Are Nudes the New Weapon of Sexual Exploitation?
This past weekend I was contacted by someone I hadn't spoken to in awhile. We met through an app online. We met in person a couple of times, over drinks - maybe even had some fun together before our relationship settling to a text once every so often. It's a regular occurrence for people putting themselves out there in the world of dating.
The message started off with a normal, mundane "Hi, how're you?" - I was out for drinks with friends , I replied sporadically. The messages then started to escalate the conversation to something more risqué; but as I was out with friends, I politely declined.
However, it seems I was ignored. He was determined to persuade me to share images of myself. This was something I had done before - I make no apologies for it - but again I declined. This is where the conversation took a worrying turn. As soon as I said the word "no" the threats had started.
"Wouldn't it be a shame if the images you sent me end up on Twitter? - Sure people would love to see those"
I know the images he referred to. They're the same kind you hear being leaked - Jennifer Lawrence and Justin Bieber have all fell victim to private images of themselves being shown to the masses. There are Tumblr pages dedicated to it, Paparazzi whose careers are made by it. Most the people I know can probably say they have clicked on a link out of curiosity.
"I'm only saying this because I think you're hot. If you're not going to show me any more I might as well show everyone else"
How are you meant to defend yourself from that? This person is trying to exploit the previous trust I had shown them, by forcing me into further sexual interaction I do not want to engage in. I tried to reply with "Why would you do that? I obviously don't want those over the Internet" but I received more threats in return. I was scared; I was panicking; I was even considering doing what they wanted.
I then realised I didn't have to do this. I stood my ground and called his bluff - told him to post them. Silence followed. For good measure I took to twitter and told the world of the most panicked 30 minutes of my 2016 so far, and as he follows me I'm certain he saw.
I did this because I didn't want someone to have that kind of power over me. Yes, they had private images of me - so what? I'm sure we've all seen people naked before and I don't think my body, nor my sexuality, should ever be used as a weapon against me. Yes, taking that risk could have backfired - it might have affected my career, family or friends. But at that moment I didn't care.
What made me think more was that he thought that this was okay? When I mentioned to him that it was a form of sexual exploitation, and if he posted it would be covered under the revenge porn laws, he seemed completely clueless that he was doing anything wrong. I also thought about how easy it was to make me feel like that, and how many people they may have tried to do this to in the past. What if I hadn't been strong in that moment and stood up for myself?
If this happens to you or someone you know don't be afraid. Although the police are sometimes the best option (as what they're doing is illegal), telling a friend or family member can really help you defuse the situation. There are organisations such as The Revenge Porn Helpline who can give guidance. Stay Brave UK works to put male victims of intimate abuse and exploitation in touch with the right advice/support organisation for them.
I didn't feel better about what happened until I told a friend. Even though I stood my ground, I was frightened. No one should have to feel like that.
This article was written by Alexander Morgan, CEO of Stay Brave UK. Alex is a survivor of abuse and exploitation and campaigns against gender stigma that prevent access to abuse services. You can hear more from Alex by following him on Twitter or reading his articles on Huffington Post.