Taking the Sting Out of Revenge Porn: Using Criminal Statutes to Safeguard Sexual Autonomy in the Digital Age

50 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2014 Last revised: 23 Aug 2014

See all articles by Rachel Budde

Rachel Budde

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: April 13, 2014


We live in a digital age. While increased channels of communication and worldwide access have their benefits, there are also risks and problems associated with a virtual platform that gives instant access to information. This Article centers on “revenge porn,” one problem associated with online communications that has drawn the attention of both the media and the legal community. Revenge porn is the practice of distributing nude or sexually explicit photos or videos of an individual without his or her consent. It is usually posted by a former lover in order to harm, humiliate, or otherwise seek revenge upon the subject of the material after the relationship has ended. This issue implicates principles of sexual autonomy, particularly for women: if we want to encourage sexual freedom, we must protect people from others’ abuse of that freedom.

Legal actors are divided on how best to approach the revenge porn problem. Some advocate for civil action in order to compensate victims, while others believe that drafting new criminal laws and punishing offenders is the correct answer. Still others believe that no action is required at all, blaming the victims of revenge porn instead of the distributors.

This Article addresses the legal possibilities, weighing their benefits and detractors in order to decide the proper solution for revenge porn in the U.S. It concludes that, while the criminal law is the appropriate forum for revenge porn litigation, new statues are both problematic and unnecessary. Instead of drafting targeted revenge porn legislation, police and prosecutors should pursue offenders utilizing existing laws, such as harassment, extortion, and cyber-stalking.

Keywords: criminal law, women, women and the law, sexual autonomy, revenge porn

Suggested Citation

Budde, Rachel, Taking the Sting Out of Revenge Porn: Using Criminal Statutes to Safeguard Sexual Autonomy in the Digital Age (April 13, 2014). Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2424518 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2424518

Rachel Budde (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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