PorNOgraphy: Denying Revenge Porn

Jane had finally broken up with her controlling boyfriend. Little did she know that the nightmare was only just about to begin. She soon found nude photos of herself taken by her ex-boyfriend strewn across the Internet. All her classmates saw the photos, causing many of them to tease her behind her back. Jane didn’t know where she could turn to for help, and almost broke down from the torment.

Jane was facing what is called “revenge porn.” Revenge porn is formally understood as “sharing one’s intimate photos or videos without his or her permission”. This is sometimes accompanied by threats.

Due to the ubiquitousness of social media platforms, this problem has become more rampant. In recent years, even female celebrities from across different countries have suffered from the leaks of private photos. In many cases, former lovers threatened to share nude images of them after breaking up.

Today, intimate images that are uploaded and become viral on the Internet are impossible to be removed. Even worse, victims tend to be blamed by society for taking photos of this kind in the first place. Under this situation, victims of revenge porn undergo long-term harm.

Let’s now look at the situation in Taiwan. According to Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation (TWRF), victims in Taiwan are almost all female, accounting for 96% of all documented revenge porn cases. This indicates the level of gender inequality in society — the virginity and privacy of women are quite often exploited as a means for threats.

Furthermore, based on TWRF statistics, 48% of documented revenge porn cases occur with the victim’s original consent to photography, while 68% of distributors are friends of the victims, rather than strangers. Even worse, 20% of victims are afraid to seek help, fearing society’s judgment and blame. That means every one in five people bullied by revenge porn chooses to quietly swallow the pain.

Summarizing the conditions in Taiwan, victims are likely to have originally consented to the photographing of intimate pictures by a close companion. But, later on, they are the ones who suffer from the distribution of those images without their permission. In the end, they endure all sorts of shame and pain, while some choose not to speak up in an unfriendly environment.

To help relieve this problem, TWRF constructed a website called, “ANTI-REVENGE PORN: it’s not your fault that nude photos leak”. The website not only provides victims with a hotline for consultation and guidance on how to prevent revenge porn, but also serves as an advocacy for the establishment of relevant laws in Taiwan.

To date, there’s no law in Taiwan that specifically targets revenge porn yet. The only law that is somewhat relevant is the “Distributing obscene objects crime” section in our Penal Code. However, the problem is that this law defines victims’ photos as “obscene objects”, which again stigmatizes the victims. Moreover, the penalties related to this law are only short-term imprisonment or an equivalent fine. To many, this almost implies, “You can do it, if you can afford to pay for it.”

As the occurrence of technological crimes skyrocket with the accessibility of the Internet and media, the government should adapt the legal system accordingly and establish gender equality in the online world. To play a significant role in improving gender equality around the world, Taiwan should raise awareness about revenge porn and other related issues, such as social culture and the judiciary system, so that victims like Jane can find justice.

Other articles in this issue

Nature Does Not Negotiate: How Taiwanese Women Deal with Climate Change

Women have a disproportionately larger chance of becoming victims of natural disasters and climate change. In Taiwan, women at the grassroots level and female entrepreneurs are standing out to promote climate action.

Taiwan Stands with UN SDGs: Achieving SDG 16 — Peace

Taiwan is a reliable partner regarding SDGs; much progress has been made to build a society of peace and inclusiveness for women and girls.

Author: Argo Hsu

A senior in NTU political science. Ever worked as an intern in NGO and news agency. Interested in gender issues and international relations. A hamster-fanatic. Always trying to be humane.

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LEAP − Voices of Youth

LEAP − Voices of Youth

LEAP: Voices of Youth is a quality platform for English readers to learn about gender issues in Taiwan