Why the students of UCD shouldn't be prosecuted for the sharing of explicit images
Young Irish men of today are different to their predecessors. Encouraged to talk about their feelings, to break free of gendered stereotypes, they are a new breed; a new and improved breed. Or so we’re told. Because, despite being the most emotionally mature generation of males to walk our fine land, old habits continue to die hard. And one of the oldest habits of all is the need, the all-consuming urge, to tell one another about their sexual conquests.
Before we continue, let’s get one thing clear: The 200 or so UCD students involved in what’s been dubbed a “revenge porn ring” have not broken any laws, at least not any set out in the constitution. Have they acted immorally? Absolutely. Have they behaved in a reprehensible manner? Without question. But lawbreakers? Potential felons? Sorry, I don’t see it. They have merely seized an opportunity - an undoubtedly sleazy, disgusting opportunity - and milked it for all its worth.
But herein lies the problem; once you send someone a picture it is theirs to do with as they wish. You may be in a loving, caring relationship with that person, and trust them implicitly at that time, but, unless you end up marrying them, chances are you will break up. In fact there’s a distinct possibility that you may break up with them before the end of your degree, or the end of the semester, or maybe even the end of the week.
In years gone by this wouldn’t have been a major problem, your heart, although broken, would eventually heal, and the only things you’d leave behind were a handful of CDs and your sexiest underwear. But in this digital age the cessation of any relationship brings it with a myriad of other issues. There’s the tricky question of whether to unfriend them on Facebook, whether to unfriend their friends, and their friends’ friends, or whether to just delete your entire Facebook account entirely.
And then there’s the other stuff. Some will say these women are foolish for sending saucy pictures to their paramours. Those people have probably never received, nor been asked for, saucy pictures of themselves. It’s part of modern-day romance, a naughty way to titillate your lover during time spent apart. Everyone does it. You don’t consider the consequences; it’s just a bit of fun. No-one’s forcing you to send anything.
But while it’s unlikely that anyone was held at gunpoint, instructed to hit send while pouting for all their worth, there is a certain degree of pressure, of course there is. No-one wants to be thought of as dull, the one who wouldn’t send pics when all the other lads’ girls did. It’s another form of peer pressure, another tricky obstacle to negotiate as you slowly come of age. And ultimately, as with most bad decisions, it helps you to learn some valuable lessons.
The most important lesson for these women, and for any women, is that young men, and maybe all men, are a feckless bunch. Driven by the basest of desires, they act without forethought. It has always been thus. Yes, some generations might have been more mannerly, more gentlemanly than the last, but deep down nothing really changes. Men talk, men boast and men brag. That they can now do so in a public sphere is indeed cause for concern. But cause for police intervention? I’m afraid not.