Non-Consensual Pornography and Sextortion: A Case Study in Victimization and Offender Profiles.

AuthorLuba, Lou

Sexual exploitation online has been a constant presence. From the advent of electronic bulletin boards and chat groups, to the development of multiple social media platforms and applications, production and dissemination of non-consensual pornography has found a home online. The prevalence and invasiveness of non-consensual pornography (NCP) has grown and expanded from unauthorized sharing of intimate images, to "revenge porn," to the criminal enterprise of sextortion. This article is an introductory primer presenting the growing problem of dissemination of non-consensual pornography & sextortion, delving further into issues of victimization and categorization offense and offender profiles.

Since its creation, the internet has been a convenient tool for criminal activity in light of its ease of use, breadth of scope, and relative anonymity. This is especially true in the realm of sexual exploitation. The illegal transfer of unlimited illicit images can now be conducted remotely and anonymously through a few keystrokes and has resulted in the growing problem of "non-consensual pornography" (hereinafter NCP) and sextortion. Although colloquially referred to as "revenge porn," such conduct extends far beyond the conventional connotation of disclosing/sharing intimate photographs of one's partner after a failed relationship, and delves into the devastating activities of predatory grooming, domination and extortion.

Although over 46 states have adopted various statutes addressing the issue of illegal dissemination of "intimate images," there is no singular legal definition of what constitutes NCP. (1) Its functional definition is "obtaining, sharing or distributing intimate images of another without permission." (2) With sextortion, an offender obtains NCP and subsequently threatens to expose or distribute these intimate images for the primary purpose of "obtaining additional images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money." (3) An offender's purpose in disseminating NCP is to publicly humiliate the victim, while the offender's purpose for committing sextortion is to privately coerce the victim to comply with their demands. (4)


NCP and sextortion are growing problems that affect all users, regardless of age or gender. A 2016 study encompassing a nationally representative sample of 3,002 internet users 15 years of age and older found that overall, 4% of all internet users in the United States had either "sensitive images" of themselves posted online without their consent. or had someone threaten to post "sensitive images" of them without their consent. (5) Other findings include:

* 3% of all male users experienced NCP or threatened NCP.

* 5% of all female users experienced NCP or threatened NCP

* 10% of users between the ages of 18-29 years old (male & female combined) have experienced NCP or threatened NCP.

* 12% of women under the age of 30 years old have experienced NCP or threatened NCP.

A similar study was conducted in 2019, involving 3,044 adult online social media users. This study found that the rate of NCP victimization had increased to 9% of women and 7% of men. (6) A study focusing specifically on young adult victimization involving sextortion was conducted in June 2016, and involved 1,631 respondents between the ages of 18--25 years old. (7) The study looked at instances of sextortion in both personal (face-to-face) relationships (968 respondents) and online-only relationships (663 respondents). The results of this study disclosed the following:

* 71% of all respondents knowingly provided their images to the perpetrator.

* 56% of all respondents felt pressured, tricked or threatened/forced into providing images.

* 23% of those respondents involved in online-only relationships knew the perpetrator for less than one week before providing an image (as compared to only 7% of personal relationships), with 26% providing an image in 1 day or less after meeting the perpetrator. (8)

In examining sextortion victimization of minors (12-17 years old), a 2018 study revealed that out of a sample size of 5,578 respondents, a total of 5% of all respondents reported being victims of sextortion. (9) This study showed an equal split between males and females, with the most significant incidence of sextortion occurring amongst 15-year-olds. (10) Most disturbingly, a total of 3% of all respondents stated that they had perpetrated some type of sextortion themselves. (11)


The methods and manners in which offenders obtain NCP vary, and often depend on the offender's access to the victim. How an offender...

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