Print Lifestyle Editor Anna Romanvoska reflects on the greater need for online protection against sexual harassment following US ban
I hope we can all agree that sending someone a picture of your naked self without their consent is wrong. Yet, it is an issue faced by many women. As with most problematic behaviours performed against women, many of us are expected to ‘just deal with it.’ Especially with the rise of platforms such as Snapchat, bamboozling someone with a nude has become easier than ever. I speak from experience. You then get thrown into a pool of paranoia every time you receive a message or snap from someone you’re merely acquainted with. The recent Texas ban on unsolicited nudes has provided a legal solution to this issue of online abuse. Originally pushed for by executives from the dating application Bumble, the ban is an attempt at prohibiting the receipt of unwanted nude pictures.
However, the ban is only classed as a misdemeanour, punishable with a fine of up to $500. Therefore, the only group of men that may possibly be affected by this are those below the middle-class belt. Men who find themselves above the line of the very comfortable middle-class line barely get a slap on the wrist. This only highlights the issue that sexually violating women, whether this is through online means, verbal attacks or other forms of assault is an exercise of power. This exercise of power is usually specifically from men who already hold some sort of position of power, fully knowing that they hold a certain degree of immunity from repercussions. Take Bill Clinton for example. Though he did face major media scrutiny, he got away without a scratch in comparison to the hell Monica Lewinsky had to go through. It was his people that got to direct the narrative, not Lewinsky herself. She has only just been able to reclaim her own story by becoming a producer for the televised version of the scandal that brought her fame.
Men who find themselves above the line of the very comfortable middle-class line barely get a slap on the wrist
Furthermore, the ban raises questions about how an unsolicited nude photo can be persecuted. An article by Vox shed light on the fact that it may be difficult to “identify the sender.” Not to be the devil’s advocate, but such means of persecution may result in the violation of privacy not just for the sender, but also for the recipient. I am not arguing for the protection of the sender. Delving into the online privacy of the sender would set off a plethora of questions surrounding issues of online privacy. In addition to that, it is incredibly easy to delete accounts and create new ones, thus making it incredibly easy for a chronic nude-sender to continue with their disgusting craft.
Now, should such legislation be introduced in the United Kingdom? I would argue that yes, it should be. However, punishment in the form of a fine is not the way to go, as that simply makes the sending of nudes an issue of class and power. Furthermore, the UK is embarrassingly behind in the development of legislations that protect women from harassment. Last August, France introduced a law making street harassment illegal. The only development I can think of in the UK is that of sisters Gemma and Maya Tutton starting a campaign called “Our Streets Now.” They are hoping to make a stop to the abuse faced by girls as young as nine.
We, as women, are constantly faced with the possibility of harassment, both in the online and physical worlds. Yet, the prosecution of harassment of any kind, no matter the severity, is often near to impossible in terms of finding sufficient evidence and receiving compensation. Until our society fully understands that gender equality in terms of harassment does not exist, I will remain pessimistic about attaining justice.