader who really is culpable in terms of the specific intent of the crime.
Luckily, Citron feels that the public attitude towards "revenge porn" and cyber harassment is shifting; most people now seem to agree that this is disgusting and wrong.
Yet, there is still a great deal of work to be done, as many of the more recent online attacks on celebrities and other women have proven.
The Internet should remain a free entity, but within reason. When you allow too much freedom, it becomes subject to abuse. Freedom in any arena should allow individuals to flourish, with practical measures in place to ensure that people are also free from harassment and harm.
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