Two women lawmakers in Kansas want to outlaw revenge porn — the posting online of nude photographs of an ex-spouse or significant other without consent.
“Divorces are nasty,” said Rep. Sydney Carlin, a Manhattan Democrat, who introduced her bill on Tuesday. “A lot of pain and a lot of anger and usually one person comes out a little better in financial settlements than the other, and this is threatening. This is harassment.”
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican, introduced a similar bill Wednesday.
Current state statutes on privacy and blackmail make it a crime to post pictures or videos taken without consent. The new bills seek to also forbid the posting of sexual material that was filmed or photographed consensually within the confines of a relationship but is then posted online later without consent.
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Carlin said pictures of a constituent were posted online by her ex-husband.
“Her ex-husband had posted pictures of her in her home that he had taken while they were happily married, and they were divorced and he had posted it to a site — and I believe it was called a revenge porn site — that you can go to and you can see pictures of people that they would not post,” Carlin said. “We are just asking that to be added to the statute to make that illegal in Kansas.”
Clayton described the problem as “a new technological issue. This (bill) is designed to keep constituents safe.”
Clayton, who belongs to the national organization Women in Government, said she knows many female lawmakers of both parties across the country are working on such legislation at the state level. There also are efforts at the federal level to criminalize the practice.
“The real protection will come at the federal level,” she said. “There are some real predatory websites out there.”
Clayton said she had both female and male constituents who had been the victims of revenge porn.
“This issue really is about what is consent and what isn’t,” she said.
Although photos may have been taken consensually, that does not give someone consent to post the material online for the entire world to see, Clayton said. She said that in abusive relationships a person may consent to being photographed naked under coercion.
Sixteen states have laws against revenge porn, according to Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, who also serves as legislative director for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, which supports efforts to outlaw the practice.
Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, said that his organization is sympathetic to privacy concerns but that criminal law “is probably too blunt of an instrument to use on these types of issues.”
“We would be concerned … about criminalizing forms of expression of any kind, whether those are images or language,” Kubic said.