Exploring the Effectiveness of Legislation Combating Digital Non-consensual Sexually Explicit Image Distribution

AuthorTessa Cole,Dallas Cole
Published date01 April 2022
Date01 April 2022
Subject MatterOriginal Articles
Exploring the Effectiveness
of Legislation Combating
Digital Non-consensual
Sexually Explicit Image
Tessa Cole1 and Dallas Cole2
Non-consensual porn distribution is the dissemination of sexually explicit
images and/or photos without the consent of the individual featured in them.
The literature suggests that non-consensual porn distribution is frequent with
victims who experience similar negative effects to that of intimate partner
violence (IPV) victims. It was estimated in 2014 that at least 3,000 pornographic
websites contained a ‘revenge’ porn category of images. Victims who did
not consent to the dissemination of their digital sexually explicit images have
reported similar experiences of those who have been victims of IPV. However
the research suggests that the negative effects (e.g., emotional, psychological
and physical experiences) on non-consensual porn distribution victims may be
heightened because of the revictimization that occurs each time the victims’
images and/or information is repeatedly observed or shared online, which has
been attributed to victims of child abuse who have maladaptive responses to
their abuse. Research suggests current legislation has not assisted victims in
combating and prosecuting the perpetrators who disseminate the victim’s digital
porn without the victim’s consent. Additionally, US federal legislation, like Section
230 of the Communication Decency Act, arguably enables the digital distribution
of victims’ non-consensual pornographic images and videos. Utilizing a content
analysis, the current study analyses digital non-consensual porn distribution court
cases in the USA, including Washington, DC, to assess the prevalence and effects
of non-consensual porn distribution court cases. The review highlights the lack
of diversity in the use of types of non-consensual porn distribution state statutes
Original Article
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
5(1) 9–31, 2022
2022 Rajiv Gandhi National
University of Law
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/25166069221117187
1 Criminology and Criminal Justice Department, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, United States.
2 Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, Atlanta, GA, United States.
Corresponding author:
Tessa Cole, Criminology and Criminal Justice Department, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
30303-2813, United States.
E-mail: tpiety1@gsu.edu
10 Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 5(1)
and the similarities between victims of IPV (e.g., rape) and non-consensual porn
distribution prosecution that often leads to negative outcomes for victims.
Sexual assault, stalking, cyberstalking, sexual harassment, non-consensual porn
An Internet sextortionist, also known as a cybersex extortionist, is one who
attempts to control another person with threats of sexual exploitation (e.g., digital
distribution of sexually explicit images featuring the victim;3). Cybersex victim-
ization often includes pornography (‘porn’) featuring a victim(s)4. Porn is sexu-
ally explicit photographs, images and videos. Similarly, digital non-consensual
porn distribution, commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’, is the dissemination of
sexually explicit material without the permission of the individual(s) featured in
the image(s)5.
Digital non-consensual porn distribution is becoming increasingly prevalent. It
was estimated in 2014 that at least 3,000 pornographic websites contained a
‘revenge’ porn category of images6. Internet use has only increased7; consequently,
scholars have argued that the number of non-consensual porn images websites has
increased8. While there is no federal legislation addressing this form of sexual
victimization, some state legislators have attempted to combat this abuse by
creating new laws at the state level. Previous studies have explored the experiences
of revenge porn victims9 and the legislation related to the dissemination of non-
consensual sexually explicit images10. To add to the literature by providing an
3 Q. Jureic, Sextortion, Online Harassment, and Violence against Women (Lawfare 2016).
4 Id.
5 D. K. Citron, Sexual Privacy, 128(7)  1870–1960 (2019).
6 Economist, T. (2014). Revenge Porn.
7 Z. Papacharissi & A. M. Rubin, Predictors of Internet Use, 44(2) 
175–196 (2010). https://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15506878jobem4402_2
8 T. Linkous, It’s Time for Revenge Porn to Get a Taste of Its Own Medicine: An Argument for the
Federal Criminalization of Revenge Porn, 20(4)   (2014). https://schol-
arship.richmond.edu/jolt/vol20/iss4/4/; J. Stokes, The Indecent Internet: Resisting Unwarranted
Internet Exceptionalism in Combating Revenge Porn, 29  929–952 (2014)
9 S. Bates, Revenge Porn and Mental Health: A Qualitative Analysis of the Mental Health Effects
of Revenge Porn on Female Survivors, 12(1)   22–42 (2016). https://dx.doi.
org/10.1177/1557085116654565; K. A. Branch, et al., Revenge Porn Victimization of College Students
in the United States: An Exploratory Analysis, 11  128–142 (2017). https://
dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.495777; D. Gordon-Messer, et al., Sexting among Young Adults, 52(3) J.
 301–306 (2013). https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.05.013
10 C. J. Najdowski, Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Pornography: Current Policy in the United
States and Future Directions for Research, 23(2)  154–165 (2017). https://
dx.doi.org/10.1037/law0000123; T. Cole, et al., Freedom to Post or Invasion of Privacy? Analysis of
U.S. Revenge Porn State Statutes, 15(4)  483–498 (2019).

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT