Fay Schopen on the perils of the Internet Age:
In a pre-digital age, what happened to your homemade erotica when you split was a pleasingly low-tech issue. If the break-up was fairly amicable and you were a man and a lady, the lady got to keep the sexy stuff. I don’t know why, it’s an unwritten heterosexual law – a throwback to the age of chivalry if you like. Sometimes you both had images of each other and that acted as a deterrent to the other party doing anything mean-spirited with the material – a bit like owning nuclear weapons. Burning was a popular choice, of course, although Polaroid pictures tend to be pretty robust, so I recommend a sharp pair of scissors.
Ah, those low-tech days! It’s not so simple now…
But what to do in a digital age when we’re drowning in risqué pictures and videos? Break up with a budding Robert Mapplethorpe at your peril. Unlike, say, a VHS video tape – I came across one of these from a previous relationship when I moved recently. I looked at it fondly, imagined what was on it and that was that. Oh, innocence – there’s a real possibility that naked pictures of yourself will live forever in your ex’s hard drive or on their phone – or on the internet itself if they are really mean.
I suppose you could just not create any such media..? Nah. Too simple. Besides, you know the courts will have your back, right?
This is demonstrated by the fact that a court in Germany has ruled that a woman has the right to ask her ex-boyfriend – a photographer – to delete erotic videos and intimate photographs of her taken, with her consent, in the course of their relationship. While there is no suggestion that he intended to distribute the material – such as with odious cases of “revenge porn” – the court agreed with her demand, saying her consent could be withdrawn on the grounds of her personal rights, on which it placed a higher value than her ex-boyfriend’s ownership rights.
As Ms Schopen ponders in this article, good luck with enforcing that!
… my first thought was that this was great news for embittered lovers everywhere, and for anyone who has ever had their photograph taken. Does our personal right not to have a picture of us with four chins appear on Instagram – even with a lovely filter – trump the rights of the photographer? Well, why not? Better yet, what about our personal right to have regrettable texts and emails deleted?
No doubt that’ll be next. These people never say ‘OK, enough’s enough’, do they?
I can’t help but think that a high-profile court case with an ex, whether the issue is sexy pictures or a text you shouldn’t have sent at 1am, will only draw attention to the fact that they “own” said pictures in the first place. It seems that the female partner in the German case did not suspect that her ex intended to distribute the images and videos; she simply didn’t like the thought of him owning and looking at them anymore. Well, tough luck. Close your eyes and imagine one of your past lovers naked. Yep. We can’t delete our thoughts.
I’m sure someone, somewhere in progressiveland, is working on it…