A Victim Of Revenge Porn Released Her Own Nude Photos To “Take Back Consent”

“They relished my suffering,” she said. BuzzFeed News spoke to the woman taking a stand against those who have no respect for consent.

From “creepshots” to “revenge porn”, the betrayal of women’s privacy and denial of consent is commonplace online.

Cecilie Bødker

It’s an experience Danish activist Emma Holten knows all too well. At the age of 17, Holten found that private nude photographs of herself had been shared online. As she wrote later:

On a regular October morning in 2011 I couldn’t access my email or Facebook. I didn’t think anything of it – I forget passwords all the time – and just tried again. Waiting for me upon entry were hundreds of messages and emails.

Messages and emails with pictures of me in them.

One: me, naked, in my ex-boyfriend’s darkened room. Seventeen, a little awkward, slightly hunched forward: a harmless attempt at sexiness.

Another: two years later, in my room in Uppsala, Sweden. Older, a little more confident, but not a whole lot.

What had happened was apparent: the pictures were now online.

Holten didn’t know who had shared her private photos. She then discovered the photos had been uploaded on numerous websites, and began receiving messages from strangers:

DO YOUR PARENTS KNOW THAT UR A SLUT?

DID U GET FIRED?

WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THIS?

WHO DID THIS TO YOU?

SEND ME MORE NUDES OR ILL SEND THE ONES I HAVE TO YOUR BOSS.

The messages were from men all over the world – “teen boys, university students, nuclear-family dads” – who, she wrote, knew the photos were shared against her will.

They knew it was against my will and that I didn’t want to be on those sites. The realisation that my humiliation turned them on felt like a noose around my neck. The absence of consent was erotic, they relished my suffering.

Emma Holten & Cecilie Cooper

When her photos were leaked, she blamed her body for her feeling of humiliation.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I could possibly stop hating my body. I blamed it for my humiliation. Why did it make people treat me that way? Would I ever be able to look at myself and see a human being?

Three years later, in an attempt to reclaim the consent that was held from her when the photos were leaked online, Holten decided to pose nude in her own photos in an attempt to “rehumanise my/the naked female body”.

Cecilie Bødker

She and photographer Cecilie Bødker decided to take nude photos of her with the intention of making her a sexual being instead of an object.

She released her photos alongside her essay discussing her reasoning, calling it “CONSENT Project”.

But Holten does not want to tell only her personal story – she wants to highlight the harassment, objectification, and abuse that all victims such as herself experience.

“The thing we have in common, actually, is the destructive mentality we are met with. The blatant disregard for our consent and our personhood,” she told BuzzFeed News. “That’s what my essay is about. Non-consensual porn is not only the singular act of sharing the pictures in the first place, it is the systemic lack of respect for the consent of young women. The sexualisation of our abuse. That’s what this is about.”

Cecilie Bødker

The response to “CONSENT Project” has been mixed.

“A lot of people are inspired and empowered by it,” she said. “A lot of other people call the new pictures ‘me doing to myself what has already been done to me’ and ‘counterintuitive’. I say: Political activism is supposed to be counterintuitive!”

Despite the criticism, Holten said she was determined to spark a conversation about why the naked female body is deemed shameful.

“People seem to think that revenge porn is bad because the naked body is inherently shameful, because nudity and being a serious, thinking person deserving of respect are mutually exclusive,” she said.

She added that she felt those who searched for her photos – and the photos of other victims – are participants in “the dehumanisation of the female body”.

“To do so is to forget that these women are people who, by sexualising themselves for one person, have not become sexualised objects. To do so forgets that no person deserves to be reduced to an object.”

Cecilie Bødker

Today, Holten wants viewers of her “CONSENT project” to focus on just that: consent.

“Non-consensual porn is a serious issue because it gains its traction not from one person releasing a photograph or video but from thousands upon thousands of people who continue to neglect the victim’s right to consent,” she said.

She added that the issue of online consent is only going to become more important.

“We need to have this discussion now. It is urgent. People are killing themselves and being ostracised from their communities. This is not only about non-consensual porn, but about your right to anonymously discuss your sexuality, personal life, secrets, political affiliation, and everything else without the fear of being harassed.”

Holten’s last word on the issue? “Respect young women, and don’t treat us like sexual objects until we have proven that we deserve more.”

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rossalyn Warren at rossalyn.warren@buzzfeed.com.
 
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