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Oxford defines Kaput as "broken and useless; no longer working or effective" - similar to our unbalanced economic system. This is a page dedicated to the intersection of capitalism and social, political, and environmental problems.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

On Sexting

Feminism is getting a lot of buzz these days, and among the hundreds of contemporary issues important to youth is the proliferation of private sexual images. It's becoming a common occurrance with the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Kate Upton, and Jennifer Lawrence as victims of cloud hacks in this year alone. Their images have been distributed widely over the internet and the damage has been done.Trying to sort out responsibility in this situation is challenging and has been the subject of debate.

Many contend that it's clearly the fault of the hackers. Others will blame Apple for the failure of their cloud services to protect against hacking. Others still have decided that it was the fault of the women for taking the pictures of themselves in "comprimising" situations or posting them online.

This conversation is not particularly new since it is a modification of the blame game that women face when they allege rape. It's no surprise that we're talking about this again given the ongoing discussion about Jian Ghomeshi (read my previous blog). People seem to have a difficult time understanding concepts like consent, which have much wider reaches than the physical - it also includes what happens in an online context.

Recently I watched a video produced by Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes. In the video, a young man named Philippe takes images of his girlfriend and then circulates them after an argument. The protaganist in the video is not the girlfriend, however. Another character, Philippe's friend, faces the moral dilemma of whether or not to talk to Philippe about whether or not sexting is appropriate. Initially, he chooses not to say anything, and the result is that the girlfriend is deemed a slut and is excluded by both her male and female peers. With the magic of public service announcements he rewinds to the moment before Philippe sends the image. This time he decides to mention that it's not cool to circulate these images. Disaster averted.

As much as I'd like to be happy about the damage being avoided, note that the protagonist is not the woman. Instead of insisting that the image not be shared, she is reliant on a man to do something about it. And of course it's not something for Philippe to do. It requires someone else - the White Night.

The hacking of the clouds this year was pretty disappointing, but this case highlights some other questions. Notably, it's important to mention that the image in question is child pornography. Before the federal government any image of that variety, regardless of who took it, is regarded as such. There has been a fair amount of attention to this with frequent television and online ad spots. This has attracted a lot of attention as it implicates people criminally who are not culpable.

As far as I can tell, these issues are really complex. Trying to manage them with legal interventions is part of the solution, but not if it criminalises the young women involved. Much like in prostitution why should the women be held accountable? It is the duty of the state to protect vulnerable members of society and to mitigate against malevolent pressures.

Moreover, the focus should be on education for young people that deals with the true complexity of the situation. Not that it's criminal or that these young girls have no morals, but instead that participants are aware of the implications of placing images of themselves where they can be proliferated so that they can participate in it consensually. In the event that consent isn't expressed, then complaints should be taken seriously. But that's another question altogether.

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