The term “revenge porn” made headlines in celebrity news this week, after Rob Kardashian posted explicit photos of ex-girlfriend Blac Chyna on his Instagram account, which was subsequently suspended. In California, where Kardashian lives, it is a crime for a person to distribute intimate, sexually explicit images “when he/she knows or should know that distribution of the image will cause serious emotional distress, and the person depicted suffers that distress,” and legal experts weighed in on HuffPo on the possible consequences of his actions. Whatever the motives in this case, the term “revenge porn” can be misleading, as individuals may post or share sexuality explicit photos for different reasons. The broader term “nonconsensual porn” better expresses what’s at issue here—explicit images are shared without an individual’s consent.
The problem is not uncommon. A 2016 report from the Data & Society Research Institute found that about 10.4 million people in the U.S. “have been threatened with or experienced the posting of explicit images without their consent.” Both men and women can be victims of nonconsensual porn, but the majority of nonconsensual images are of women—including service women. Earlier this year it was revealed that nude photos of more than two dozen female service members, active duty and veterans, were being shared by marines in a private Facebook group. While the marines involved may face charges under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, civilians can face legal consequences for sharing images without consent. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 38 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws against nonconsensual porn. The organization offers more information about nonconsensual porn and state laws here.