It’s Not “Revenge Porn” or Deepfakes — It’s Digital Rape

In this piece, Max talks about revenge porn and deepfakes as a new form of pornography. Pornography has always been a tool for the subjugation of women by patriarchy. The article further relates subjugation of women to the subjugation of the natural world.


By Max Wilbert

Our culture is a culture of violation, a culture of breaking boundaries: the boundaries of women, of children, of forests, of oceans, of the living planet itself, even of the atom and the gene.

Where does the impulse to violate come from, and how is it encoded and transmitted from generation to generation?

One method of transmission is via pornography, one of a broad set of cultural tools used to inculcate patriarchy and pass it from generation to generation. Susan Griffin, in her book Woman and Nature, writes that “above all, pornography is ritual. It is an enacted drama that is laden with meaning, which imparts a vision of the world. The altar for the ritual is a woman’s body. And the ritual which is carried out on this altar is the desecration of flesh. Here, what is sacred within the body is degraded.”

As Gail Dines and other radical feminists argue, the sadistic brilliance of pornography is that is sexualizes these rituals, hiding them behind a veil of arousal, so that excitement becomes linked to dominance and subordination. Acts that would be anathema to our child selves become normalized, then eroticized.

Revenge Porn and “Deepfakes”

This understanding of pornography as ritualized degradation helps explain two of the newer forms of pornography: revenge porn and “Deepfakes.” As the slow burn of printed pornography exploded with the advent of the internet, now the internet is enabling new forms of ritualized degradation of women and violation of boundaries.

Most people are unfortunately familiar with the phenomenon of “revenge porn“—the practice of men sharing explicit photographs or videos of women online in order to degrade them—which has become all too common over the last decade. “Deepfakes” are newer and make degradation so much easier: computer-generated pornography, often created using AI/Machine Learning technology to swap a woman’s face onto another person’s body.

The technology to create Deepfakes has escalated quickly over the past several years, and now realistic-looking Deepfakes can be created relatively easily, or even automatically. Last month a report exposed that users had uploaded images of more than 680,000 women, without their knowledge or consent, to an automated service on Telegram to create photo-realistic Deepfake pornography. And another expose showed that TikTok stars—often underage teenagers—are ending up on porn websites.

Digital Rape

How can we describe this new form of violation? Sophie Maddocks, a PhD candidate at the New School, writes that feminist activists are increasingly seeking to re-name revenge porn and Deepfakes as ‘Non-consensual pornography’, ‘image-based sexual abuse’, and ‘digital rape.’

Like Susan Griffin, Maddocks points towards an understanding of pornography not as sexual expression, art, or the singular act of bitter men, but as what Andrea Dworkin called “the blueprint of male supremacy.”

“Pornography incarnates male supremacy,” Dworkin wrote. “It is the DNA of male dominance. Every rule of sexual abuse, every nuance of sexual sadism, every highway and byway of sexual sadism, is encoded in it. It’s what men want us to be, think we are, make us into; how men use us; not because biologically they are men but because this is how their social power is organized. From the perspective of the political activist, pornography is the blueprint of male supremacy.”

The Ecological Crisis and Patriarchy

As Lierre Keith says, if you could reduce feminism to one word, it would be: “No.” The  drawing of boundaries is essential to not just individual bodily and mental health, but to the health of the entire planet. And what is industrial civilization but the cultural urge to violate the entire planet?

Patriarchy is thousands of years old, and it will not be dismantled in a day, or a year, or a decade. But for as long as it has existed, so has resistance. Movements to dismantle porn culture and stop the proliferation of digital sexual abuse are widespread and growing. These problems are deeply entrenched, and confronting the culture of violation will require people in all walks of life to make commitments and take action, over lifetimes.

Deep Green Resistance is primarily an ecological organization, but we are also a feminist organization, because we recognize the links between patriarchy and the destruction of the planet.

Only to name one of the most obvious, the problem of overpopulation is mainly caused by the subjugation of women—legally, economically, culturally, sexually. And the path to solve overpopulation is simple: educate women, and provide culturally appropriate family planning and healthcare. When this is done, population growth disappears. There is no technical mystery here; the problem is changing the culture and restructuring power.

In Margaret Atwood’s prophetic book Oryx and Crake, global warming wreaks havok on a world falling further into dystopia. The most violent forms of child rape pornography are normalized, and young kids watch the “Nitee-Nite” show for live streams of people committing suicide. Soy-based artificial foods and genetically-engineered creatures fill every plate, and as the world descends further into chaos, well-meaning people spend their money airlifting food to starving polar bears in an ice-free Arctic rather than in confronting or dismantling the systems that are destroying the planet.

This is the world we are heading towards, but it is not inevitable. Our only hope lies in what Dworkin calls organized political resistance. Each day, I read these words and remind myself of our task:

[W]hen I talk about a resistance, I am talking about an organized political resistance. I’m not just talking about something that comes and something that goes. I’m not talking about a feeling. I’m not talking about having in your heart the way things should be and going through a regular day having good, decent, wonderful ideas in your heart.

I’m talking about when you put your body and your mind on the line and you commit yourself to years of struggle in order to change the society in which you live… A political resistance goes on day and night, under cover and over ground, where people can see it and people can’t. It is passed from generation to generation. It is taught. It is encouraged. It is celebrated. It is smart. It is savvy. It is committed. And someday it will win. It will win.

5 thoughts on “It’s Not “Revenge Porn” or Deepfakes — It’s Digital Rape”

  1. Much as I hate to say it, this isn’t just conspiracy theory thinking. It’s an ultra-extremist fringe cult conspiracy theory on steroids. In a single stroke, one article like this discredits a hundred DGR essays of profound insight and environmental wisdom.

    Nowhere else is one likely to find such terms as “deepfakes” and “digital rape.” Yes, there are perverts on the internet. But let’s not pretend that pornography (which many women take a peek at, too), deforestation, and nuclear power plants are a single, inseparable evil. You’re smarter than that.

    It is as if Michael Moore had concluded “Planet of the Humans” by adding Donald Trump’s warning that windmill noise causes cancer — with a caveat that heterosexuality is a communist plot to enslave the world.

    DGR opened my eyes to how industrialism and capitalist greed are destroying the planet. Now I worry that any association with it proves that radical environmemtalism is a form of insanity.

    Please, folks! Separate the ecological wisdom that could save the Earth from the sick fantasy that men are inherent rapists, and that every human endeavor since the Stone Age is some form of child abuse.

    You know better.

  2. Men are not inherent rapists but patriarchy socializes them to be. Many may not commit the physical act of rape but watch and masturbate over other men raping women.

    Likewise, men are not born to destroy nature but industrial patriarchy socializes them to do so.

    If you honestly think that men’s violence against women has nothing to do with men’s violence against all other living beings, there are plenty of macho environmental groups that you can join. Dgr is one of the very few truly feminists ones and I thank them for that.

  3. Macho men are no more the answer than radical feminism. But blaming
    masculinity for every ill is a simplistic cop-out.

    I agree with Laura that the concept of ownership is rooted in patriarchy, which is obvious in the founding of America — where all power was vested in land-“owning” men, blacks were regarded as property, native tribes as vermin, women as baby machines, and nature as a commodity.

    But it’s a different world today. And when you oversimplify, your arguments are easily dismissed as the ravings of the crackpot fringe. Sadistic pornography, for example, is a tiny part of an industry in which many women eagerly participate and profit. And the other fringe of porn (the gay side) victimizes men just as much as the straight fringe victimizes women.

    Meanwhile, mainstream feminism is all about women becoming equal to men in having the power to exploit and victimize. That’s why we’re taught that the “progressive” thing is the number of women now in leadership positions in industry, education, law, and government.

    Exploitation today in “developed” countries is almost as matriarchal as it is patriarchal, and the gap is closing fast. Exploitation was once a largely male thing, for the simple reason that men tend to be physically stronger than women. But power today is wielded far more by women with computer terminals and cell phones, than by men with clubs and whips.

    The problem in the developed world today isn’t patriarchy. Women have caught up as exploiters, and the real problem has been exposed. It isn’t men. It’s humans.

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