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A Brief History of Revenge Porn

A few years ago, having your compromising photos fall into the wrong hands was a nightmare scenario. Now it’s a genre.

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Illustration by Jean Jullien  

1980
In 1980, Hustler’s “Beaver Hunt” published nude photos of an unwilling and unknown woman, taken by her husband during a camping trip and later stolen. Alongside the images, Hustler mentioned her passion for collecting arrowheads (true) and her desire to be “screwed by two bikers” (false).

2000
Italian researcher Sergio Messina identifies an emergent genre he calls “realcore pornography”—photos and videos of ex-girlfriends initially shared in Usenet groups.

2008
Porn-video aggregator XTube claims that the site is getting two to three complaints a week about “revenge porn”—photos and videos of unwitting exes posted in anger. Websites and blogs dedicated to the genre begin to appear, often mixing “real” user-submitted revenge porn with staged versions (realexgirlfriends.com and iknowthatgirl.com).

2010
A 20-year-old housepainter from suburban New Zealand is the first to go to prison for posting revenge porn on Facebook. That same year, in a gender-reversing example known in Australia as “DickiLeaks,” a teenager uploads naked photos of two famous Australian-rules football players: “I just want to let them know what it feels like to have your reputation absolutely ruined.”

Hunter Moore launches IsAnyoneUp.com, which features naked photographs alongside subjects’ full names and links to Facebook profiles. Moore’s habit of taunting victims (“We’ve all masturbated to you or laughed at you … It can’t get any worse”) and media-baiting antics (head-butting a go-go dancer, trying to have sex with a 20-year-old woman, in a car, during an interview with a Village Voice reporter) earn him the reputation of revenge-porn supervillain. But he still has his groupies: “If you had AIDS, I’d still fuck you just to say I have AIDS and that I got AIDS from you,” tweeted one. Following rumors of an FBI investigation, Moore closed IsAnyoneUp in 2012 and sold the URL to an anti-bullying charity.

2013
In Florida, a bill is proposed that would make it a felony (punishable by up to five years in jail) to post “revenge porn” online. The bill received an initial wave of support, but debate on it in the House has been temporarily postponed.


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