Why You Should Never, Ever Be Photographed Naked

Posted on September 20, 2013


Revenge porn.  It’s a growing problem for women in our increasingly digital society, and it can turn very nasty, even dangerous.

Whether you are a teen girl, a married woman, or a divorcee just getting back into dating, please, please do yourself a favor and never, ever, ever let anyone photograph you naked or having sex.  And never, ever photograph yourself that way, either.  Am I a prude?  Maybe a little, but that’s not the point.  The point is, relationships don’t last forever; arguments and breakups in a romantic situation can be especially bitter and irrational; and by now, we all know that embarrassing photos and emails live forever in the ether.  What you may not yet know is how vile, damaging, and even dangerous “revenge porn” can be.  Do not create ammunition that an angry ex can use against you!

Oh, my boyfriend / husband would never do such a thing.  He looooves me.  Maybe so… for now… but people do crazy, impulsive things when they are hurt and angry, and some people can take it to a whole new level, posting your previously private nude photos or videos as personal ads along with all of your private information, or on less-than-scrupulous online sites created just for this purpose.  And once those electrons hit the Internet, they have a tendency to go viral and live forever.  Congratulations!  You are now an involuntary porn star!

Being an involuntary porn star has its drawbacks.  Sickos might want or expect sex.  You might lose your job, or have trouble getting hired.  Your kids might be bullied or even threatened.

True, angry ex-lovers don’t actually need your nude photo to do enormous damage to your life and even your safety, as you can see in this excellent article on sexual cyber-stalking, by Justin Jouvenal for the Washington Post (although you can imagine that nude photos in the hands of such angry, misogynistic men would make the situation exponentially worse for the victim).  But cyber-stalking as Jouvenal describes is illegal, and victims have legal recourse:  Kenneth Kuban, who tormented his ex-lover for months and endangered her safety, now faces up to 15 years in prison.

Unfortunately, revenge porn victims have almost no recourse at all.  The general legal view is that photos voluntarily taken and shared become the property of the recipient, to dispose of as he sees fit.  Yup. Your angry ex can, by and large, do whatever he likes with your naked photo, and there’s not a whole lot you can do if that happens to be something really embarrassing.

Consider the case of Holly Jacobs:  not only were her nude photos posted online under her real name, but later, a “masturbation video” was posted… it was a Skype session she had engaged in with her long-distance ex, which he had recorded without her knowledge.  Thanks to the nature of the Internet, the photos and video have multiplied to more than 200 websites, and included her real-life personal information.  Her battle to remove and destroy the material has been going on for eight years now, and included legally changing her own name.  Authorities told her there was little to be done, because she was over 18 and her ex had not stolen the photos.  The experience destroyed her old life; now she dedicates herself to working toward criminalizing revenge porn.

Revenge porn is illegal only in New Jersey.  California is also on the verge of criminalizing revenge porn, although the California statute has loopholes big enough to drive a bus through:  there is still no protection against someone distributing a “selfie,” a nude photo you take of yourself; and there must be proof of intent to cause “serious emotional distress.”  Good luck getting a conviction with those limitations.

But you know, once you’re fighting to get photos taken down, filing lawsuits and trying to figure out what, if anything, your ex could be legally charged with – it’s far, far too late to go back to your normal life.  That won’t exist again for years, maybe decades, maybe never.

Think of it this way.  Maybe you live in a pretty safe neighborhood where you can leave your door unlocked.  Maybe nobody will ever walk in and steal your belongings, or harm you in any way.  But they could, and however small the risk, if it happens, it will be devastating.  Why not just keep your door locked?  The small act of locking your door every day might look paranoid to the neighbors, but if it prevents even one robbery over the course of decades, it is well worth it.

The same goes for your nude photo.  Don’t take them, don’t allow them to be taken, and certainly never, ever, ever allow anyone else to gain control of them in any way.  So your friends and lovers think you’re a prude or a Puritan.  So what?  If it prevents even one instance of revenge porn from destroying your life, it will have been well worth it.

Cover image:  “The Artist’s Model,” by Sergei Skrypitsyn