Revenge Pornography Weekly Update: Changing Media Perceptions

Revenge pornography legislation changes on a week-by-week basis. We will be tracking these updates, as well as notable progress made in revenge pornography cases, and sharing them weekly in this space. 

23 August 2017

In a profile this month in Marie Claire by Irin Carmon, Paris Hilton spoke out about a “sex tape” of her that Gawker released in 2003: “I never, ever received one dollar from that video. That is the last thing that I would want out there.”  As Carmon points out, “you probably don't remember that she says she never consented to the tape's being public; that she was only 18 and her then-boyfriend, Rick Salomon, was 33; or that she sued the company distributing it for invasion of privacy.”

For years, Hilton was accused of having wilfully leaked the video to boost her own fame.  In a 2010 Salon article, Mary Elizabeth Williams said, “If you are actually dumb enough to make a sex tape and think it won’t get leaked, you are too dumb to ever have sex again.”  Hilton’s lack of consent was never a guiding feature in media coverage.  Instead, it was simply assumed that, if she was stupid enough (in the paparazzi’s view) to have sex on camera, she deserved to be publicly shamed.

As Christina Cauterucci argued this week in Slate, however, media perceptions have finally begun to shift.  Prominent celebrity victims of revenge porn, like Black Chyna and Jennifer Lawrence, are increasingly being considered victims of a sex crime, rather than being portrayed as attention-seeking “sluts.”

This cultural shift is important to our ongoing effort to fight revenge porn.  The less our civil society blames victims and the more it empathizes with their pain, the more we will delegitimize perpetrators’ actions.