Back in the good old days of 2011 when Nazis were indisputably punchable and the President of the United States did not issue orders via Twitter, a fellow by the name of Paul Elam launched a website called “Register Her.” It was a domain dedicated to publishing the photographs, home addresses, phone numbers, routes to work and/or any other personal information folks could acquire–a practice commonly called “doxxing”–of women who have caused “significant harm to innocent individuals.” Alongside convicted female sex offenders and murderers were… women whose sexual assault allegations were defeated in court. Most feminists would recognize the problems immediately: How there exists a gap between morality and legality; how courts must convict with evidence that proves the defendant performed the deed “beyond all reasonable doubt;” how an acquittal doesn’t necessarily mean the action had not occurred. And that’s without taking into account the evidence that most law systems perform poorly when attempting to prosecute sexualized violence. The final, perhaps most critical detail, is that he wasn’t the sole contributor. His followers can and did propose their own profiles for the women who had, in their view, wronged them, and doxxing soon became a mainstay of online “men’s rights activism.” It became an assumption that if you were being filmed by MRAs, your face could end up on the darknet, and your details shortly thereafter.
Most people would agree, given this context, that if Paul Elam walks up to you with a video camera and you’re a woman, he’s engaging in an act of intimidation, because we know what he does with those images. Now the courts might say “it’s legal to film someone in public,” but, again, recalling our morality/legality gap, courts have also said upskirt photographs are legal too. Again, it’s not a particularly difficult analysis to perform–the law is behind most people’s conceptions for morality, so the argument “it’s legal” should be understood to be irrelevant when the actual discussion is ethics. It is, in essence, surrendering the argument altogether, though to those of an authoritarian bend it is convincing.