Meet The Woman Who Revenge Porn-ed Herself
The Debrief: When Anna Richardson shared intimate pics of herself on a revenge porn site, she had no idea how bad the repercussions would be
When was the last time someone told you they wished you would die from AIDS? How about that they wanted rape you? Or dubbed you ‘the deepthroat queen’?
That’s the sort of abuse TV presenter Anna Richardson received when she posted intimate pictures of herself on a revenge porn website to find out just what happens when you become a victim of non-consensual inimate photo sharing.
Anna’s brave experiment is the subject of a new documentary on Channel 4. ‘Revenge porn was something I was totally unaware of,’ Anna says when we speak to her about her decision. ‘When I was approached to make this documentary I was like, “Really?” I just didn’t think it was a story. I think if you ask the majority of people in this country about revenge porn they’ll go, “Erm, is that just when someone puts a picture of someone’s boobs on Facebook?” There needs to be greater awareness.’
Revenge porn is classified as ‘the sharing of private sexual materials, either photos or videos of another person, without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.’ As of February 2015, it is illegal to share private, sexual photographs or films that wouldn't otherwise be available publically. But, as Anna’s documentary finds, that only criminalises the actual uploading of pictures; it doesn’t mean revenge porn websites are being taken down?
So, why has this become such a big issue over the past few years? ‘I think it’s because the internet is the Wild West,’ explains Anna. ‘It is unregulated. It’s a petri dish for people to indulge in their greatest violent fantasies with no repercussions.’ Anna also thinks that the rise of internet porn is a contributing factor, too. ‘If you consume enough, it can make it normal to objectify women.’
According to a recent poll, 89% of women have taken nude pictures and 82% would do it again. ‘Its normal to have intimate picture,’ reassures Anna. ‘And by intimate I might just mean being naked in front of the mirror checking if you’ve lost weight. It’s normal to have them on your phone in this age of selfies.’ Anna says. ‘What is not normal is to then share those pictures to humiliate someone.’
So ,who are these people happy to share pictures? ‘Probably our perception is that the men who consume revenge porn are basement-dwelling, grubby-pant-wearing Stella drinkers, but it could be anybody,’ warns Anna. ‘The majority of guys look at porn and, equally, it could be anybody who’s on revenge porn sites. I would say if you’re in a relationship with a man or woman who is terribly controlling and gets sexually jealous if you show independence, then get out – because if they’ve got that personality, then who knows?’
Although there are pictures of men on revenge porn websites, it’s not as talked about. Perhaps because, as one man in the documentary says, he just ‘wouldn’t care’ if it happened to him.
‘You just need to look at society and the objectification of women in porn to see why this is,’ explains Anna. ‘It’s very different to expose the female body than the male body. Our bodies are quite hidden; there’s lot of cavities and we’ve got more to expose than guys. We women are enormously powerful: we give birth, we create life and that can be deeply threatening. It all comes back to power, and with these guys there is a need to exert control.’
So, why did Anna decide to post her own pictures? ‘We could have just done this documentary in a straightforward way, talking to victims and it would have been “this happened and then this happened”, but we wanted to take a look at the timeline of what happens when pictures go live, so we had a choice: either I take pictures of another woman and upload them pretending to be her jealous ex, or I do it myself. I didn’t want to exploit another woman, so I thought, “If I’m going to understand this, I’m going to have to do it myself.”’
And what happened? ‘Within in 48 hours, 43,000 people had seen my pictures. Within 72 hours, 100,000 people had. Tens of thousands of people were clicking on my images to consume that media and to leave hateful comments.’ Some of those comments? ‘I know this slag, she’s a whore, she loves to fuck’; ‘I’ll destroy her pussy’; and, ‘I’ll chew on her clit and cum on her tits.’ Yes, really.
‘We knew what we were doing, but imagine if you were a genuine victim,’ Anna says. And, indeed, many people are under the impression that the fault lies with the girl for taking the pictures. Anna reckons of the people she interviewed, men and women, it was about a 50/50 split as to whether the woman was to blame.
The most upsetting thing in the documentary when Anna meets a girl who has been a victim of revenge porn who has spent the time since her ordeal blaming herself. ‘She made me cry,’ says Anna. ‘She so desperately believed it was her fault.’
In fact, if there is a take away from the whole sorry ordeal Anna wants it to be this: ‘I just want to reassure victims that there is no shame in sharing intimate pictures. There is no shame in owning your body. The shame is when someone tries to use that to humiliate you. It’s a sexually violent means of humiliation and control.’
Revenge Porn is on Channel 4 at 10PM Monday, 17 August
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