Revenge porn is still revenge porn, even when involving celebrities

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Courtesy of Hamza Butt
Revenge porn is not something that should be brushed off so easily.

BY
MANAGING NEWS EDITOR

At the core of all celebrity drama is — shockingly enough — real people. It can be easy to assume that celebrities are beyond the ‘typical’ human since that’s the way we tend to treat them, but they’re not invincible. They are, as OK! and Star Magazine regularly imply, just like us. But for some reason, particularly in the scope of illegal and just plain questionable activities, they are seemingly prone to serious consequences — both from a legal and moral sense. In many ways, how celebrities are treated is a mirror being put back on to society saying, “this is how you feel on the issue.”

The idea that celebrities are just like us — albeit wealthier — isn’t holistic, however. Celebrities are like us because they go grocery shopping and get their nails done, but they’re not like us because they can afford to be treated like they aren’t.

This is a multidimensional issue that extends to almost all parts of the criminal justice system, but Rob Kardashian is just the latest example.

On July 5, Kardashian took to Instagram (and Twitter) to “expose” his ex-fiancee Blac Chyna. The responses started immediately, with Instagram shutting down his account and people taking sides on the issue. Their romance is frequently referred to as a whirlwind and even sparked the creation of a timeline just to make things easier for those new to their relationship.

But in all of the sharing, posting and shocked responses, we lost sight of what was notably relevant, one portion of which being that Kardashian indisputably posted nude photos of Chyna. While there are a significant number of other moving parts to this particular instance, it brings up the opportunity to at least have a conversation on revenge porn.

Revenge porn is a relatively new issue, rising alongside the use of the internet and social media. In California, where Kardashian currently resides, revenge porn is a misdemeanor. If charged, he could face up to a year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 38 states and Washington D.C. have revenge porn laws, all varying in severity of punishment and what the actual charge would be.

It is not just a legal issue, however. Sharing nude photographs of people without permission can be psychologically damaging. In 2016, the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online posted an article explaining that revenge porn can lead to “lifelong mental health consequences for victims, damaged relationships, and social isolation.” One study, mentioned in the same article, stated that “80 to 93 percent of victims suffered significant emotional distress after the release of their explicit photographs.” It can be easy to brush it off and say that Chyna will not experience any distress after the photos, but this is an incredibly frightening reflection of what society often promotes. The argument that Chyna deserves it, or doesn’t care, is the same argument that has been imposed onto every other person who has had a nude photo shared of themselves online without permission.

But, some argue, Chyna has posed nude before. Why is one acceptable and the other is not? The answer, plain and simple, is consent. When an explicit photo or video is sent to someone, there is essentially a contract between the sender and receiver with the expectation that the photo will not be shown to anyone else. Oddly enough, this is where the controversy tends to fall.

While Kardashian deleted the photos that he posted, the impact cannot be erased so easily. As anyone who has used social media knows, what goes online never really disappears. And this is why revenge porn laws are so vital. When photos are shared online, it eventually gets taken out of the hands of the person who originally posted it and often, even more so out of the hands of the person in the pictures. At the very least, the original perpetrator should face legal repercussions.

Education on what revenge porn is, as well as the movement toward national criminalization of revenge porn, is absolutely necessary. While conflict between celebrities can be seen as “funny,” the ridicule that victims of the same crimes face is not funny and is, in fact, incredibly serious.

Natalie Walton is a Managing News Editor for the Review. She is currently studying criminal justice and political science, and can be reached at nwalton@udel.edu.

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