I am so excited to have my work on revenge pornography published in the brand-new journal Screen Bodies.
An interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal, Screen Bodies publishes work addressing the intersections between screens (broadly defined) and the body. As noted in its Aims & Scope,
“The journal considers moving and still images, whether from the entertainment industry, information technologies, or news and media outlets, including cinema, television, the internet, and gallery spaces. It investigates the private experiences of portable and personal devices and the institutional ones of medical and surveillance imaging. Screen Bodies addresses the portrayal, function, and reception of bodies on and in front of screens from the perspectives of gender and sexuality, feminism and masculinity, trans* studies, queer theory, critical race theory, cyborg studies, and dis/ability studies.”
The article I published, “The Politics of Revenge (Pornography),” briefly traces the emergence of revenge pornography websites during the 2010’s and contextualizes them within broader discussions of postfeminism, neoliberalism, theories of the gaze, and pornography. For those who are unfamiliar with revenge pornography, it is the distribution of intimate photos without the consent of the individual who is pictured, often with the intent to humiliate said person.
While it’s encouraging to see how many states are passing legislation intended to curtail and prevent revenge pornography, what continues to disturb me is the amount of victim blaming that goes on when it happens. As Dr. Amy Adele Hasinoff* notes in her fabulous book Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent, our cultural attitudes about sex and sexuality far more punitive for members of historically marginalized groups (women, people of color, non-heteronormative persons, etc.) than for white, cis, heterosexual men. In my own research for this project, it was shocking how many women are featured on revenge pornography websites compared to men. It was probably tens of thousands versus mere hundreds.
Although Dr. Hasinoff writes about teenaged sexting and not revenge pornography per se, I would argue that our cultural response to both can be understood as a moral panic: the fear that something (often related to sex) threatens the well-being of a society, a fear that is often compounded and exacerbated by media coverage.
Examples of moral panics: AIDS, sexting, and pornography
Without fail, every year my students tell me that the unit I teach on sex, pornography, and the Internet is one of their favorites. The ways that digital media are changing sex and intimacy are important and worth discussing. It does far more damage, I think, to dismiss activities like sexting and perusing revenge pornography as something only “bad” or “immoral” people do, when digital intimacy is actually an increasingly normative part of contemporary relationships.
* Dr. Hasinoff also maintains an excellent blog that is worth checking out!