Meet the Daring Young Women Showing the World How to Stand-Up to Slut-Shaming

Source: Clementine Ford

When Alexis Frulling was secretly recorded having a threesome in a deserted alley and the clip went viral on Reddit, she could have hid in the shadows, hoping no one would recognize her in the video. But instead, she uploaded a YouTube video calling out her haters. 

"I can't say I'm proud about it," Frulling says in the video. "But I'm not ashamed." Her story spread, with many praising Frulling for taking back control of her own sexual narrative.

She's not the only one.

Source: YouTube

Frulling is one of a growing number of millennial women who are refusing to stay quiet in the face of Internet slut-shaming. Instead, these women are turning the tables on us, asking why we're criticizing them for daring to have sex instead of vilifying those who shame them. In a world where the path to justice for victims of revenge porn is far from easy, publicly fighting back with photos, videos and words may in fact be the swiftest, most powerful response.

Pushing back is a growing trend: Frulling isn't the only woman who's fought back against Internet slut-shaming. After Danish activist Emma Holten realized that nude photographs she had posed for as a teenager had been shared online without her consent, she released her own photos to regain control of her sexual narrative.

"The pictures are an attempt at making me a sexual subject instead of an object. I am not ashamed of my body, but it is mine," Holten writes in the mission statement for her website. "Consent is key." 

Celebrities have also fought back against public slut-shaming. After Amber Rose's ex-boyfriend Kanye West said he "had to take 30 showers" after dating her to cleanse himself of her exotic dancer past, she publicly called him out on Instagram, posting a photo of herself in black lingerie. "U Guys Love Slut Shaming Huh? Good. I feed off that shit. #HowtobeAbadBitch," writes Rose, who is sponsoring a SlutWalk in October to combat slut-shaming, in the caption of her photo.

By taking a public stand against slut-shaming, these women are taking pride in themselves as sexual beings, not objects — and daring the world to do the same.

A photo posted by (@) on

Revenge porn symbolizes a lack of consent — and fighting back reclaims it. In today's digital age, taking intimate photos is part of our sexual repertoire. In fact, one 2013 study found that 64% of college-aged participants had received a sext with a photo and 46% admitted to having sent one. Yet the rise of sexting has also led to the concurrent rise of nonconsensual porn, the term used to describe men posting nude or sexually explicit images of women without their consent. 

When women's sexual images are shared without their consent, they are passed around the Internet as objects, with no say over who's looking at them and why. But by releasing their own nude or sexual images, they demonstrate to the world what consent really looks like. 

For instance, when Sarah-Kaye Steinmann, a college student from Australia, was a teenager, her ex-boyfriend threatened to post intimate photos of her online. In response, Steinmann created a Tumblr account for women to upload their own nude or explicit photos and celebrate their bodies. She received more than 300 submissions.

Last month, a New Zealand-based photo leak released intimate photos of Steinmann and 700 other women. But instead of reacting with pain and embarrassment, thus giving the men who uploaded her photos more power over her, she went to the press to tell her story and call out the hackers. 

"By simply going, 'No, you're an asshole who shared my things without permission, here is a photo of myself that I love, and I love my body,' it gives much more power to the victim," Steinmann told Mic.

Social media makes it easier than ever to fight slut-shaming. Millennial women have come of age in the public eye on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Social media is where many are targeted with slut-shaming messages, as evidenced by Amber Rose's retort to a slut-shaming commenter on Instagram last month. 

By sharing their own nude images on social media, women who have been targeted for their sexuality are asserting that they refuse to feel shame about their own bodies. Australian writer Clementine Ford, for instance, responded to Sunrise, a local TV show that blamed victims of revenge porn, by posting a topless photo of herself on her own Facebook page. The words "Hey #Sunrise Get Fucked" are written across her chest. 

Ford told Mic that she took the topless photo to make a statement against society's punishment of women who send nude photographs.

"Power comes from refusing to allow someone else to dictate the terms in which you are entitled to be treated like a human being," Ford said. "By responding this way, we're saying, 'Fuck your standards and fuck your misogyny.'"

There's no one "right" way to respond to revenge porn. Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who specializes in nonconsensual pornography, told Mic that there are a number of legal measures victims can take to remove their leaked nude photos from the Internet, depending on their state and how the images were obtained. But only 25 states have revenge porn laws on the books, and law enforcement is notorious for not taking online sexual harassment claims seriously.

Franks is working on legislation to make sharing nonconsensual pornographic images a federal crime anywhere in the United States. She told Mic that while every victim has the right to respond to Internet slut-shaming in their own way, responses like Steinmann's send the positive message that no one should feel they have to apologize for having consensual sex.

"The idea that the public has the right to make judgments about the consensual sexual choices of adult women is one of the reasons 'revenge porn' exists in the first place. We need to constantly challenge the idea that women's bodies are public property and that women's sexual choices require public approval or disapproval," Franks told Mic. "What we should be doing is focusing on the choices made by the people who film or distribute sexual material without consent."

In the wake of Celebgate, in which nude photos of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton were leaked onto the Internet without their permission, more and more people are publicly condemning revenge porn. Now, victims are learning that they have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to gain by reclaiming their bodies from those who shame them.

"Women are gaining the confidence and strength to fight back," Ford said, "and that's bloody marvelous."

Correction: August 4, 2015
An earlier version of this article stated that Mary Anne Franks was a lawyer. She is actually a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law. 

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Erin Migdol

Erin Migdol is a freelance writer for Mic. Her writing has been featured on LAStageTimes.com, FabFitFun.com and the Huffington Post, and she is currently an assistant editor at Inside Weddings magazine. She is a UC Davis alum and resides in Los Angeles.

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