'Revenge porn': Why some victims don't want you to use the term to describe image based sexual abuse 4 days ago

'Revenge porn': Why some victims don't want you to use the term to describe image based sexual abuse

The term 'revenge porn' is a commonly used one.

It's the phrase that generates the most hits on Google, is the most widely understood, and therefore the one that most people and media organisations (this site included) have used in the past to describe image based sexual abuse.

But despite its prevalence in mainstream culture - and even in some countries' legislation - the term is often criticised. But where does the phrase 'revenge porn' come from, and why exactly do some victims want people to stop using it?

There is little known about the direct origin of the phrase 'revenge porn.' Although it is somewhat likely that the term was coined by the British tabloids in the early '00s, others have suggested that the term was borne out of something more problematic.

According to the Huffington Post, American entrepreneur Hunter Moore could have introduced the term after he founded a website called 'Is Anybody Up?' - a site dedicated to the posting and sharing of stolen intimate images alongside personal details such a victims' names and addresses.

Moore refused to delete the site and was eventually sentenced to two years in prison. He described himself as a "professional life ruiner."

There is also a chance that the term may have originated as long as four decades ago.

In the 1980s, Hustler magazine ran a segment featuring personal images of nude women. Dubbed 'Beaver Hunt,' the section was supposed to be comprised of photos women had sent in themselves, but there were apparently many instances where they had not given permission for the images to be published.

Given the nature of the publication and the likelihood that ex-partners would have access to physical intimate images, it's not unlikely that the term 'revenge porn' could easily have originated here either.

But irrespective of its history, the phrase has long been criticised for being insensitive to victims of abuse. Ireland's own Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has long opted for the use of "image based sexual abuse" to describe the act instead.

"These incidents," they say, "are often referred to as ‘revenge porn’ but given our work in the area of sexual violence, we don’t consider it so much as revenge or porn, we see it as abuse.

"This type of abuse, the sharing of imagery online without consent is one of the deepest betrayals of trust by a partner or ex-partner who is using online means to cause harm."

Back in 2014, actor Amber Heard was one of many celebrities who had their intimate photos hacked and shared online. Last year, she told Amanda de Cadenet that she found the term, although "catchy," to be "problematic."

"It implies that there was an action, for the which the victim was responsible. For you to seek revenge, it implies that somebody did something wrong," she said.

"Also it implies intent to harm, which is limiting for many, many reasons if we narrow the definition of what we call nonconsensual pornography, if we limit it to qualifiers like the intent to cause harm.

"When someone like me gets their photos hacked, and it goes online, that person doesn’t necessarily intend to cause me harm."

Such is the issue with the word "revenge." Although this does more accurately represent the maliciousness that can often accompany image based sexual violence, a lot of the time this kind of abuse is not an act of revenge - a lot of the time, the perpetrator isn't thinking about how it will affect the victim at all.

UK Professor Emma Bond said during a 2018 panel discussion that the media has a responsibility to report on these kind of abuses accurately, and that the term 'revenge porn' does not fit the crime.

Image based sexual violence has been illegal in England and Wales since 2015, and yet reports suggest that actual charges continue to fall - which could be partially due to the way image based sexual abuse is often portrayed in the media.

"It’s very important that the media carefully consider how they present cases of image based sexual abuse," she said. "It's also quite unhelpful to sensational cases. These are real victims who have gone through an incredibly traumatic event and to trivialise or sensationalise that... It's important that we get the facts right."

Rather than using the term 'revenge porn', 'image based sexual abuse' is a more accurate and less harmful term.

Although it is likely that 'revenge porn' will continue to be used to describe and report on these actions for years to come, it is important to be aware of why some victims may not want it to be used, and why it's not really representative of abuse at all.