Tiziana Cantone (31) committed suicide in September 2016. In 2015 she sent footage of her having sex with someone to her ex-boyfriend to make him jealous. Many say she was the architect of her misfortune. I say as stupid as her behaviour was, she was the victim of misogyny and relentless cyber-bullying which led to her suicide. The responsibility rests with those who felt it acceptable to share her mistake on social media like a virulent plague.
Sex: The Ultimate Shaming And Death Sentence
Cantone‘s video, sent to five friends, was viewed by no less than one million people. Businesses made tee-shirts and phone covers which included the video comment “You’re filming? Good”. It became an Italian catchphrase and betting firm Paddy Power adopted a take on it as their slogan. Even porn sites used the footage. There were also memes accompanied by negative comments, and cruel video parodies, many using her full name. She became a national mocking-stock for many months. Strangers even abused Cantone in the streets.
I understand that Cantone intended to make her ex, jealous. Her action may fit under the heading of revenge porn, but it fits under the heading of stupidity. However, it should not have cost her life. “To err is human.”
Behaviour and Technology
It is not sufficient to blame the victim arguing she should have known better. None of us would have expected the result, and like Cantone, most of us would be ill-prepared to handle what followed.
Surely, we should have concerns about the behaviour of her friends. We develop our friendships on trust. What kind of friend is it that would breach the trust placed in them? Their pestilent behaviour should lead to charges.
Her suicide also begs the question “What kind of people are we” that we would retweet, pin, share these images of a stranger without calling into question our decency and the harm? For if we don’t, everything becomes fair game on the internet. Such as the friends of a 17-year-old who filmed while a 22-year-old man raped her. They then posted the footage.
Nor is it not good enough to place the blame for her suicide on technology. Technology is a tool and not a behaviour. It has created the growth market of collaborative consumption. We move our money and share precious family moments on the internet. We are confident with it. It is a non-physical world in which we put our trust because we expect people to behave correctly. Except when it comes to females.
Misogyny, Psychological Violence And The Internet
Cantone’s violation and humiliation happened because she was a woman. It is not a scandal for men to have sex in this type of situation. Some males, however, feel comfortable debasing women and ‘slut-shaming’. Psychological violence on a woman does not need to have sexual content. It ranges from Facebook pages which have photographs of women eating on the tube to threats of rape and murder when men disagree with a female’s opinion. Coupled with which many people go out of their way to harass and ridicule other people online.
Our duty is not just to call out the bullying but to be accountable for our behaviour. Just because Cantone sent the footage to her ex and friends did not give them the right to share it on social media. Similarly, it did not provide the bystanders with the right to share. Our humanity demands we do not pass it on. Like her friend Mr Teresa Petrosino says “I wonder how anyone can be so fierce… to rage against a girl who has not done anything wrong.” It is time for legislation for sharing such images and penalties for sites that allow them.
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