Why I wholeheartedly support the
‘revenge porn’ law

Readers of this blog will know I am not a legislation-happy bunny, particularly when it comes to policing the internet. I can never tell whether whether I’m more baffled or alarmed that police time is so often wasted on investigating “offensive” comments made online. Likewise, I struggle with the logic that social media – the arena of life in which it is by far the easiest to permanently block someone out of your life with the simple of a button – for some reason requires new laws which are even tougher than the ones which apply to “real life.”

You can imagine my ultimate facepalm when I read that, in Northern Ireland, the Department for Justice responded to the introduction of a specific ‘revenge porn’ law in England & Wales by declaring there were existing laws to prosecute revenge porn offenders in Ulster but ministers would look into creating a new offence anyway. Which only goes to illustrate the utter farce of Stormont but that is, of course, another matter.

Nonetheless, I am pleased that more than a dozen people have been convicted of this offence since its introduction in April – and the first woman being convicted this week. For those who don’t know, revenge porn is the act of disseminating private photographs of a (usually) ex-partner in a bid to hurt and humiliate them. Understandably, being exposed in this way is deeply distressing to the victim and, as the convictions pile up, I hope it serves as a deterrent to anyone nasty or foolhardy enough to think betraying someone’s trust in this way and violating their right to consent is in any way acceptable behaviour.

But I think there are benefits for the rest of decent, civilised human beings, too. As someone who believes in Anglo-Saxon liberty, my understanding of law is that it exists not to control people, but to create a framework within which they can feel sufficiently secure to make plans, to interact with others, to take risks, and to explore their desires freely. Taken in this light, I believe the revenge porn legislation to be a good law, because it can only lead to greater confidence and trust in one of the major arenas for exploring our desires – the bedroom.

Or, with this being the 21st century, the smartphone. Without wanting to bring too much of the private into the public sphere (I am English, after all), couples have been taking photographs of each other for about as long as portable photography has existed and, with the advent of smartphones and apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp, this is more and more becoming a means by which people, whether they’re young or old, dating or in a relationship, explore their sexuality – and can be particularly useful over long distances.

I think this is healthy and, despite what the alarmists say, I think it’s a classic case of age old social interactions adapting to new technology. But there is, of course, always an element of risk involved in anything so personal and for many women – it’s almost always women – they have paid a heavy price for doing so. But if this law can mitigate that risk by making it crystal clear to both parties that what they choose to share is strictly between them – enforceable by law – then that gives room for that interaction to really blossom. And I think that can only be a good thing.