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Debunking the misogynistic claptrap

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I would imagine that from the time cameras became easily available to members of the public, men and women in romantic sexual relationships have found reason to capture their most intimate interactions on film, for posterity sake. No doubt there was a progression from still photographs to moving images once video cameras became more and more affordable. Now everyone carries a camera and a video recorder in their pocket or handbag, and it is oh so easy to whip out a smartphone and immortalise the moment.

Sexual partners obviously get great titillation from reliving their past, mutual, sexual exploits on film. That is their business, not mine. Modern technology also allows them to send nude photographs and videos to each other via Instagram, Skype, Viber, Whatsapp, and what have you. If they do so, that is their business, not ours.

The difference between the digital technology available today and the now primitive uni-dimensional cameras, is that digital photographs and videos can be disseminated to countless numbers of people at the tap of a smartphone command, even before the sender has the opportunity to think through the enormity of what he is about to do. Once sent, it can then be relayed to multiple recipients and websites in a nanosecond. And before you know it, prying eyes across the globe are viewing images of your private self that you would prefer to be reserved for your select few. 

Young people appear to be very fond of posting nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. Surveys in the United States have it that 40 per cent of teenagers have posted nude pictures at one point in time of the other, and they apparently don’t think that there is anything particularly unusual or morally questionable about that. Which is probably not so surprising given the prevalence in western culture of music videos with scantily clad celebrities, near-nude selfies by everyone on social media sites, and the easy access to free hard-core pornography on the internet. That culture too may have contributed to the ease with which sexual partners succumb to the temptation to exchange nude pictures and videos.

And it is obviously a dangerous practice. Paedophiles troll the internet inveigling young teens to share nude photographs. Juvenile boys brag to each other about the size of their collection of revealing pictures of their female school friends. And more topically, jilted lovers disseminate their once private and intimate exchanges with their former girlfriends in what has now come to be known as revenge porn. There is even a revenge porn website on which the owner, for profit, provides a platform for the cuckold or the romantically disappointed to post his former lover's compromising pictures. As long as women are foolish enough to allow themselves to be photographed in the nude, he says, he intends to make money off of it. It is good thing that this Government will soon bring back cybercrime legislation to Parliament, shorn, it is hoped, of its previous anti-free press provisions.

This week, Justice Frank Rampersad awarded damages in the handsome sum of$150,000 to a young woman whose former boyfriend, a cricketing star, forwarded pictures he took of her performing fellatio on him and nude photographs she had sexted to him, without her permission. The judge found that this breached her right of confidentiality.

This was not the first occasion on which revenge porn has made the airwaves in T&T. But it is the first time that it has been punished in a local court of law, to my knowledge. Even so, I must say that I was taken aback by the responses which I have heard from people who I thought would know better. How is it so difficult to understand that if your girlfriend allows you to photograph her naked or she sends intimate pictures of herself to you, she intends them for your viewing only, and it is simply wrong to let anyone else see it without her permission. That scenario is so vastly different from someone who bares herself on a public beach and is photographed. 

Yet still, I was shocked to hear one regular radio commentator chide the victim for taking her case to court simply because, he says, she must have known that in this day and age of instant digital communication, what happens in the privacy of her bedroom would find its way in the public domain should she deign to end her relationship with her boyfriend. The fault is not the man's who deliberately sets out to injure her, but hers for not anticipating that her erstwhile friend would one day seek his revenge. This is the same misogynistic claptrap that you hear, that a woman who dresses herself seductively gets what she is looking for if she is raped. Except, of course, when the woman is your mother, daughter or sister. 

It is disheartening that so many contributors to social media fora, distracted by the fact that the victim was having an affair with a man who had a partner, and mesmerised by her surname, thought that Ms Ho got what she deserved. They were apparently unimpressed by the fact that Mr Simmons admitted under cross-examination that he had taken the revealing photos because he "wanted to hold it over her head" or that the judge found that he had disseminated them intending to cause her "upset, embarrassment and distress."

What men and women do consensually in the privacy of their bedroom is nobody's business. Yes, we should encourage young women to be more circumspect about who they share their intimacies with, or at all. And instead of blaming the victims of revenge porn, maybe we should let young men know how real men should behave. 


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