If you are not already aware, a few days ago feminist activists have started talking about a group on the messaging app Telegram of which more than 1,000 Mauritian men are/were members. The group is/was sharing intimate pictures of both adult women and minors WITHOUT the latter’s consent. Some were asking for pictures of specific women and girls who have social media accounts, whether real pics or doctored ones. Again WITHOUT the consent of the latters. The group has been cloned multiple times and migrated to several other platforms as soon as the admins smelled trouble.
I put special emphasis on the LACK OF CONSENT of the girls and women concerned because some people have been going on their high horses about how the undoctored pics might have landed in the lap of the members of those groups. Some are saying there are lewd girls and women out there willingly sharing their own pics, some for money even (thus engaging in pornographic activity).
So, I want to get a few things right:
- True, it’s best for anyone not to have shared with anyone else or to have posted any of their intimate pics as it makes them easy to share widely and quickly.
- But, even if someone did the above willingly, shifting the blame to the victim only serves to exonerate the people who maliciously shared the pics with random dudes.
- Even if a woman did engage in an illicit transaction (whereby both sender and receiver are guilty according to law BTW), that transaction was one-to-one. So, while she may be guilty of trespassing against Mauritian law by selling porn content, the man who illegally buys it and then reshares is distributing porn on a bigger scale.
- Those whose pics were sent by mutual consent to a lover or partner, whether in a short-term or a long-term relationship, never intended those to be made available to other random dudes. So, this a breach of trust in a relationship, however short-lived the relationship might have been, and it is a sign of a deranged mind that indulges in the gratuitous exploitation of the image of a partner’s body for vile reasons, possibly for revenge porn.
Clearly, the intention is vile and abject. And we should start flipping the narrative against the perpetrators.
This is why I call upon all media people in my friendlist to report responsibly on the whole affair. As I just told a class of Media and Ethics students yesterday, you will need to tread cautiously when investigating the identities of those vile perpetrators (if you choose to do so). Do your homework, check, cross-check and double check. This is an agreed standard in the profession.
But, please be careful how you choose your angle and on whom you put the spotlight. If indeed there is an extensive porn market which exists within those groups, do not forget to put the spotlight on the clients and their misplaced sense of entitlement whenever they have paid a woman who they then think they own ad infinitum. Because if that dude paid Rs 500 or Rs 1000 or even a million, they cannot own the right to that woman’s image! The same logic applies to pics that were consensually exchanged. No-one can hold the right to a body and its image except for the person in question, whether that person is moral or not according to our society’s standards!
Investigate to find out who are the instigators of the groups instead of trying to find the identity of the girls or women whose pics were circulated, unless you intend to give them a voice that will not further exploit their misery.
Do not publish pictures or elements which can allow members of the audience to guess the girls’ or women’s identities, or which will further excite other perverts to seek such vile groups. If you do so, it is tantamount to further victimising the victims and to aiding and abetting voyeurs.
Do not pontify about the alleged lack of morality of today’s youth.
And do not seek hyper-moralising voices as sources of information just to produce “he says, she says” content that produces a false balance.
Instead, #choose to challenge the status quo. Explore the roots of the problem, enlarge the picture, expose the symptoms and investigate potential solutions that will allow citizens to live in a less masochistic, sexist and exploitative world.
Come to think of it, it may really be time to update the Gender Code of Ethics for the Media which had been proposed in 2013 and to demand that media houses have a similar code with a proper mechanism for self-regulation.