Revenge porn

I suppose it was inevitable.

One of the most popular social media websites uses as its tagline, “Broadcast Yourself.” Given the immense popularity of online pornography, I guess it was just a matter of time before people started to take naked selfies and send them to their friends and lovers. It’s so easy! The technology in your smartphone makes you a movie producer or boudoir photographer if you choose, and it provides an instantaneous distribution system.

But something like 10% of those erotic “private” images of women under the age of 30 gets resent. Charlotte Alter writes in Time that Facebook alone, just in January of this year, received 51,000 reports of revenge porn. More than 14,000 accounts had to be disabled. Why would men share these images with the world? I don’t know. Here are some guesses:

  • They don’t think it’s a big deal. Porn is so everywhere that to them it’s just another pic. They don’t mean anything personal. I suspect this is the motivation behind the “Marines United” pic-sharing scandal. They weren’t trying to punish anybody, just enjoy other people’s nudity “anonymously.”
  • They are angry at being dumped or at some other perceived injury or act of disrespect and use revenge porn as a way to punish and embarrass the woman.
  • Blackmail. School administrators can tell you sad stories of young men who somehow get hold of a compromising pic of a girl and then blackmail her into sexual favors by threatening to send the images to parents or friends.
  • Twenty-first century male boasting rituals.
  • A few women send non-consensual pictures, notably Playmate Dani Mathers, who was so personally “disgusted” by the body of a 70-year-old woman in her gym locker room that she snapped a clandestine photo and sent it out with the caption: “If I can’t unsee this, you can’t either.” She was sentenced to a month of graffiti removal in L.A.

I am not surprised at men’s voracious sexual appetites, nor at the insane growth of online porn. Even ordinary news sites are littered with clickbait images of half-dressed women. What puzzles me is why people would take naked pictures of themselves and send them. Don’t they know that nothing ever dies or disappears in cyberspace? The minute you hit “send,” you have lost control.

I guess a few men do such things, perhaps as a dating strategy, thinking that images of their plumbing might impress or excite the object of their desire. Such seemed to be the motivation of Brett Favre and Anthony Weiner. But the vast majority of the “victims” of revenge porn are female. I racked my brains over why any woman would take and send erotic pictures of herself. Here are my guesses:

  • They hope to gain a deeper love commitment from their boyfriends.
  • Today’s porn culture makes such actions seem like the new normal. Apparently quite a few young women like to be photographed without their clothes. Ms. Alter quotes one victim of revenge porn, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” “This is a question that doesn’t need an answer if you grew up with a phone in your hand.”
  • There is always a terrific thrill for a young woman to discover the enormous power of her sexuality.
  • The women believed that this activity was safe. Sharing nude photos is like phone sex and sexting—the ultimate safe sex. They expected that there were strict rules about sharing these very personal photos and were outraged at their betrayal.

Outraged and wounded. What seemed like an exciting secret to share with a boyfriend is not so exciting when copies are sent to family, friends, coworkers, or boss.

You and I are not going to be able to stop online porn. But what we can do is have a serious conversation with our teenagers, male and female, about God’s loving design of human sexuality, the enduring value of marriage, and the deadly soul-danger of committing adultery. Our bodies were designed to be temples of the Holy Spirit.

The Word of our God endures forever. And so, it seems, does internet content.

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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