‘Slutpage’ sharing, revenge porn may be a common problem on U.S. college campuses

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Despite laws aimed at stopping someone’s private or intimate photos from ending up online without their consent, a new study finds the disturbing trend may still be an issue at colleges around the United States. Researchers from Michigan State University say visits to “slutpages” and revenge porn sites may be a common activity for these young adults.

Their study reveals students and young people are increasingly uploading intimate pictures or videos of women on smartphones without their consent. Researchers find up to one in three university students are viewing these pages. One in 10 admit to using a secret app to store or share nude images. One in 30 respondents say they post nude images or videos of women online without permission.

“Use of these sites has significant implications for the victims featured on the pages,” says corresponding author Dr. Megan Maas, an assistant professor in human development and family studies, in a media release.

“Previous research indicates that victims of non-consensual pornography distribution experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Due to the semi-private nature of these sites, they are difficult to regulate, but as they are often linked to specific high schools or universities, campus-specific interventions could be used to deter their use.”

Study authors also discovered the people most likely to indulge in any of these behaviors are younger adults and males.

Nonconsensual porn advancing along with technology

The findings come from a survey of 1,867 students attending a large university in the U.S. Researchers hope the results will help inform sexual violence prevention education offered by universities across America. Dr. Maas adds that the distribution of revenge porn has ties to narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy — also called the “Dark Triad traits.”

“Slutpages involve the non-consensual sharing of sexualized imagery,” Maas says in a statement to SWNS. “What makes slutpages unique is these groups, websites, and listservs allow for distribution on a wider scale and the presence of social commentary. For example, previously identified slutpages have taken the form of Facebook-like groups or listservs where a small number of posters are able to reach a multiplicative number of followers who can then comment on posted videos and images. The ubiquity of and recent advances in smart phones has allowed for slutpages to flourish – especially among younger generations.”

An example of this occurred in Colorado, where a group of football players collected nude and semi-nude images of girls at their high school. They assigned each a point value and then exchanged the photos based upon completion of dares. The new report is the first analysis of its kind into collecting, storing, and posting nude images without consent.

“To understand the nuances and dynamics of image-based sexual abuse, especially when done for public consumption or social connection, we need more information on the prevalence and characteristics of those who engage in this behavior,” Dr. Maas continues.

Who is sharing slutpages?

Study authors collected the information as part of a larger study on the sex lives of students. Participants between 18 and 24 years-old reported their use of social media, slutpages, and secret photo storing apps during the surveys.

The results reveal young men in fraternities or other social organizations are the most likely to visit sites or post nude images and videos online without consent. Male athletes engaging in team sports came in as the next most likely group. Researchers find people who drink too much and consume online pornography also engage in these practices.

“This study indicates that slutpages appear to be a social form of image-based sexual abuse,” the MSU researcher adds. “The finding that male participants involved in fraternities or sports teams visited these sites and posted nude images and video online without consent more frequently than male participants outside these groups, or female participants in general, indicates that use of such sites could be motivated by a desire for some men to communicate and connect with their male peers.”

“Our findings suggest that sexual violence prevention education offered by universities should include discussions of these sites in order to address problematic attitudes that objectify women and justify sexual violence,” Maas concludes.

As of July 2020, 41 states and Washington, D.C. have passed laws which crack down on nonconsensual porn. Offenders can receive punishments varying from jail time to large fines.

The findings appear in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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