A dish served cold: targeting revenge in revenge pornography

Dymock, Alex and Van Der Westhuizen, Charlotte. 2019. A dish served cold: targeting revenge in revenge pornography. Legal Studies, 39(3), pp. 361-377. ISSN 0261-3875 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The introduction of s 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, criminalising the disclosure of private sexual images, has been seen as a welcome step forward for curbing this abuse of privacy and the harmful effects it has on victims. However, while s 33 sidesteps any reference to ‘revenge pornography’, as the phenomenon has been termed in popular vernacular, little attention has been paid to the way in which narratives of revenge implicitly underpin and imbue the new offence, particularly its specific intent requirement. We argue this has serious implications for the treatment of s 33 offences in the courts and for sentencing. Drawing on cross-disciplinary conceptualisations of revenge, its recent criminal-legal history, and examples of media and parliamentary rhetoric, we claim that despite innumerable attempts to turn debate on disclosure of private sexual images towards consent, harm and privacy, there lurks within these discourses an assumption that the victim must have done something to deserve the treatment she received. Until the multiple harms of disclosure of private sexual images are recognised and explicit recommendations are made that scrutiny of victims’ behaviour should normally be inadmissible, we argue that the offence offers little in the way of redress.

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(c) 2018, The Society of Legal Scholars. This article has been published in a revised form in Legal Studies [https://doi.org/10.1017/lst.2018.27]. This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed.


consent; harm; privacy law; revenge pornography; Criminal Justice and Courts Act of 2015; Section 33

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27 December 2018Published Online
September 2019Published

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18 Feb 2020 17:09

Last Modified:

14 Jun 2021 23:26

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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