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What People Are Getting Wrong About Blac Chyna and Revenge Porn

Despite the growing acknowledgement of revenge porn as a serious harassment offense, many people still fundamentally misunderstand the issue, as countless responses to the Kardashian case showed.

Gabby Bess

Gabby Bess

Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images

One in 25 Americans say they have had an explicit image shared online without their consent. On Wednesday, sock designer and failed reality TV star Rob Kardashian went on an unsettling Instagram rant during which he posted several nude pictures of ex-fiancee Blac Chyna, putting the issue of the non-consensual sharing of intimate images—commonly referred to as revenge porn—in the national spotlight.

Over the past few years, victims of revenge porn have been fighting to pass laws around the country to ensure this new class of sexual violence is actually seen as a crime; thirty-eight states and Washington, DC, now have laws against revenge porn on the books. Though the definition and sentencing of the crime varies by state, these laws generally prohibit the non-consensual distribution of private, sexual images. (In California, where Kardashian lives, the crime occurs when a person intentionally and publicly distributes unauthorized nude photos, knowing that they will cause emotional distress.)

Despite the growing acknowledgement of revenge porn as a serious harassment offense, many people still misunderstand the issue, as countless responses to the Kardashian case showed. On a fundamental level, consenting to take a photo and send it to one person is not the same as consenting to share it with a wide audience.

"There's a big difference between sharing a photo with somebody you're close with and posting it online for millions and millions of people to see," Lisa Bloom, a high-profile California lawyer who litigated Mischa Barton's recent revenge porn case, told Broadly over the phone. "The law recognizes this. Many people send nude photos to someone they're involved with. That doesn't mean it's OK to post it online."


Watch: Inside the Torturous Fight to End Revenge Porn


"Sending someone intimate photos does not give them consent to post them or share them… What matters is whether Rob had Chyna's consent in advance of the distribution," Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer who specializes in Internet privacy, abuse, and harassment, added in a statement to Broadly.

The emotional distress clause in the California law also caused some confusion. For instance, TMZ reported yesterday that Kardashian did not violate California's revenge porn clause because Chyna "liked" the photos Kardashian had posted to Instagram. "It's hard to argue she suffered emotional distress" because she did so, the gossip outlet argued. "What's more... the law says in order to be convicted there must have been an understanding the images would remain private. 'Liking' the pics does not seem consistent with keeping the pics private."

But the fact that Chyna "liked" Kardashian's posts does not mean she gave her consent to the release of the photos, nor does it indicate how she feels about them, both lawyers warned. "We don't know what was going though her mind when she did that, assuming that she runs her own social media. Was she being sarcastic? We don't know," Bloom explained. "I don't think I've ever met a victim of revenge porn who was not distressed by what happened."

"Chyna clicking a button on social media does not mean consent," Goldberg said.

Regardless of a victim's sexual history or public persona, she still has the right to keep her intimate photos private. "Clearly Rob Kardashian was on a revenge tear yesterday. He was attacking Chyna, primarily around her sexuality and her body, which is the way that women get attacked," Bloom said. "We live in a culture that slut-shames women every day. Nothing she has done means that Rob has the right to reveal these photos without her consent."

In a statement, Chyna's lawyer, Walter Mosley, said that he is "exploring all legal remedies and protections available to my client at this time in attempts to best advise her on how she may want to proceed."