Seven things you can do to keep your sexy selfies from showing up everywhere.
Go ahead. Wag your finger at me and tell me I should know better. Just know that I am not going to apologize and I do not feel ashamed.
Yes, I sent naked selfies to my boyfriend. Now my EX-boyfriend.
Of course I knew sending them was a risk — a risk I actually gave thought to before doing it.
I considered that my career focuses on divorce and relationships, that if worse came to worst and he ever decided to be a total jerk and share them somewhere, I wasn’t worried that I would lose my job.
I would hate for my parents, my children’s friends’ parents and anyone other than the man I sent them to see them, but I am an adult who sent them to someone I was in a committed relationship with. And if I do say so myself, I looked pretty damn good.
Most of all, I trusted him.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I was completely shocked when, two weeks ago, a year since we broke up, this person I had loved and tried hard to make things work with began sending me text messages, emails, Facebook messages and voice mails threatening to post pictures he still has.
Why? In his words, “Payback.” Because he found out that I had briefly dated someone else — not only several months after we had broken up, but also after he took off to Las Vegas with and married my new guy’s girlfriend! (Oh, and I’m not even seeing the guy anymore. Excuse my French, but WTF?)
What upset me most was that he specifically threatened to post these pictures from our past relationship to my business page on Facebook. He didn’t just intend to humiliate me. He intended to annihilate me.
A good friend happened to send me a message on Facebook chat while I sat frozen with panic, and I wrote back about what was going on. Within moments my friend had sent me several links to websites developed to protect women from revenge porn.
My first thought was, “Revenge porn? This is a thing?”
My second thought was, “Revenge porn is a thing! There is something being done and steps I can take to protect myself!”
According to an organization called End Revenge Porn,”revenge pornography (also known as non-consensual pornography or cyber rape) is socially and emotionally damaging to its victims and, in cases where victims’ personal information is attached to the offending material, can be physically threatening.”
Not only is revenge pornography morally wrong, it is a very real form of sexual abuse.
The next site I visited, run by Women Against Revenge Porn, offered the relief of coming to understand that even though I willingly sent these pictures, I still own them. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), “A copyright is not something that you can touch. It is a right. If you take a photo of yourself (selfie), you own the copyright to the photo. Even if you physically hand over, text, or email your picture to another person, you still own the copyright. The recipient does not own it.”
Not only are these grassroots non-profits taking on this issue, but according to an article published by The Washington Post, just weeks ago the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached a settlement in a lawsuit involving revenge porn, and that as a result they are now considering actively “pursuing revenge pornographers for unfair business practices.”
The article quotes Mary Anne Franks, University of Miami law professor and Legislative Policy Director for the Cyber Civil Rights Institute (CCRI), saying that the FTC’s actions are a significant “statement by the federal government that disseminating sexually explicit images of a person without ‘affirmative express consent in writing’ is illegal.”
Even with all of this information there will be people who stand by the opinion that anyone who sends out an explicit photo of themselves is implicitly allowing for these photos to eventually become public. Aware of the possibility? Yes. Allowing for it? No!
The unfortunate truth is that any time a woman is alone with a man she is aware that rape is a possibility. Is she allowing for it? No!
Couples share intimate photos, letters and experiences from a deeply personal bond. I still believe exchanging intimate pictures can be great under the right circumstances.
In long-term marriages, they can reignite imagination and passion. In long-distance relationships, they can keep you connected and playful.
In your relationship with yourself, they can be an empowering record of the beauty of your own body that you can look back to when you are feeling bad about yourself, or even in the future after gravity has taken (further) effect and you want to smile at what a hot number you were.
So now that you and I both know that revenge porn is a real thing, here are 7 steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim:
1. Consider your own line of work, stage of life and other personal considerations before ever sending anyone, no matter how close you are or how much you trust them, photos of yourself that you would be afraid for anyone else to find.
2. If you do choose to share intimate photos of yourself, have a conversation beforehand with your partner about what you expect him or her to do with them.
3. Take some time to familiarize yourself with information available on the Internet regarding revenge porn. In particular, check out to see whether or not there is currently a law in your state, and find out detailed information on filing a report with law enforcement, hiring an attorney, and submitting a DCMA notice.
4. Occasionally do Google Web and image searches for your name and photos to make sure nothing has already been posted without your knowledge or consent.
5. If you receive a threat by email, text or voice mail, document and save it. I personally give constant thanks to the gods of screenshots.
6. Share links to the helpful information you find openly on social media. The more awareness there is that there are criminal consequences for these actions, the less likely abusers will be to make threats, which themselves are terribly depleting.
7. If you find yourself being threatened or having been victimized, call the CCRI Hotline at 844-878-CCRI (2274) for immediate assistance.
For myself, just knowing that advocates and lawmakers are taking this issue seriously provided me great comfort.
I was able to start breathing again, knowing that if he continues to harass me or eventually does post a picture anywhere online, I know the number to call!
Heck, when I did a Google search of myself to make sure he hadn’t already put pictures up somewhere, I even found a fantastic article mentioning me that I had no idea existed!
Would I thank him for it? Not on your life. Am I thankful to be better informed? Absolutely!
Had a similar experience or know someone who did? Share your story in the comments section below.