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If all of the things that Michael Brutsch did, as “Violentacrez,” are protected free speech, then we are saying they are legitimate. Freedom of speech only protects the kinds of speech that some version of the social “we” has determined not to be violent. And by saying that what he did was protected, we are determining that those forms of violence against women are not, in fact, violent. And this matters because something so insubstantial as “culture” has a powerful impact on the actual practice of the law. The more we value a man’s right to violate the integrity of women’s bodies, the more stand behind that as merely “speech,” the less we will understand the violation that such acts always imply and propagate. And the more we think this way, the more invisible these forms of violence become…The more we understand creepshots not to be a violation—and circulating them to be a morally neutral act—the less we will be able to understand women to be people who can be violated, since the mere act of occupying a body that can be photographed becomes the consent required to do so.
This is a very good essay that doesn’t just dismiss free speech arguments defending creepshots as irrelevant (since Reddit is a private company), but examines the cultural context of such arguments. The invocation of the free speech argument is essentially an attempt to legitimize creepshots in our culture, to normalize predatory behavior by men. Those who invoke free speech rights to defend Michael Brutsch and other creeps are essentially telling us they think the rights of creepy men outweigh the rights of the women they prey on.
Why should we value the freedom of men to take suggestive pictures of women without their consent more than the freedom of women to go out in public without having such pictures of them taken? Why are these men’s rights and freedoms automatically more important than the rights and freedoms of women?