New York Might Outlaw “Revenge Porn”

revenge tv showMy research assistants tell me that their colleagues at the university, pursuing doctorates in the study of the sexual behavior of humans, have visited pornographic websites, and that these websites often feature entire categories devoted to exes: virtual dumping grounds where jilted boyfriends can unload all the sexted selfies amassed in their Galaxy galleries, all the dorm-room doinking captured on remote-controlled webcams. It’s considered an act of revenge: you broke my heart, so now every wifi’d wanker can see you naked.

But if a Republican state senator from Suffolk County has his way, such uploading will soon be prosecutable in New York State.  “Phil Boyle will introduce a bill in the State Senate that will outlaw the dissemination of ‘revenge porn,'” the New York Post reports. “‘This is an issue where New York’s laws must be changed to keep up with technology,’ Boyle said. ‘Revenge porn can ruin a woman’s life, family and career.'” In a press release, he cites examples: a woman whose photographs were released along with her contact info who became the victim of harassment; another woman who was recognized by strangers and stalked.

We can support levying large fines on men who try to shame and embarrass former sexual partners by turning their sexuality against them. (That’s the very essence of sex negativity, which we will not abide!) But litigating pornography can be problematic; does one simply know “revenge porn” when one sees it? “This legislation makes the non-consensual disclosure of sexually explicit images a class A misdemeanor… This bill is narrowly drawn so as not to infringe on First Amendment rights, as there is no constitutional protection afforded to individuals who consume or distribute sexually explicit images of individuals without their consent,” supporters explain. “The bill also provides exceptions for lawful and common practices of law enforcement, and situations involving voluntary exposure in public or commercial settings.”

A similar law exists in New Jersey, and another was passed in California this week, though advocates are disappointed with it because it doesn’t offer protection to those who took the photos themselves. About 80 percent of revenge-porn images were selfies.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart