More than just ‘revenge porn’

Birmingham Law School

‘Replacing the language of ‘revenge porn’ with the more accurate and inclusive ‘image-based sexual abuse’ would be a small – yet important – step in challenging the cultural context conductive to high levels of sexual coercion and violence.’ 

Over the last few years we have become increasingly familiar with the term ‘revenge porn’ to describe the growing phenomenon of vengeful ex-partners distributing private sexual images without the consent of their former partners. In recognition of the humiliation, distress and real pain this practice causes, countries across the world, including England & Wales and Scotland, have introduced new criminal laws to try to deter and punish such behaviour. However, while the language of ‘revenge porn’ has caught the attention of the media and policy-makers,
it’s time for new terminology. McGlynn and Rackley suggest the term ‘image-based sexual abuse’.

The term ‘image-based sexual abuse’ better captures the nature and harms of the non-consensual creation and distribution of private, sexual images. Unlike ‘revenge porn’, it captures both the broad range of practices being challenged and conveys the nature and extent of the harms suffered by victims.