Why limiting rights is not a solution to our privacy problem

As a doxed woman (my private information, pictures etc. shared without my consent on the internet), I have spent the past 4 years trying to keep track of debates (some of them instigated by myself, most of them not) about this topic. It is triggering and tiresome, but it is important. Very few people suggest new laws relating to the dissemination of sexual pictures of people without the person’s consent, for some reason. This is deemed, maybe, too much work? However one single item of terrific advice you always encounter is:

“Don’t take naked pictures! Problem solved!”

(First of all, this is annoying because to thousands of women, it is already too late, but the glory of hindsight is a luxury worth indulging when you are not a victim, I suppose)

No. This does not solve a problem and is a very dangerous stance to take. What is inherent in this is that we should get used to living in a world where privacy and the right to act however you like in private has ceased to exist. Are we really ready to decide that privacy is not a right, but a privilege? The idea that you can document things in private and keep them private, is it but a distant remnant of an easier time?

Of course not. This, rather, has to do with the nature of what people feel comfortable limiting. Female sexuality, as always, is something that folks seem to have no ethical issues with policing. As if, somehow, having a sexuality and expressing it in private is a privilege that is nice ‘n’ all, but not something you need to do. And thus, it shouldn’t be protected as a right. This concept: that it is fair to ask a person to change their legal, private, consensual behaviour in order to avoid public humiliation, is unfortunately a current that follows female sexuality and has for centuries.

While we have to some extent as a society accepted that women do in fact have sex for fun, we still find it to be a risky, indulgent and decadent business that carries “risks”. Whether this risk is getting assaulted for dressing in a certain way, wishing to kiss a man but not have sex with him, or documenting our sexuality, we are still to blame for going “overboard”, and putting ourselves in what is interpreted to be a compromising situation.

I do not remember this reaction showing up when Edward Snowden showed us that one way or another, nothing of what we did online was private. Where were the “If you didn’t want the NSA to read your email, you shouldn’t have been writing secret stuff in emails, stupid!!!” then? When invasion of privacy regards emails with information, it is suddenly a highly important social issue and completely unnecessary, whereas doxed women should have known and also expected to not have privacy.

Not only expected, their behaviour in life should be conditioned on the fact that to them, privacy should not exist. We should live a life where commodification of female sexuality is so common that if I participate in a type of sexuality that can be commodified and used against me, I should expect it to happen. And we are, as I have seen myself called ,”Idiots with stars in their eyes”, for thinking that privacy should be a vital part of how we structure our society. Also, apparently, trusting a man is “stupid”. I don’t think we’ll get particularly far in this world if women completely stopped telling men things they don’t want all the world to know, but oh well.

Female sexuality, as it now stands, is a luxury and so is privacy. Except if you’re a person sending an email containing private information, then it becomes a human right that makes the front page of newspapers all over the world.

It makes no sense, and it is hugely important that the fight for privacy does not succumb to this kind of hypocrisy. It should be protected at every turn, even if this turn means that there might be fewer breasts on the internet. However, the breast you are seeing, you will be sure that the owner wants them there. Isn’t that a nice thought?

Put quite simply, we should stop trying to create hierarchies in terms of which people and which acts deserve privacy. No legal act is less deserving of privacy than others.  This is a subject where we cannot and should not compromise. It is paramount for the survival of a civil and functioning democracy.

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