Revenge Porn. A word that sends a chill down the spine of many millennial women, who are too aware of how even consensual sex lead to violation of their agency in the most humiliating way possible. While alarmingly high number of male predators continue to be rooted in positions of immense powers, or are crawling back into public and professional life despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct (enjoyed the stand-up Harvey?), California Representative Katie Hill has resigned from the US Congress, after her nude photographs in a compromised position were published by a conservative website, reports CNN. While Hill has denied allegations of being in a relationship with a congressional staffer, she did admit to having a physical relationship with a campaign staffer before taking the office. Hill has further claimed that her estranged husband, from whom she is seeking divorce currently conspired with the conservative website to publish the said intimate photographs, in order to humiliate her. Alas, Hill is not alone in suffering social and professional consequences for her personal actions, which were put out for everyone to look at, without her consent.

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 

  • US Congresswoman Katie Hill has resigned from her post after nude photographs of her were released.
  • Hill alleges that her estranged husband conspired to release the photos to humiliate her.
  • While men accused of sexual misconduct continue to lead public lives, women aren’t seen as victims even in cases of such horrific acts.
  • Revenge porn violates a person’s consent and we need to the act more seriously than we do.

This doesn’t happen to male members in the same way — revenge porn in this respect. It’s horrific. –  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

In her final floor speech in the Congress Hill said that she fell short and apologised for letting everyone down. “I am leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalised on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching,” said she, adding, she was leaving because of the double standards. “I am leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites, used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics I’ve ever seen and [for] the right-wing media to drive clicks and expand their audience by distributing intimate photos of me taken without my knowledge, let alone my consent.”

Revenge porn is often used by jilted partners to get back at their former partners, out of grouse, jealousy and refusal to move on. While it happens to men too, according to The Guardian, the calls to the Revenge Porn Helpline indicate that 70 percent of victims in the UK are women. Yet another research carried out by the University of Exeter, in collaboration with the Revenge Porn Helpline, found out that almost 43percent of image abuse is perpetrated by very recent male ex-partners. The perpetrators often share images or videos filmed with consent on the promise of privacy, or those shot during a consensual act, without any knowledge of the person concerned. As in case of Hill, people can also share third party images, or photoshopped ones as well, with the intent to malign their ex, or to put them at a social or professional disadvantage.

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So while the patriarchal soft spot for men allows them to get way with sexual misconduct it also gives them a sense of entitlement to violate consent of a woman by sharing her graphic images, where the blame of inappropriate conduct falls on the woman, and not on the person who filmed and shared such a content with taking permission from his partner. If this isn’t misogyny then what is? Shouldn’t it be Hill’s partner who must be shamed and suffer consequences if he truly did conspire to humiliate his ex-wife? But alas, it will be very difficult for Katie to prove that her husband is behind this incident. As it is for numerous other people who fall prey to revenge porn, which spread with such a ferocity in this digital age that it becomes difficult to trace the origins.

Criminalisation of revenge porn will have little effect, unless we re-tune our sense of morality, and begin to see who the real victims in such incidences are. A person loses their dignity and social standing to revenge porn, and we as a society can clearly we can prevent that from happening.

However, the doubles standards with which women and men are treaded in US politics or within our society, in general, couldn’t be starker than they are with this case, and the context in which it has come to light. A woman has consensual sex with another person and has her graphic images shared without her consent, somehow ends up being shamed instead of sympathised. She loses her congress seat and suffers a setback from which perhaps her political career may never recover. Just how did those photographs define her efficiency as a politician? Why is the scale of morality only used to judge women, when it comes to politics or any other field?

Criminalisation of revenge porn will have little effect, unless we re-tune our sense of morality, and begin to see who the real victims in such incidences are. A person loses their dignity and social standing to revenge porn, and we can clearly we can prevent that from happening. There is more to revenge porn than a so-called broken heart. No amount of pain or heartbreak justifies this heinous act, and that needs to be crystal clear.

Image Credit : Twitter

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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