Gordon Thomas, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2016 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: “Pages like ByeFelipe on Instagram are becoming increasingly popular. The concept of these pages is to blast those who are disrespectful on dating websites such as Tinder. Discuss the related privacy issues.”
In parts of Europe during the 13th century through the 16th century, women, who did “un-womanly” things, were sentenced to the “Ducking-stool”. A ducking-stool, for those who aren’t familiar, is a rather larger wooden device that allows you to strap a woman (often naked) into a chair that hangs over a body of water, and then repeatedly submerge her at your hearts content.
Today, the punishment a man has for sexually berating women online is a public screenshot of their own words and photos on Instagram. The response to this new form of public humiliation: “It’s a violation of my privacy!” – The modern asshole.
The great thing about the Internet is that everything is virtually available to public use, but that also means that nothing is private. That’s the beginning and end of any conversation about privacy on the internet. Men are upset with women who publicly post screenshots of their sexist and vulgar conversations, through dating apps, on blogs like ByeFelipe. The second you post something on the Internet it immediately becomes vulnerable to public use.
The worst part about this new form of public humiliation is that men are calling it a violation of privacy. A violation of privacy is when someone hacks into the webcam on your personal computer and takes photos of you while you change and then uses those photos to blackmail you into having sex with them. Not only is it incredibly embarrassing, but it can also be incredibly traumatic, especially for a young girl. Having known someone that this has happened to, I can tell you first hand that it has a major negative impact on a person’s life. I have a younger sister who tells me that guys harass her online all the time. She constantly receives nude photos and nasty text messages from guys she has absolutely no interest in. When I ask her how she deals with it when it happens, she tells me that, “it happens so frequently, you eventually just accept that it is a part of life”.
Constantly receiving nude photos and dirty messages from men should not be a part of everyday life for anyone. That’s why I think blogs like ByeFelipe are great. Men aren’t humiliated enough. There should be more ways to unveil the type of people who do terrible things behind the “safety” of the internet.
Gordon is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Advertising and Multimedia Designs.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.