Revenge porn–just don’t look

Slate posted an article called “Why do we tolerate revenge porn?” that talks about the practice of posting nude or sexual photos/videos of someone else online in order to ruin their reputation. The article talks about the harm this can do, why we should legislate against it, and ways that could work.

I agree that revenge porn should be illegal. But I also believe we as a society should rethink our reaction to it. More and more, Americans are taking the attitude that what consenting adults do with their bodies is their business. Is anyone truly shocked that a woman in a relationship might share nude photos of herself with her partner, or allow that partner to take such photos?

I say “woman” here knowing that men can be victims, too. But a quick perusal of revenge porn sites shows the victims are overwhelmingly female. This is not surprising. I don’t think that partners of men are any less vengeful than partners of women. It’s just that the double standard we live under–where highly sexual men are lauded, while highly sexual women are shamed–makes this avenue of revenge much more effective against females. Having naked pictures online can damage a woman’s reputation much more than a man’s.

But it can only do that if we let it. A reputation, after all, is simply a collection of opinions. What if, when someone anonymously sends you a video of your female coworker in the buff, instead of thinking less of her, you tought less of the asshole that violated her trust, deleted the email immediately (unless she wants it for pursuing legal action), and reminded yourself that a person’s behavior in the bedroom has no effect on her competence outside of it?

There was an old episode of The Simpsons in which a bunch of advertisements came to life and began destroying Springfield. Paul Anka came to the rescue, explaining that advertisements are powerless if no one pays attention to them. He created a jingle, “Just Don’t Look,” to remind everyone to ignore the ads, which promptly stopped destroying the town.

Revenge porn is similar. It’s put out there to be seen, and to influence people’s perceptions. It’s there to cause harm. So how about we just don’t let it? Everyone you know is a sexual person. Even people who don’t consent to having nude photos taken can fall victim to hidden cameras in their intimate moments, or up-skirt shots on public places. This is the nature of modern life, where everyone is equipped with discreet cameras almost constantly. Maybe we just need to get over it and stop letting it be a big deal.

What would have killed you but didn’t

Baby getting a vaccine

Image by CDC/ Amanda Mills

Slate has an interesting article today called “Why are you not dead yet?” about why average U.S. life expectancy has doubled over the past 150 years. It goes in depth about advances like clean water, improved nutrition and reduced food contamination, vaccines, and even the evolution of pathogens.

One thing the author didn’t clarify that I think is important is that “average” is not the same as “typical.” It’s not like most people a century ago celebrated their 35th birthday and then keeled over. The biggest reason for the vast change in life expectancy is that we’ve drastically reduced infant/child mortality.

Those infant deaths were like that D you got on a test in school. You may have gotten all A’s the rest of the term, but that one bad grade brought your average down to a B–even if you never actually got a B on a test.

Back about 150 years ago, if you survived childhood (avoided that D), your expected lifespan increased pretty dramatically. Young adults still faced risks from things like childbirth and going off to war. However, if you made it to that magical “average” age of 35 or so, you were pretty likely to celebrate lots more birthdays to come.

None of this changes the fact that our increased average lifespan is a good thing. When I gave birth to my son I didn’t worry about him dying from water contamination, malnutrition or diphtheria. That’s a privilege my forbears didn’t enjoy.

What is “Nuclear Meltdown” all about?

Family values. Nuclear families. Intentional families. Extended families. Covenant marriage. Arranged marriage. Interracial marriage. Gay marriage. Gay divorcees. Broken homes. Single parents. Adoptive parents. Surrogate parents. Test-tube babies. Crack babies. War babies. Stepfamilies. Blended families. Quiverfull families. Polygamy. Polyamory. Possibility.

In 21st-century America, the only kind of family that doesn’t exist is a “typical” one. Over the past century, the law has opened up options like interracial marriage and, more recently, gay marriage. Divorce has lost its stigma. So has remaining single and/or child-free. You could argue that in terms of relationships and family structure, modern Americans enjoy a level of freedom never before seen in history, and rarely seen elsewhere even today.

Why? Is it social progress or moral decay? Is it due to our cultural melting pot? Is it a function of democracy? These things may play a role, but they would not have had this kind of effect without one primary force driving change.

Technology.

Over the past couple of centuries, advances in science, medicine and technology have led to massive changes in human lifespan, health, communications and reproduction. From industrialized agriculture to the Pill, from the automobile to DNA testing, these developments have deeply affected the way we run our most personal relationships. Sex is divorced from parenting. Marriage is an emotional choice rather than an economic necessity. Babies survive more often, children reach puberty earlier, adults marry later, and we all tend to live longer. All of these things have had profound effects on how we relate and procreate.

The rate of technological change has been massive and fast. Socially, we’re floundering. Old rules governing sexual behavior, courtship, marriage, and family structure no longer work. The controversy over legalizing gay marriage illustrates our struggle to reconcile historic definitions of marriage with newer ideals of love and companionship. Some people advocate throwing all the old standards away. Many—probably most—people cobble together a patchwork of old and new. Still others cling to the past in an effort to curtail what they see as a decline in family values.

That won’t work. We can’t take a model for a family in the 1800s, or the 1950s, or the dawn of Christianity, and slap it onto a lesbian couple in Boston, a pregnant teenager in Boise, a polyamorous quad in Berkeley, or a child-free retiree in Burbank. For that matter, we can’t slap it on on a heterosexual two-parent family with a stay-at-home mom in Buffalo, either.

This blog will explore how the American family is changing, the causes and effects of those changes, and the battles being waged over them. I call it “Nuclear Meltdown” as a reference both to the “traditional” (not really) nuclear family and to one particular technology that changed the world in a profound way, for better or for worse.

I will examine demographic, scientific, and historical data to tease out the facts behind the rhetoric from all sides of the political spectrum. I will examine romantic relationships, marriage, sex, fertility, family planning, parenting, extended family relations, household makeup, and human lifespan and development. And I will invite discussion about how we can build and raise families within the contexts of our own moral and social ideals, informed by history, and with conscious choices about how we use the scientific discoveries and technological developments of our time.

Because they are not going away.