In 2016 Tiziana Cantone, a 33 years old Neapolitan woman, took her own life after her ex-partner spread online a video of her practicing oral sex on him. In Italy, the term Revenge Porn starts to enter public discussions and in 2019 a law named “Code red” is passed, introducing the felony of illicit dissemination of sexually explicit images or videos without the consent of the people represented (revenge porn). A more accurate term to describe such crime, argue feminist researchers and organizations, would be Image-Based Abuse, a term that allows avoiding the instant sexualization of a body that the term “porn” insinuates and the victim-blaming connotation that the word “revenge” holds. Despite the apparent progress of such a law, only a few weeks ago in November, a kindergarten teacher from Turin was the victim not only of her ex-partner spreading in a public chat erotic images and a video she made for him but, when the video reached some of the parents of the children in her class, she was also blackmailed by them and finally denounced to the headmistress who fired her.
The teacher sued and won the case; the people involved, from the ex-partner to the headmistress, are facing consequences. But on Pornhub the most searched video in Italy is still hers; she had to face an onslaught by the media and, although the ex-partner has been
sentenced (only) to a year of community service, the rhetoric that surrounds him is still one that paints him as naive, with no intent to harm or hurt anyone. Instead, around her weighs heavy the echo of shame and the patronizing and victim-blaming discourse whispering “you should not have exposed yourself this way in the first place”. But, especially in a world in which COVID-19 binds us to our homes, often alone, often without the physical touch of another, how does this punitive, abolitionist discourse impact the way we collectively live our
sexual lives? When spreading or catching the virus becomes inextricably tied to experiencing physical closeness, our lives move to the digital realm: we work online, we see friends online, we shop, buy food, go to concerts and events online. Why should we be afraid to fuck online as well?
In the capitalist, heteropatriarchal, proto-catholic culture in which we live, womxn* will always bear the weight of shame; the original shame, the original sin that is enacted daily, a shame that we all hide underneath our clothes, that makes us impure, one that makes us
indecent, that makes our bodies inherently sexual and inherently there for the consumption of others. But nudity is not obscene. Nudity is not unprofessional. Nudity is not shameful. What is obscene, unprofessional, and shameful is what this culture makes of nudity in its
patriarchal, misogynistic, objectifying, and discriminating mind. This digital artwork seeks to address the tension and ambivalence that young people and womxn experience for existing in a deeply digitalized world and living through a pandemic whilst also being discouraged from and shamed for engaging in sexting, cam sex, and phone sex. The work wants to raise questions about the fundamental importance of teaching and practicing enthusiastic, informed, free, reversible, and specific consent in a digital context. It aims to reflect on how we perceive nudity and bodies, on the feelings of shame we attach to them, and on the implosion of the concepts of private and the public that quarantine brings us to experience.
To the teacher from Turin and to all those who are not ashamed.
* “Womxn” as a term that is inclusive of non-binary people, trans women, cis women, and all feminized people who experience some form of misoginy in their lives.
Fra(m)menti (from the Italian “fragments”, but also “among minds”), is a transfeminist queer art collective based in Milan. We work with a feminist, intersectional, critical but playful approach to activism and cultural and artistic work. We operate both online and offline, organizing cultural and educational events and activities discussing feminist issues through artistic practices as sites of critical creativity. The collective currently counts fifteen people, all invested in creating a free, safe(r) and participated space where we value pluralism, celebrate differences, practice inclusivity, and suspend all judgment.
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