Revenge Porn and the Fight to Regain Control Over Our Bodies

Welcome to the Clandestine’s column, Children of the Patriarchy! Every other Wednesday we will post a column on anything and everything patriarchy related. Whilst most of us are already painfully aware of the patriarchal structure surrounding us, we often do not realise how deeply rooted its effects are. That’s why we are here! Every week we will be calling out the patriarchy left and right, whether that is at KCL, in the UK or in the wider world. Because whether we want to or not, we are all Children of the Patriarchy and the responsibility of cleaning this mess up, falls upon us.

Content warning: This article discusses revenge porn, the sharing of intimate images of videos of someone either online or offline. The topics discussed may cause distress to some readers.

After a recent massive leak of intimate images, the Irish Government is now under pressure to legally ban ‘revenge porn’, the sharing of intimate images without consent of the person in them. In England, Wales and Scotland, the sharing of such images was made illegal in 2015.

A victim support group, The Victim Alliance has said the leak contains 140,000 intimate pictures being shared on the internet. Some are images that have been leaked from private social media accounts, whilst others have been taken unknowingly. All have been shared without consent of the womxn, or in some cases even the underage girl, in the images.

The Irish Justice minister, Helen McEntee has since made her commitment to legally preventing the sharing of intimate images known, declaring she is looking to introduce new laws as soon as possible. Considering such a law has been in the works for quite some time now, one does wonder why the Government has not seemed to feel any sense of urgency before this massive leak.

The thing that baffled me most about this situation, is the scale of the issue. 140,000 images being shared, mainly of Irish womxn, because of the very fact that there is no actual law in Ireland as of yet to ban such disgusting practices. While I challenge anyone to argue that legally banning is not an extremely necessary step, I do believe we should be taking a look at the bigger picture as well. Why do these men still feel entitled to these womxn’s bodies?

It is far too easy to blame these womxn for taking these images in the first place. Some images were taken without the womxn even being aware. As a womxn, it is already easy to feel like the right to your own body is not fully yours. With womxn’s rights, such as the right to abortion, under attack all over the world, the idea that even in a changing room you are not safe to undress without being taken advantage of, is overwhelmingly unnerving.

Other images were taken with consent and shared with their partner, yet later uploaded without permission of the womxn in the picture. It is clear then, that the manner or circumstances in which the pictures were taken differs per image. The underlying idea that a womxn does not have full autonomy over her body and pictures taken of it, is however painfully clear with regards to every single one of the images.

If we look at society as a whole, it is not that surprising that men, whether it be actively or subconsciously, still feel superior over womxn and feel a certain entitlement to womxn and their bodies. Sex and relationships are still often viewed in a way that revolves around the man, without much regard for the womxn. When talking about ways to make sure atrocities like the one in Ireland do not happen again, we should be looking at the root of the issue. Only by addressing all the ways in which society views womxn as inferior, especially with regards to sex and relationships, can we stop the exploitation of womxn.

What we need, then, is, rather unsurprisingly, full equality in every aspect of life. Not just by legally banning horrible practices like the sharing of intimate images, but through closing the gender pay gap, through breaking the glass ceiling, through abortion rights. Making progress in those areas will show the next generation that womxn are in fact equal to men, even if historically we have been treated in a way that suggests we are not. We need a mass societal shift, to rid ourselves of our subconscious ideas of a natural subjugation of womxn to men. Womxn’s bodies belong to womxn, no one has the right to share images of these without permission. It is high time we regain power over our own bodies.

Column written by the Clandestine Column Editor Milou Klein

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