When intimacy becomes vengeance

Sara Simon
Current events

Unless the act constitutes a more serious offence, any person who – after having produced or stolen sexually explicit images or videos intended to remain private – sends, delivers, transfers, publishes or broadcasts them (without the consent of the persons represented), shall be punished by imprisonment from one to six years and a fine ranging from EUR 5,000 to EUR 15,000.
The same punishment shall be applicable to any person who – having received or otherwise acquired the images or videos referred to in the first paragraph – sends, delivers, assigns, publishes or distributes them without the consent of the persons represented for the sole purpose of harming them“. 

What has just been mentioned represents the provisions of the first two clauses of Article 612b of the Penal Code. This bill was introduced into the Italian penal code thanks to law no. 69 of 19 July 2019, the so-called red code, a law designed to protect women and vulnerable victims of violence, persecution and abuse. It is the first time that the Italian government has specifically criminalised the phenomenon known as revenge porn, a term that indicates the non-consensual disclosure, dictated by revengeful purposes, of intimate images of an ex-partner.

Cases of revenge porn are, among other things, also the weak man’s attempt to give a powerful self-image to hide his inability to ‘have a woman for himself ‘ from himself and other men’.” 


Therefore, today through the so-called crime of illicit dissemination of sexually explicit images or videos, it is at last possible to prevent or, in a worst-case scenario, subsequently punish the violence inflicted on the victims of this phenomenon. It is interesting to note that the legislature has taken note of the potential uncontrollable virality of multimedia contents and has decided to extend this punishment also to the so-called second disseminators, i.e. to those who, having received images and videos with sexually explicit contents and without the consent of the person represented, send,  publish or disseminate them, with the aim of causing harm.

Apart from the cold legislative fact, this law is particularly relevant and felt, by women especially, because it could be a decisive step towards the end of great media humiliation that sometimes evolves, and has in the past, suicide among the weakest individuals.
The Italian press has been full of revenge porn episodes. In this regard, the latest one to appear in Italy’s national news is known as the case of ‘the kindergarten teacher of Turin’: concerning a woman who was guilty of having interrupted her relationship with her boyfriend, who subsequently decided to share intimate videos of his ex-girlfriend through a chat group with his football team. The woman, known to be the teacher of the children of some of the members of the team, was immediately pilloried: the video spread from phone to phone. Parents were initially outraged, then threatened the teacher, who was finally fired. In short, the idea that a kindergarten teacher could have a sex life struck like a thunderbolt on the retrograde mindset of these parents, making the teacher suddenly unsuitable to do her job.

The case is embarrassingly by-the-book, and represents what exactly happens when a woman, as such, is involved in non-consensual sharing of sexually themed material. She is initially threatened, and then gradually removed from the family unit, from her workplace, and ends up being ostracised from society through very heavy slut-shaming: an act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviours or desires. This stigma is placed on women who demonstrate an attitude that deviates from traditional or orthodox gender expectations and is considered opposite to natural or religious rule.
But slut-shaming is not the only annoying phenomenon that befalls the victims of gender violence: there is also its sibling, the inseparable friend of slut-shaming known as victim blaming: the act of blaming the victim, holding her partly or entirely responsible for what happened to her, and inducing her to blame herself. This reduces the narration to an abortion of thought that only conveys ”she had it coming”. This phenomenon is even more shameful and insidious because it tries to find a blame in the abused woman in order to avoid holding the male gender responsible for the cultural problem that makes every woman a potential object.

Referring to the case in question, a tangible example of what has just been expressed can be found in the words subsequently released by one of the perpetrators of the dissemination of the sex video to one of Italy’s newspapers La Stampa. Instead of blaming and distancing himself from the gesture of the ex-boyfriend, he defines the incident as “a foolhardy manly gesture” and blames the teacher stating that “if you send dirty videos you have to take into account the risk that someone will disclose them”. But men know that there is no foolhardiness behind these horrendous actions, they know exactly what they are doing while they are doing it. What they are therefore doing is spreading private material knowing not only that they have a woman’s reputation on their hands, but also that she will be stigmatised and eventually removed. Let’s take Tiziana Cantone, for example, who tried moving, and changing her life but could neither start again nor find a new job due to the social stigma that never left her, and the sad ending of her life by her own choice is now well known. It is important to understand how passing off these actions as simple male foolhardiness is only functional to maintaining that patriarchal culture that still exercises the stigma of both body and sex on women, as well as the absolute and insane dichotomy of ‘Saint or Whore’.

But why is revenge porn, and more generally gender-based violence, mainly committed by men? As a matter of fact, 90% of the victims are women. This high percentage should make us ponder, especially if we consider that the remaining 10% includes homosexual men – victims of other men – and other members of the LGBT+ community.
Dr. Micaela Falleri, psychologist and psychotherapist explains: “It is well known that at the basis of these behaviours there is a cultural factor; historically men have always dominated women under any aspect of their life, not only the physical one. However, from a strictly psychological point of view, there are non-functional attachment lifestyles such as the anxious one, for example, which leads men to react violently out of fear of losing their attachment when women decide to break their ties with them. At the basis of this there is a deep-rooted concept of possession that has its origins in our phylogenetic history: consider, for example, the time when men went hunting and women stayed in a stable and safe place to bring up their children. Possession in this case was born as a positive element, declining in protection of the man over the woman and the family unit. Today, however, the idea of possession remains but is declined differently, turning into violence that originates from the frustration of a need for attachment when the woman decides to leave her partner. There are two considerations to be made here: firstly, if a man reacts violently instead of sympathising and communicating, this means that the man has already been physically or psychologically violent in the past. Secondly, we have to bear in mind that we live in a time in which men are being challenged by this new generation of strong, quick-witted and self-driven women who are trying to establish themselves in the world of work and hold positions of power, thus exacerbating violent attitudes even more. Cases of revenge porn are, among other things, also the weak man’s attempt to give a powerful self-image to hide his inability to ‘have a woman for himself ‘from himself and other men’.”

My wish for 2021 is that this year will coincide with a new beginning full of enhanced awareness. Our future depends on how we take a stance on this issue, and on how we educate our children with words and even more with actions because a child’s education depends above all on what their eyes see. If their parents’ attachment lifestyle is secure, full of love, affection, cooperation and kindness, the child will introject a positive vision of femininity by having a father who respects a mother and a mother who respects others and is respected.
In order for the narrative of gender-based violence to change, everyone’s commitment is needed, including women. Especially women. 

[1] Michela Anna Guerra, Revenge Porn, in Altalex, https://www.altalex.com/guide/revenge-porn

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