The Politics of Revenge Porn In Ghanaian Society

Originally posted on Di wo Fie Asem

Screenshot_2015-04-06-23-55-35-1Revenge porn is the deliberate posting of a person’s nude, sexualized, and intimate images on the internet without their consent. Similar to revenge porn, gendered crimes that hurt women are much more likely to elicit victim blaming responses. Victim blaming is a phenomenon where the focus is shifted from the perpetrator of a crime or moral ill, onto the victim as a way to rationalize the occurrence of the specific crime. For example, rarely would anyone question why a person deposits their money in a bank account when bank fraud occurs. Because in the context of theft crimes, we are rational and objective in assessing that the onus is on the thief not to steal. Surprisingly this attitude disappears when it comes to crimes that generally occur against women. Whether it is domestic violence, rape, or revenge porn (leaking the naked pictures of persons online, without their consent, to humiliate and embarrass them), our first instinct is to blame the victims. For domestic violence rather than inquiring why abusers abuse, we inquire why victims suffer the abuse. For rape, we inspect a victim’s sexual history, their outfits, their attitudes and fail to demand that rapists do not rape. A similar attitude occurs when a person makes a conscious effort to to betray the trust of another and intentionally post naked images of them online to humiliate them, and ruin their reputation. Unfortunately such attitudes are terrible for our society for the following reasons. First, we provide a shield for abusers when we trivialize their intentional humiliation and degradation by focusing on the actions of the victim. Second, we reinforce sexist sexually repressive attitudes that seek to shame, destroy reputations, and dehumanize women and girls for having sex. Third, we subtly encourage distrust and resentment of men by telling women that it is women’s fault if men betray them. While there are no laws that directly address revenge porn in Ghana, the Domestic Violence Act has allowed for perpetrators to be prosecuted and jailed for the intentional abuse of partners by posting their intimate images online.

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

Screenshot_2015-04-06-23-52-29-1When a person steals, we blame the thief. When a person kills, we blame the killer. When a person assaults another, we blame the attacker. Thus when a person intentionally posts naked images of another without their consent online, it is up to us to blame the poster (person who posted image). When addressing revenge porn, the focus must remain on the person that made the conscious decision to post the nude pictures of another online, violating trust, privacy, and sinking the reputation of the person in the image. Shifting focus from the abuser to the victim provides a shield for abusers because it spreads blame around. However, the blame must remain on the person that engaged in the moral harm. Trusting another person, and choosing to send them nudes hurts no one else.

However, spreading and circulating nudes without consent violates the trust of another, humiliates the other, destroys their reputation, job prospects, and significantly affects their social and political standing within society. Victims of revenge porn testify that they were disowned by their parents, stalked, maltreated, ostracized from society, and publicly stalked. The tremendous harm that revenge porn causes another is why it is moral wrong.

 Anti-Sex Attitudes

Anti-sex and sexist attitudes make it difficult for us to empathize with victims of revenge porn as we are more likely to view them as morally bad and thus deserving of harm. Ghanaian society is sexually repressed and anti-sex. Meaning that generally, Ghanaians maintain the British Victorian era-esque social attitudes that theorize that sex outside the confines of heterosexual marriage, is reflective of bad moral character. Unmarried young persons who engage in consenting sexual activity are viewed suspiciously as “nkola boni”, and sex is indicative of social deviance. Hyper-religiosity aids in perpetuating these anti-sex attitudes with the notion that sex before marriage is a “sin”. Making it much more difficult for us as a society to empathize with victims of revenge porn, because of the stigma of social deviance.

Despite general anti-sex attitudes,  women specifically are shamed, dehumanized and embarrassed for engaging in pre-marital sex.

Lack of Accountability Lead To Anti-Men Attitudes

Literature is filled with elaborate stories of betrayal because betrayal is unpredictable and occurs in an unsuspecting manner. It is what makes betrayal so difficult to swallow. One cannot foresee who is going to betray you. Thus it is not your fault when another persons violates you and betrays you.In a heteronormative context, women may send Screenshot_2015-04-06-23-52-44-1nudes to men that they trust, and believe will respect their boundaries. And it cannot be women’s fault when specific men choose to disrespect and humiliate them by posting these images online. By blaming women for men’s deliberate actions, our society not only fails to hold immoral men accountable, it also encourages women to fail to trust ALL men in general.

If women are blamed for men’s betrayal, and since women cannot tell beforehand which men are going to be good and which are going to bad, women will be forced to adopt protective techniques that shut all men out, because of fear. This is a resolution that discourages trust, while encouraging paranoia, anxiety, and unhealthy relations between the genders that undermine happy, prosperous, emotional and romantic sexual relations.

So stop victim blaming the victims of revenge porn, and alter social dynamics that shame the specific people that violate the trust and privacy of others by posting nude images that seek to humiliate, destroy reputations, and undermine social and political standing, without consent.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Politics of Revenge Porn In Ghanaian Society

  1. All round fair points made however we shouldn’t be too quick to blame people for offering advice on how to avoid some of these crimes and abuses.

    It’s all well and good prosecuting people after the fact and pushing for changes in attitudes but in the mean time while we live in the world we live in, it doesn’t hurt to arm ourselves with anything that can protect us from falling victim to any of these abuses.

    Offering protective advice and prevention advice is not automatic victim blaming.
    Automatically berating people for even suggesting they take defensive measures, to borrow from your analogy, would be like depositing your money in a bank in a country which doesn’t offer any protections for you if the bank were robbed.

    Similarly, sticking burglar proof on your windows does not mean you’re giving up on preventing thievery it’s just that you know it’ll act as a deterrent for some casual/opportunistic thieves

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    1. The issue is when this advice also accompanies stigma and anti-sex attitudes that blame women for men’s behavior. The core of the issue is that there is a world of difference between saying “It is risky to present nudes to men as they might leak it” to “If you send nudes out and it comes out then it is your fault, akola boni”

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