Why Buying Taylor Won't Stop Trolls

by Allison McCarthy

In some WTF news, Taylor Swift bought porn site domains recently. But no, she's not trying to get into adult entertainment, her management bought and to prevent trolls from capitalizing on her name. At first glance, the details behind the future of online pornography seem, well, a bit dull. The next chapter for the booming porn industry is in the hands of a nonprofit. In June 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) increased the number of generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Some of the most familiar gTLDs include .net, .org and .com. But more options are coming.

In a statement, ICANN proclaimed: "New gTLDs will change the way people find information on the Internet and how businesses plan and structure their online presence. Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways."

Four years later, ICANN says they're ready to roll out their plan, with more than 547 new gTLDs set for release. During the company's self-proclaimed "sunrise period," high-profile individuals and companies were invited to purchase the domains before the rest of the public could lay claim to the sites.

The absurdity of Swift's decision wasn't lost on comedians. Pop culture comedy sites Funny or Die and The A.V. Club created lists of suggested Taylor Swift domain names. As usual, The Daily Show had a ready quip:

Clearly, the story was great for a few jokes. But as a deterrent for trolls, I think buying the domain names was a bad move. Here's why:

1. In case you weren't already thinking of "Taylor Swift porn," now you are.

Squeaky-clean singer and pop icon Taylor Swift doesn't have a background in adult entertainment, so it's a bit curious as to why the announcement from CNN Money reads like a press release. If the intention was to craft a more erotic figure of Taylor Swift in the public imagination, her publicists have succeeded admirably.

"What a great, manipulative way to draw attention to how sexy Taylor Swift is," says Shira Tarrant, associate professor of women's studies at California State University and co-editor of the anthology New Views On Pornography: Sexuality, Politics and the Law. "It strikes me as 'don't think of pink elephants.' This story enables us to think of her in a more titillating way." As in, Whatever you do, don't think of Taylor Swift naked. Don't do it. Don't even try to... Oops.

2. If there's money to be made, people will keep making these sites.

This shouldn't be news, but there's a lot of money to be made in porn. reports that there are currently more than 4.2 million websites dedicated to pornography, comprising approximately 12 percent of the entire Internet. $3,075.64 is spent on pornography every second.

"Why do human beings feel compelled to hurt other human beings for profit? That's what humans do: they make money off other people's misery," says David Henry Sterry, a featured performer in the Sex Worker Literati series and author of the memoir Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, about his time as a teenage sex worker.

"But this, to me, feels like it's on a whole different, personal and disgusting level of invasion. No matter how many domain names she buys, people will figure out a way to use her image to sexualize her without her consent. To shame her. To make money."

Now that the phrase "Taylor Swift porn" is making headlines, it's inevitable that people will try to cash in. And the situation for non-consensual porn, as it stands, is already pretty dire.

3. This won't stop the spread of revenge porn.

The intent behind buying and was to keep trolls from easily producing Swift-themed pornography. Unfortunately, that's only a stop-gap measure for an ongoing epidemic: revenge porn.

"Our laws have not kept up with our technology," says Tarrant. "Revenge porn is a serious problem." She's right. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties (CRCL) Law Review's Mark Thomson defined revenge porn as "the public online posting of nude or sexually explicit pictures of a person, often with attached identifying information or derogatory comments... Misogyny, norms about sexuality, and power imbalances between harasser and victim give revenge porn its power." The rising popularity of revenge porn raises uncomfortable questions on privacy and the internet. And for women, the problem of revenge porn seems to be getting much worse.

In an op-ed for The Feminist Wire, Carmer Rane Hudson highlights the consequences of revenge porn. "The damage to a victim’s reputation is bad enough," writes Hudson. "But the revenge porn trend has actively exposed most of these women to danger. Women have received rape threats and death threats from hundreds of thousands of men, often in less than 24 hours after the photographs go up."

For famous women like Swift, the stakes are particularly high. "Our sexual images are at risk of being taken from us, which we know from the many reported cloud thefts. Taylor Swift has the right to be sexy as she sees fit, but our lives haven't kept up with the technology," says Tarrant. "If she wants to be sexy, that's one thing. If her sexiness is stolen from her, that's quite another."

Images: Giphy 1, 2, 3