Op-Ed: Why I Want to Support California’s New Anti-Cyber-Douchebag Law, But Probably Can’t…

by Calico Rudasill, Sssh.com

When you consider yourself a staunch advocate of unfettered free speech, it’s always a bit discomfiting to be confronted with expression or behavior that really pushes the limits of your own tolerance for extreme idiocy. It’s kind of like going to lunch with a family member who you’re duty-bound to tolerate the presence of, no matter how loudly he tells offensive Jewish jokes while you’re standing in line at Shlomo’s.

Take the “God Hates Fags” people who protest at soldier’s funerals, for example; sure, every fiber of my being courses with the desire to flay those people with an X-Acto knife and roast their innards to feed to my pets, but somehow I can still see the wisdom in allowing them to keep on holding their moronic and morbid vigils. The judges who are charged with determining the extent to which society can clap a muzzle on such cretins must consider more than just the impact of silencing the malignant lump of socially-challenged halfwits involved in the particular case they’re hearing; they also have to ponder how their decision might restrict my freedom to refer to people as “socially-challenged halfwits,” for example.

It’s with this same ambivalence that I react to the news that California is considering a new law that would amend the state’s existing invasion of privacy statute to include criminalization of so-called “revenge porn,” the ugly, disgusting, loser-riffic practice of “sharing” images of one’s ex (or current) lover on the Web without their permission, as a means of humiliating, harassing, embarrassing, or otherwise bumming-out that person.

After a contentious breakup, jilted exes sometimes feel the need to exact revenge on their former partners.Today, some exes are turning to Revenge Porn, an internet trend that lets ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends post nude photos and videos of their former partners online. – Huffington Post

Don’t get me wrong; whether it’s a revenge porn site or some old-school amateur swinger’s mag, submitting explicit pictures of someone without that person’s clearly expressed permission is a fucked up thing to do, and the sort of stunt that by all natural rights ought to result in a life altering ass-kicking for the perpetrator. My concern is that the legislature of California, while possibly well intended in this effort, will almost certainly find a way to hopelessly fuck up the language of this law in some important and fundamental way.

I don’t mean this as a knock against the Golden State’s lawmaking brain trust in particular, it’s more of a general observation; from the U.S. Congress on down, if American legislatures are consistent in one thing, it’s writing laws that go too far, not far enough, or (and this takes some serious talent) do both at the same time.

In this case, it seems the legislature has done a better than usual job with respect to the going-too-far tendency, by excluding images that were proactively ‘sexted’ by the eventual revenge porn victim, and by clarifying that the law applies only to displays that are made “with the intent to cause serious emotional distress.” Ordinarily, I’d say these are smart limitations, but in the case of revenge porn, these clauses actually serve to exempt a pretty hefty percentage of the content of such sites.

First off, much of the content uploaded to revenge porn sites does originate on the phones, cameras and computers of the eventual victims. To hold that these people surrender all right to control those images once they’ve sent them privately to a third party, no matter how crackheaded the judgment they exhibited when they made that unfortunate decision, seems pretty damn unfair to me.

These ain’t family vacation photos we’re talking about here, after all. These are intimate moments, many of them featuring humiliating duck faces, shared in a spirit of personal connection, or at least one of mutual horniness. At a minimum, the people depicted deserve some say in whether those images are ever seen by anybody who didn’t happen to be out drinking with their ex-boyfriends at the moment the send button was originally hit.

Who knows, perhaps California’s legislature will prove me wrong and come up with crafty legalese that survives court scrutiny without losing all its teeth. Maybe it will be more adept in navigating the strictures of the First Amendment than the legislatures Arizona, or Connecticut, or Florida, or…. Well, you get the idea.

Until or unless the various agencies and offices that constitute The Man figure out a way to deal with it, if you happen to become a victim of revenge porn, you can always comfort yourself with this thought: at least running for public office in New York is still an option for you.



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