Can Banning ‘Revenge Porn’ Win Muriel Bowser the Millennial Vote?

Among other things.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
April 9, 2014, 12:33 p.m.

Mur­i­el Bow­ser, the Demo­crat­ic may­or­al nom­in­ee who beat cur­rent D.C. May­or Vin­cent Gray in the primary last week, may have just so­lid­i­fied her cre­den­tials among wo­men and young voters — or at least, made a vali­ant ef­fort.

The Ward 4 City Coun­cil mem­ber on Tues­day in­tro­duced le­gis­la­tion tar­get­ing any­one who will­fully dis­trib­utes sexu­ally com­prom­ising im­ages without an in­di­vidu­al’s con­sent, something that’s come to be known as “re­venge porn.”

Bow­ser, for one, is hip to the lingo. Her pro­pos­al, termed “The Re­la­tion­ship Pri­vacy Pro­tec­tion Act,” would make dis­trib­ut­ing such im­ages a mis­de­mean­or pun­ish­able by up to a year in pris­on and a $2,500 fine. (Cali­for­nia and New Jer­sey have already passed laws crim­in­al­iz­ing the act.)

That re­venge porn mostly tar­gets wo­men (and of­ten young wo­men) shouldn’t come as a sur­prise. “There aren’t pop­u­lar re­venge-porn sites with pic­tures of na­ked men,” The Guard­i­an‘s Jill Filiopvic ex­plained, “be­cause, as a so­ci­ety we don’t think it’s in­her­ently de­grad­ing or hu­mi­li­at­ing for men to have sex.” Young wo­men, in par­tic­u­lar, are less likely to be in a com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship and by ex­ten­sion, most vul­ner­able.

“Re­venge porn is the kind of ab­hor­rent be­ha­vi­or on the In­ter­net that we must do all we can to stop,” Bow­ser said in a press re­lease. “Pro­tect­ing our res­id­ents from ser­i­ous harm and main­tain­ing their pri­vacy on the Web is an im­port­ant pri­or­ity of mine. This bill provides sig­ni­fic­ant pen­al­ties that we hope will de­ter this of­fens­ive prac­tice. I look for­ward to work­ing with my col­leagues for its swift pas­sage.”

The an­nounce­ment comes on the heels of Bow­ser’s de­feat of Gray. She will face Dav­id Catania, a Re­pub­lic­an-turned-in­de­pend­ent, in the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion. Al­though the Demo­crat­ic primary win­ner has gone on to tri­umph in every gen­er­al elec­tion since the Dis­trict began elect­ing a may­or, Bow­ser will face a cred­ible chal­lenger in Catania, a 16-year vet­er­an of the D.C. Coun­cil.

Roughly a quarter of Demo­crat­ic voters who’ve re­gistered since Septem­ber 2010 have for­gone party af­fil­i­ation, with 29,055 re­gis­ter­ing as in­de­pend­ents. Those re­cently ad­ded voters are thought to be part of the wave of young people mov­ing to the Dis­trict, and they com­prise a par­tic­u­larly de­sir­able con­stitu­ency for Bow­ser.

“I think the reas­on we are see­ing an up­tick in new in­de­pend­ent voter re­gis­tra­tion is be­cause so many young mil­len­ni­als are mov­ing in­to the city,” Michelle Diggles, a seni­or polit­ic­al ana­lyst for the D.C.-based cent­rist think tank Third Way re­cently told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “This has be­come an in­cred­ibly young city.”

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