A while ago, I let my friend of several years use my credit card to buy some sweet new boots online, because she didn’t have a credit card of her own. She agreed to pay me the cash and did so.
Several months after that, we sort of drifted apart and stopped speaking. I guess we ended our friendship and just went our separate ways. It was sad, but you know, these things happen. Not all friendships are forever, right?
So anyway, I recently noticed a few strange things on my credit card statments. Purchases I hadn’t made. Several hundred dollars worth at an online clothes store. A few hundred more on whitegoods. I did a bit of sleuthing and found out that these items were delivered to my ex-friend. To the person I had trusted with my credit card that one time under an agreement that she use it once for those sweet boots.
I was going to call the police, because it works out close to a grand that she has charged to my card. She’s made no attempt to get in touch and pay me the cash and when I called, she said there was nothing I could do. I thought for sure that was a crime, right? I posted about what she’d done on my Facebook page and basically, everyone agreed that it was really my fault. When will you learn, asked one friend, that you can’t give people things like credit card details and expect them not to use them however they like? It’s really sad, said another, but really it’s your own fault for trusting her. Another friend said he couldn’t believe how dumb I’d been to trust someone like that; how naive. He said if I had been stupid enough to trust my friend with my card number, I deserved to have her rob me blind. He said it might teach me a lesson.
So I told them all to go and get stuffed.
Can you guess why? It’s because stealing is a crime. I trusted her to use the card that one time. That was our agreement. I did not give her permission to keep using the card after our friendship ended or at any other point. I didn’t consent to her buying other things with the card number. Sure, I couldn’t prevent her from keeping the card number, or looking at it from time to time. But since I didn’t give her permission to go nuts in an online shopping spree with it months later, she’s committed a crime. It’s theft.*
Much like the photographs of almost 500 Australian women that have made their way to “revenge porn” sites in the U.S. They were shared without consent. These women have had their intimate pictures shared online, in many cases by the person they trusted with it. And instead of this heinous and disgusting breach of trust being acknowledged, these women are being blamed by many.
You know what? It’s perfectly legal to take nude pictures of yourself. It’s perfectly legal to share them with your partner or whoever you damn well please on whatever terms you see fit. Having those images distributed, against your will and without your consent, is a revolting violation. Blaming the victims for daring to take sexy pics of their own damn bodies is not okay. Women have agency over their own bodies. Acts like this take it away. I have no doubt that all of the victims in this matter shared their pictures in good faith with someone they believed they could trust.
These photos were not taken to become fodder for pornographers. That they are now on porn sites is just as much a violation of their rights as installing hidden cameras in public toilets or peeping up women’s skirts. I don’t know if any kind of legal action can be pursued. What I do know is that these kinds of websites are hosting what is called “revenge porn” which means material put there without the active consent of the owners of the pictures with the express and sole intent of hurting the people pictured. It’s been done for revenge– to shame them, to make them feel bad about their sexuality, to degrade and humiliate them.
If you seek out these sites, you’re just as guilty of violating and shaming these women as the jerks were trusted with these intimate photos and sent them in to these sites. Thankfully , Google have committed to removing these kinds of sites from their search results, which is a great win. Still, if you do seek them out, ask yourself: Would you peer into their bedroom windows? Would you try to take sneaky photos in the gym change room? No? This is no different.
Channel 7’s Sunrise posted about this horrible situation on their Facebook page, asking the question:
What’s it going to take for women to get the message about taking and sending nude photos?
A better question might have been:
What’s it going to take for men to get the message that sharing intimate photographs to porn sites without the consent of the owner is criminal and disgusting behaviour?
The post has since been deleted and they have been forced to issue an apology after many angry reactions to their victim-blaming, like that of feminist and writer Clementine Ford, who posted this picture and message in a rightfully angry response on her Facebook page:
— Clementine Ford (@clementine_ford) June 18, 2015
She was then inundated with abusive comments and private messages that contained everything from explicit photographs, vile insults, demands for nude pictures and violent, threatening language, like this one:
Ford made a decision to share only a sample of the vile messages she was sent and Facebook responded by suspending her account for 30 days because apparently, the privacy of men who send abusive, explicit, unsolicited and threatening messages is more important than the fact that they are abusing and harassing a woman on Facebook. Community Standards strikes, yet again.
I can’t even find a word for how disturbing it was to watch so many people jump to the defense of the men sending Clementine Ford abusive and threatening messages; it was just as disturbing as the amount who blamed the victims whose pictures were distributed online without their consent.
If you needed any further evidence of why we still need feminism, this whole situation is a case in point for you. Some 500 women have their intimate photographs distributed online without their consent. A T.V. show blames these women, who have been horribly violated, for the crimes committed against them. A female writer stands up and calls them on it. Before you can blink, her inbox is full of over a thousand messages ranging from the abusive to the obscene and the threatening. She makes this known publicly and is punished not only by the social media platform but also by hundreds of abusive strangers. Luckily, she’s since had her ban lifted… But one wonders why Facebook found her in breach of their terms- but not the people who harassed, threatened and abused her? The mind fecking boggles.
*Made all this bit up. See what I did there?
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