Sunday 18 March 2018

Nude selfies are for his eyes only - now let's make it the law

Intimate photographs are based on consent, says Niamh Horan, and the lack of consent is what makes the difference

Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

A WOMAN goes back to a hotel room with her date. She doesn't want the night to end. What would be wrong in staying a little longer to get to know each other a little more over a nightcap.

She tells him she doesn't want sex. He has other ideas. And a drunken fumble turns to rape.

"What was she doing going back to the hotel room in the first place?"

It's the type of misogynistic, half-witted reaction women have had to listen to for decades.

Typically, it comes from the same type of buffoon who argues that how a woman dresses, or at what time she walks home alone at night, can make her in some way responsible if she is assaulted.

And now the internet has delivered the techno-age take on that clanger.

It reared its ugly head again last week in the debate surrounding 'revenge porn' - when a sexually explicit photograph or video is posted online without the consent of the individual pictured.

"What did she expect? She should never have taken naked pictures of herself to begin with."

You almost have to smile at the attempts to knock this one back as the fault of a naive woman.

So let's clear this up so no one is under any illusions.

First things first: most women under a certain age in the mobile phone generation have taken naked selfies of themselves to send on to a man.

The only part that is naive is to think that they don't do it.

Anyway, what's the problem?

It's intimate, it's seductive, heck, it does the job as a present when you're racking your brains about what to get the guy who has everything.

It's also done in a particular context. And this is the key. Just because you are allowing someone to see you naked in one moment in time, within the confines of a relationship, does not mean you are giving the okay for everyone to see you in such an intimate way.

Just like sex, intimate photographs are rooted in consent.

The lack of consent makes the difference between sex and sexual assault, between an intimate shot sent in a seductive manner, and maliciously posting that same sexually explicit image in public.

Let's not be militant about it - a bit of innocent bravado and glee is at play when lads show each other a quick flash of naked pictures they've been sent, while having the cop on not to forward them from their possession.

But intentionally posting the same pictures in public has a sinister undercurrent and if someone breaks those bonds of trust, they should face the consequences.

It is good then to see that a ban on people - and let's be straight about this: it is overwhelmingly men who are posting "revenge porn" on the internet - could become law within weeks in the UK.

And Ireland would do well to follow suit.

We have reached a new frontier in the way we conduct sexual relationships and this would help to lay down a marker.

The pictures can be impossible to remove because they go viral, spreading rapidly to other sites.

And stories are already commonplace about how they have destroyed careers and relationships.

So why wait until the horse has bolted?

With the US and UK dealing with hordes of cases, we can't complain that we didn't hear the warning shot.

In the meantime, the only thing I am left scratching my head over is the practice of headless nude shots.

Do you trust the person or not?

And if not, you have got to ask yourself if they really deserve seeing you naked in the first place.

It's worth noting that the new amendment, tabled by Liberal Democrat lords, is specifically related to the images of an "identifiable person".

So pucker up - because, ironically, the law will mean you'll be at your safest in plain sight wearing nothing but your smile.

Sunday Independent

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