Love & Sex

What Happens When You Post Revenge Porn?

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It's a truly modern story: Man posts revenge porn of ex-girlfriend, ex-girlfriend then posts revenge porn of man.

by Lizzie Plaugic

Usually when it comes to revenge porn, there are two distinct parties involved: the person doing the revenge, and the person receiving the revenge (aka the person whose photos or videos become porn). But if one party posts revenge porn to get back at their ex, then what's to stop that ex from posting revenge porn to avenge revenge porn?

It's an ouroboros of retribution, but one unlike the Hatfields and McCoys of yesterday. Because of the very nature of how information is broadcast and stored, the internet provides a means to retaliate forever; revenge porn is a recurrent attack that is impossible to erase or undo. The image exists always in some server, somewhere. The bad breakup of twenty years ago — with its accompanying rumor mill and petty acts of retaliation — has been transformed into something that literally lives forever. 

Brian W. sent his friends naked photos of his ex-girlfriend after he found out she cheated on him (or after he cheated on her, depending on who you ask). Then, in an effort to retaliate, his ex and some of her friends posted naked photos of him on various revenge porn sites. They also made a Tumblr showcasing him in various compromised (read: naked) states.

Revenge porn is a relatively recent development in Ways to Get Back at Your Ex, but it has already proven its staying power. D-bag extraordinaire Hunter Moore’s revenge porn site "Is Anyone Up?" was taken down recently, only to be replaced by the like-minded "Is Anybody Down?" Tumblr. 

Now that Brian has experienced the cyclical nature of karma firsthand and has found images of him in his natural state splashed across a few URLs, he isn’t so keen on revenge porn anymore. We spoke with Brian to find out about his path to redemption and why he thought finding solace in revenge porn was a good idea in the first place.

First of all, what exactly happened between you and your ex-girlfriend?
What happened was, and I regret it now, I sent pics of her to a couple of friends, and they kind of sent them around. They didn't really get posted on too many websites, at first it was mostly via email. Then to get back at me, my ex and her friends posted my pictures on several of those revenge porn sites. They also made a webpage.

Did you do anything when your friends started to post the pictures of your girlfriend online?
I didn't think they were gonna get spread around the way they did. It's still my fault, but I didn't intend to do what ended up happening. Once my friends started sharing them, it was pretty much too late at that point.

So you just let it happen?
Yeah, she was obviously very upset and I wasn't very nice to her back then. I just pretty much ignored her.

Why'd you ignore her then?
We had kind of a bad break-up; I caught her cheating on me, so that was kind of where I was at.

I thought you cheated on her?
Yeah, I know she says I cheated on her, so it's kind of a he said/she said type thing.

Was there a moment before you sent the photos to all your friends when you thought, "Maybe this isn't the best idea"?
Uhhh, no but I should have.

So when did you finally realize it probably wasn't a good idea? Was it only after your girlfriend posted pictures of you on the internet?
Yeah, pretty much. Knowing what it feels like now I know that I acted very immaturely and I'm regretful for doing it. It causes me a lot of stress now.

But it seems to me like your sense of regret is coming solely from the fact that there were consequences from this. You're stressed by how this has negatively impacted you.
Well…yeah that might be true. I didn't really think much about it until she posted pictures of me.

When you initially sent the pictures around, what was the appeal of revenge porn to you?
I was just very angry at her, and I was upset and not thinking straight. Beyond that, I'm not really sure.

So how have the pictures of you on the internet affected your life?
Well, it's cost me friends and girlfriends. I've been told by more than one romantic interest that they wouldn't go out with me because of the pictures. It's really turned me into a hermit. I didn't want to go out and be seen. I'd seen girls laughing and I'd always wonder if they'd seen the pictures and were laughing at me. It's really caused a lot of stress and it's just hugely embarrassing.

Do you still have hope that the photos will ever come down, or are you just kind of resigned to it?
Every time I've succeeded in getting the photos taken down, they just get put up somewhere else. I was very aggressive about removing them in the beginning. I've probably had them removed from about 50 different websites. It was just a daily thing; I would get up, search for them, send threatening letters to the web hosts, having to go through all this stuff, you know? 

I would have to prove it's a picture of me and all that. It was a lot of hassle to get them taken down just to have them reposted elsewhere. And whenever they get reposted, they just get that many more views because it's fresh content. I've pretty much given up. They're just in too many places and people won't remove them. And there's no law—that's very frustrating, and you just feel helpless.

Would you say that your embarrassment stems from the fact that there are naked pictures of you on the internet, or from the fact that they're there because you did something shitty?
It's embarrassing because there's nude pictures. Ahhhh, I hate to even think about it. It's not as bad as it could be; it didn't get crazy around here where I live, like her photos did. But it's been bad enough. I don't give my name out to new people when I meet them. I give them my first name and sometimes I make up a fake last name.

You said when you did this to your ex-girlfriend, they got posted around a lot where she lived?
Yeah, I don't know if it was by email or text, but they got passed around person-to-person a lot.

Do you think this would've been worse for you if the same thing had happened to you? If people you were close with saw the photos rather than strangers?
If it happened like it did to her, it would be much worse. If it went all over the Valley, yeah, that would be horrible.

Are you actively trying to do anything to stop revenge porn?
I hope there can be some laws against it. I just got another email today that my photos are on a site that I've never even heard of. And they just keep posting more and more and they keep making money off of other people's humiliation and it's not right. I've been signing the petitions, which aren't getting much steam, and talking to the people who are running EndRevengePorn.com, and some of those sites. What upset me was that all of these sites just talk about the women victims. But there's plenty of male victims too who are just as devastated, so I'm trying to change that.

So you're focusing more specifically on ending male revenge porn?
Well, either. It's just that every time you hear about it, you hear about it like it's a women-only issue.

But don't you think that's partly because a large majority of revenge porn is of women?
Yeah, that's true, that's definitely true. But at the same time, there's millions of pictures of nude women on the internet. If some guy saw a picture of a naked woman, he'd forget about it ten minutes later. 

They're usually up there for sex appeal or whatever, and then everyone forgets about them. Whereas with some of the guys, it's posted just to embarrass them. They're there just to be laughed at. I don't think they're as forgotten as quickly. I don't know, I think it can be a little more humiliating for the guys.

I mean, either way, it's non-consensual distribution of nude photos of someone, so just because there are more photos of naked women doesn't mean it's worse for men. On an individual basis, it can be equally humiliating and detrimental to your real-life relationships.
Well, I mean, there's just so many revenge porn pictures of women, they become forgotten, the individual women. You see one girl and another girl and another girl and you don't remember who you've seen.

Well, you said earlier that most people find your pictures by Googling your name, and if that's the same for women, I would say the humiliation would be equal.
That's true, that's true. You're correct there.

Plus, there's still lots of pictures of naked men on the internet. I can't imagine you're that recognizable. How often would you say you get recognized?
I don't know, it happens too often. Too often. I was surprised by it…

Like weekly?
Yeah, yeah probably once a week or so. Three times a month. I'm trying to make it all go away.

But don't you think to some extent you won't be able to make it all go away?
I have wasted a lot of time. Maybe I should just laugh it off, but it really bothers me.

If you can recognize the extent to which this can bother someone, why do you still harbor this intense anger towards your ex?
Well I didn't post her photos on the internet, like they did to me.

But pictures of her still ended up on the internet.
Yeah.

So, last thing, would you like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to your ex for initially spreading photos of her? Maybe we can end this today.
[pause] I…I…the way I see it, I mean, we're even I guess. I mean, I've already said it a couple times, I definitely regret sending them.

Um, is that an apology?
Yeah.

Names have been changed