Battling Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing: Empowerment Through Activism After Image Abuse

Battling Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing: Empowerment Through Activism After Image Abuse

Amanda E. Fehlbaum (Youngstown State University, USA) and Katelyn Bowden (Battling Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3187-7.ch003
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Image-based sexual abuse is a growing issue among young adults, and challenges remain as to how to support those who have had intimate photos distributed without their consent. This chapter begins with an exploration of image-based sexual abuse, including motivations for perpetration. The focus then shifts to address how victims might transform their feelings of helplessness into empowerment through challenging victim blaming, legislative avenues, and digital justice. Recommendations and solutions focus on engaging in activism. Throughout the chapter are stories from activists who work with Battling Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing (BADASS), a non-profit focused on education, legislation, and advocacy work.
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Calling image-based sexual abuse “revenge porn” is a misnomer. “Revenge” implies that the victim did something to deserve retribution, and “porn” describes the act as purposefully sexual, as well as implicitly consensual. Powell, Henry, and Flynn (2018) also suggest that terms like “non-consensual pornography” and “involuntary pornography” both inadequately capture the range of abusive behaviors involved and focus attention on the content of the image, rather than the abusive impact the perpetrator’s actions have on the victim. Furthermore, not all content constitutes or serves the purpose of pornography. Visual depictions of nudity and/or sexual activity are not inherently pornographic (Franks, 2017). McGlynn and Rackley (2017) developed the concept “image-based sexual abuse” to describe non-consensual creation and/or dissemination of private sexual images, noting that it is a type of sexual violence, gender abuse, and cultural harm. Building upon this, Powell and Henry (2017) claim that image-based sexual abuse constitutes “technology-facilitated sexual violence,” due to the violation aligning more with forms of sexual offending laws and policies. While some image-based sexual abuse does fall into the “revenge porn” category in that the images are distributed by a malicious ex-partner, usually with an intent to humiliate or harm the victim, that subset is small and focuses on the motivation of perpetrators. Image-based sexual abuse can encompass a variety of crimes (Table 1), including hidden cameras, upskirt or down-blouse images, photoshopped pictures, deepfake videos, recordings of rapes or other sexual assaults, sexual exploitation (‘sexploitation’), sexual extortion (‘sextortion’), photos obtained through hacking, as well as the subsequent non-consensual distribution of such images. Images may have been taken by the victim in the form of “selfies,” taken by another person, stolen, or manipulated to portray the victim’s face or body in a sexual manner (Powell et al., 2018). Ultimately, image-based sexual abuse is a continuum and is also on a continuum with other forms of sexual violence (McGlynn, Rackley, & Houghton, 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Consent: Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. It is freely given, activity-specific, active and ongoing, and can be revoked at any time.

Image-Based Sexual Abuse: Also known as “nonconsensual porn” or “revenge porn,” is the act of posting revealing or sexually explicit images or videos of a person without the consent of the subject. Usually the act is done by a former sexual partner in order to cause distress or harm to the person pictured.

Win Culture: The submission, sharing, exchange, and trade of nonconsensual, explicit images on websites in order to expose, shame, and exploit the subject pictured.

Victim Blaming: The tendency of people to believe that victims are, at least partially, to blame for their trauma.

Digital Justice: The power to create a platform in which marginalized or stigmatized voices feel safe to share their stories and receive support.

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