In the digital age, privacy is important to all of us.
We work to keep our passwords secure, our bank accounts protected, and our social media accounts safe. After all, without privacy, life can get pretty scary.
With all the value our society places on privacy and security, there is one industry that actually profits and benefits from the violation and abuse of it. That’s right—the porn industry is based on the monetization of violating the privacy and safety of others.
You see, there are two categories of porn that directly exploit the privacy of individuals: revenge porn and voyeuristic porn. We’ll explain these categories a bit more so that you can understand how harmful and dangerous they can be.
According to the Cyberbulling Research Center, “Revenge porn—sometimes known as nonconsensual porn or image-based sexual abuse—has been defined as the act of distributing intimate photography through different means without the individual’s consent. While revenge is not always the motivating factor, this act seems to be increasingly utilized by the perpetrator as retaliation for romantic relationships going south, and is becoming more and more prominent with the growing popularity of sexting.”
Unfortunately, in our day and age, revenge porn is not anything new and has been in the news countless times in recent memory. A popular headline not long ago was the case of Jermaine Cunningham, an NFL linebacker who faced criminal charges for sending naked pictures of a woman to her friends and family following a fight. More recently, a UK woman just finished a two-year battle with an ex-boyfriend who hacked into her social media accounts, stole nude photos, and posted them on hardcore porn websites where she began receiving rape threats.
Now, what about the business side of revenge porn? Let’s look at the numbers for IsAnyoneUp.com, a porn website that specialized in featuring nonconsensually posted porn. At its peak in popularity, the website pulled about $10,000 a month in ad revenue. The site even employed a hacker who they paid $200 a week to produce new content for the site by hacking his way into people’s email accounts and stealing pictures. Add all this up and in 2010, the website was making more than $300,000 a year on solely revenge porn.
That’s just one example of how the porn industry is profiting from exploiting the privacy of individuals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with revenge porn. The industry is always looking to boost profits, after all, which is why they have turned to yet another source of revenue—voyeuristic porn.
Two Swedish researchers defined voyeurism as the observation of individuals engaged in sexual behavior without their knowledge or permission.  Or, in other words, it’s watching someone have sex without them knowing it. Sounds kind of messed up, right? Nobody deserves to have their most personal and private moments be interrupted or viewed by an unwelcome third party.
Interestingly, those same Swedish researchers found a correlation between frequently consuming pornography and demonstrating an interest in voyeuristic behavior. Individuals who consumed pornography frequently were much more likely to have an interest in viewing voyeuristic material. Which makes sense! After all, isn’t porn nothing more than recorded and shared voyeurism? Even if the performers in produced porn shoots are not being recorded without their knowledge, the porn industry is still profiting from the illusion that they are.
Sadly, voyeuristic porn, likes all types of porn, is not a victimless act. In fact, it can cause serious, lasting emotional damage to those who are exploited.
Personal stories of privacy violation
Tovanna Holton was a 15-year-old girl from Tampa, Florida who experienced, first-hand, the horrors of voyeuristic and revenge porn.
It all began when some of Tovonna’s high school friends recorded her while she was in the shower. She didn’t know they were filming at the time, but she eventually saw the video after it was posted on Snapchat for the world to see.
Humiliated, devastated, and distraught, she locked herself in her bathroom and killed herself.
Being exploited and violated left Tovonna feeling that taking her own life was her own option. Her story is a tragic example of how image-based abuse can harmful to the individuals that are exploited and violated.
Sadly, she is not alone.
Take, for instance, the experiences of Erin Andrews, a former sports reporter, who suffered intense public humiliation when voyeuristic video was published to the internet. An individual used her hotel room peephole to record Andrews while changing clothes.
Regarding the emotional and professional damage caused by this experience, she said, “This happens every day of my life. Either I get a tweet or somebody makes a comment in the paper or somebody sends me a still video to my Twitter or someone screams it at me in the stands and I’m right back to this. I feel so embarrassed and I am so ashamed.”
Sadly, the list of victims goes on and on. High school volleyball coaches have recorded and uploaded secret footage of a girl’s locker room, college students have placed cameras in the bathrooms of dorm rooms, and bosses have secretly filmed their employees.
The pornification of everyday behavior is a concerning trend in society. Normal things like showering, using the bathroom, and changing clothes are not inherently sexual in nature, and yet porn has made them so. Violating someone’s privacy should not be a turn-on either; if anything, we should avoid doing so. However, porn has sexualized it, and profited from it—and that’s not cool.
Why this matters
Everybody has a right to privacy. Nobody should fear that their most personal and intimate moments could be uploaded to a website to be viewed by millions, and nobody should worry that they are being filmed without their consent. Nobody deserves such treatment, and yet this is exactly what the porn industry is doing, or perpetuating.
The porn industry is fueling exploitation, violations of privacy, and emotional damage because of the content they are creating, publishing, and sharing, or simply hosting on their platforms without proper avenues for reporting.
For all the damage that the porn industry is inflicting on our society, there is one piece of hope: you can change it. Your clicks can make an incredible difference in shutting down these categories of porn. If there is no demand for voyeuristic or revenge porn, the porn industry will not reward it—it’s as simple as that. If we stop the demand, we can stop the exploitation.
Are you with us?