By Alexandria Serra & River Romo
Coronavirus has not been the only disease to infect the Sun City. Recently, a group of men created a Facebook page based in El Paso called “Who Got the Same Girl?” The page, which has over 2,000 members, features explicit, private photos of women - posted without their consent. The profile picture features a rapper reading a book with the title "Women Deserve Less.” Not only is this misogynistic, it’s disgusting, pathetic, and most importantly - it’s illegal, and can cost you some serious jail time. This type of unconsented sharing of explicit images is called Revenge Porn.
It seems like every day we hear about a celebrity having their nude images leaked without their consent, but the problem is much more common than you think. Roughly 10 million Americans have fallen victim to Revenge Porn. Having private photos shared without consent can have damaging effects on the victim, especially on their mental health, careers and other aspects of their personal life.
It’s important to know how Revenge Porn violates the law. Revenge porn, which is the common name for the statute, is when a person shares sexually explicit photos or videos of someone without their consent. Under the Texas Penal Code 21.16, however, the technical name for the law is "Unlawful Disclosure or Promotion of Intimate Visual Material” and it is a state jail felony! If you don’t know what a state jail felony is, you better beware! It has a punishment range of 6 months to 2 years in the state jail.
Disclosure or promotion of information means no matter what way you send, deliver, disseminate, or promote a non-consensual explicit image; you are violating the law. Nor does it matter what medium you send it through. You can send a nude image or video via text, via email, post it on social media, send it via Snapchat, even mail it to somebody (which we don't do anymore, but it still counts). All are serious violations of the law.
Funny enough, the men who created “Who Got the Same Girl?” purposely took the idea from another private group on Facebook called "Who's Got the Same Man?" which has about 20,000 members from El Paso. It was a page created by women to expose cheaters, typically male cheaters. The way it works is somebody posts a picture of their boyfriend/husband and asks the group if anybody knows him or talks to him. Additionally, if they want to remain anonymous, they can send that picture and a description of their situation to the admin and then she posts it. Group members can then comment on the photo and see if their man is going behind their back and cheating. Therefore, not only is the copycat page twisted and illegal, it was unoriginal.
Let’s talk about the three ways that you can violate this law:
- If you disclose intimate visual material . . .
- with the intent to harm and without effective consent - you are breaking the law. If you don’t know you have consent, you still have a reasonable expectation that the images should remain private and only between you and the person who sent it. Now, privacy could be inferred, but if someone sends another person an intimate photo of themselves, it’s obvious they don't want that photo sent anywhere else. It’s a no brainer and an easy prong to make. If you don’t have consent, don’t send it out.
AND . . .
- the shared photo causes harm to that person, you are breaking the law. This is also a no brainer. Do you think you're causing harm to that person by sharing his/her photo online? Absolutely!
- the shared photo or video reveals the identity of the person depicted, you are breaking the law. This one's a little more difficult to decipher. Perhaps you blackout their face or something to that effect. However, this problem can be met in multiple ways. Identifying the person in the photo by saying, "Hey, this is Lacey's photo" or, if a third party comes forward and says that they can recognize that individual, then that satisfies the law.
- If you threaten to disclose the intimate material in any way, shape, or form for your benefit, that satisfies the law. For example, telling the victim "If you don't go out on a date with me, I'm going to send this photo to somebody or I'm gonna blast you on the internet.” That is a threat which is a violation of the statute.
- If you promote the image or video on a website, knowing the character and content of the message, that’s a violation of the law. For example, if you send the image or video to an admin of a page or website, like “Who’s Got the Same Girl?” and then they post it on the site, you BOTH are breaking the law.
There are hundreds of sites like this that exist, and it is not gender-specific. If you are posting these intimate photographs or anything containing sexual content or simulated sexual content without consent, and with the intent to harm, you are going to get in trouble with the law. There is a limit to free speech, and this type of content is not allowed under our criminal laws in Texas. You could be civilly sued for damages and injunction, and you could be issued a takedown order for the content.
And a note on consent . . .
Even if someone granted you consent to record a video or take a photo of them, that does not mean they gave you consent to post it ANYWHERE or send it to ANYONE. For example, in the case of Kim Kardashian West, she consensually made a sex tape with her then boyfriend. He later distributed the video on porn websites without her consent. That is a violation of the law. Even if she consented to create the sex tape, she did not consent for it to be shared.
Don’t get it twisted . . .
Revenge porn is a felony, plain and simple. If you're sending unsolicited nudes or eggplant pics to people, that’s a Class C Misdemeanor. See the difference?
A word to the wise . . .
If you’re taking or sending explicit images without consent, then you don’t deserve any type of relationship with that person - romantic or platonic. It is disrespectful, twisted and you’re risking jail time. It’s important we start a conversation about revenge porn and the sexual exploitation of its victims. It is cyber sexual harassment. Bottom line, don’t do it.