#MyBodyMyTerms Fights Rape Culture

by Jaime Lutz

Rape culture seems like this horrible, dragon-like monster that just won't die. We see it in everything from victim-blaming language to the obnoxious response feminists get for even just talking about their opinions on the Internet. Now, though, a New Zealand-based social media campaign called #MyBodyMyTerms is subverting the conversation around rape culture in an ingenious way: Through nude photographs. Created by Kiwi feminist website Villainesse, #MyBodyMyTerms shows people speaking out about sexual violence by reclaiming their bodies — and it's as powerful as it is important.

It's a particularly clever response to rape culture when you find out that the campaign initially began as a response to revenge porn — the disgusting practice of posting nude, private photographs to the Internet as a form of revenge, often for a break-up. "I’d heard about a growing number of cases and when someone I knew had private images of them shared online, I had my 'enough!' moment," Lizzie Marvelly, a singer-songwriter and the editor of the Villainesse website, tells Bustle in an interview. "Revenge porn, however, is only one part of a larger cultural issue, so it made sense to try to spark a wider conversation about sex, consent, sexual violence and victim-blaming."

The campaign has blown up, with over 300,000 views on the initial video about the campaign. See it below:

The models in the photographs range from public figures like transgender advocate Mary Haddock-Staniland to everyday New Zealanders. "They each have their reasons for wanting to be involved, from Guy [comedian Guy Williams], who wanted to highlight an important issue, to the inspirational Teuila [Blakely, an actress], who had experienced revenge porn very publicly," Marvelly says, adding that New Zealand has some of the worst sexual violence rates in the first world.

The campaign has gotten popular enough that Marvelly has even seen complete strangers post photos of themselves with "#mybodymyterms" written on their bodies — in some cases, as a response to their past experiences dealing with sexual violence. "Many of the people in the campaign were inspired by their own experiences to get involved and we all felt that it was time to speak out," Marvelly says.

No one campaign can end rape culture, of course, but it's truly inspiring to see women (and men! Men also got their photos taken! Let's celebrate men who recognize the problem of rape culture!) choosing to show their bodies on their own terms. Try to look at the photos and not feel a swell of pride:

See more of #MyBodyMyTerms at Villainesse.

Images: Courtesy of Emily Raftery/Villainesse