Meet The FIU Psychologist Working To Stop 'Non-Consensual Porn' on Social Media

Sep 25, 2018

A Florida International University assistant professor of psychology is working to find ways to combat non-consensual porn, or sexually graphic images that are shared without consent.

Dr. Asia Eaton is the head of research for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a non-profit organization fighting online abuse. The organization recently conducted a "revenge porn" study that asked over 3,000 adult Facebook users if they had ever sent sexually explicit material online or if someone had ever sent sexually explicit materials of them online. One in 12 adults surveyed reported being victims of non-consensual porn.

Eaton recently traveled to Facebook’s headquarters for a day-long conference about how to prevent the spread of explicit material online, where she presented the study. She joined Sundial to explain her research about non-consensual image sharing and steps that can be taken to prevent the practice. She also discussed the problems with the term “revenge porn.”

Eaton: Firstly, it implies that the act was perpetrated in response to something the victim did, which places blame on the victim unfairly. Secondly, it implies the motive for perpetration was to harm or seek revenge against the victim and there's a multitude of reasons that perpetrators perpetrate non-consensual porn ranging from the "upvotes" to for sexual pleasure and for money.

WLRN: So getting likes on social media?

Yes, so experts in the field prefer to use the term non-consensual porn especially because it starts off with the word non-consensual, which is the key element that these images may be taken or produced with or without consent, but importantly they are disseminated without the consent of the individuals depicted.

Why were they doing it?

Yes, so we gave them I think a dozen response options that they could have chosen as to why they committed this act. And by far the most commonly chosen reason, by over 70 percent of people who perpetrated this, was just "sharing it with friends for fun" and "I didn't mean to harm anyone."

Did you dig deeper into that?

We did not dig deeper into that and the literature has very little to say so far about the deeper reasons that perpetrators commit this act and qualitative research definitely needs to be done with perpetrators. But I can tell you that in general there is a lack of understanding about the potential harms that this can do to victims. You may be thinking you're just sharing this photo with a friend to brag and in a matter of days it can end up online with over 100,000 hits and be the first thing associated with the victim's name in search engines.

And once something is online it is usually very difficult to remove?

It's impossible to remove. It's truly impossible. You can hire takedown services, which cost money of course, you can devote the rest of your life to trying to remove these images, but it's pretty impossible to do so -- to the point where folks have had to change their names.

And more often than not the victims tend to be women.

Yes, in the research that we did on Facebook we found that one out of 12 individuals who are adult, age 18 to 97, reported victimization, but women reported significantly higher rates of victimization than men. Women were about 1.7 times more likely to be victims and on the flip side, men were more likely to admit to perpetrating this than women.