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What is it?

Image-based sexual abuse is an umbrella term that refers to the non-consensual:

1) distribution of intimate images/videos;

2) recording of intimate images/videos (upskirting/downblousing); and

3) threatening to distribute or record intimate images/videos.

It also includes distributing, recording, and threatening to record intimate images or videos that have been altered, such as photoshopped imagery or deepfakes. 

Altered, doctored, or manipulated pornographic imagery can occur in many forms including:

  1. 'Face Swapping' 

This form of manipulated imagery is where person A's face is superimposed onto pornographic material of person B (such as naked photos) in such a way to depict person A as being in the pornographic material. Examples include the manipulation of images where:

  • person A is depicted in images as a naked adult actress engaged in sexual intercourse;

  • person A is depicted posing in solo sexually explicit shots;

  • person A is depicted being ejaculated on by naked male adult actors; and

  • person A is depicted on pornographic movie covers.

Text of person A's name can also be superimposed onto the manipulated media to falsely depict person A. 

2. 'Transparent Edits'

This form of manipulated imagery is where a person's clothes are digitally manipulated to give the effect of it being transparent or wet. For example, a woman's blouse can be edited so that the appearance of computer-generated/fake nipples can be seen through their clothes

3. 'Cumonprintedpics' or 'tributes'

This form of manipulated imagery is where a perpetrator has ejaculated onto an image of person A, and has taken an image of their semen (with/without penis) on person A's image. The perpetrator then takes this secondary image (containing person A's image and perpetrator's penis/semen) and posts it online. 

4. 'Bodily Alterations' 

This form of manipulated imagery is where a perpetrator digitally manipulates an image of person A by enlarging or enhancing person A's private parts, particularly the breasts or bottom. The alterations are usually very extreme.

5. 'Juxtapositions' 

This form of image-based sexual abuse is where a perpetrator doesn't necessarily alter an image of person A, but instead juxtaposes (places side-by-side) an image of person A next to say, a pornographic image of person B, where person B has a similar-looking appearance/body to person A. The perpetrator may then expressly or impliedly indicate that the pornographic image of person B is person A.

6. 'Unidentifiable Alterations'

This form of image-based abuse is where a perpetrator digitally manipulates an image of person A (into highly sexual material) but person A cannot be (objectively) identified at all.

In this grey area, I believe that it really doesn't matter whether person A can be identifiable by third parties, what matters is whether person A can identify themselves, because of how violating and degrading it is to be the subject of the digital manipulation in itself.

Recommended Reading

  1. Flynn, A & Henry, N (2019) ‘Image-Based Sexual Abuse: An Australian Reflection’, Women and Criminal Justice, online first,

  2. Flynn, A (2019) ‘Image-Based Abuse: The Disturbing Phenomenon of the “Deep Fake”’, Monash Lens, 12 March.

  3. Henry, N & Flynn, A (2019) ‘Image-Based Sexual Abuse: Online Distribution Channels and Illicit Communities of Support’, Violence Against Women. Online first

  4. Henry, N, McGlynn, C, Flynn, A, Johnson, K, Powell, A, & Scott, AJ (2020) Image-Based Sexual Abuse: A Study on the Causes and Consequences of Non-Consensual Nude and Sexual Imagery, London; New York: Routledge.

  5. McGlynn, C., Rackley, E., Johnson, K., Henry, N., Gavey, N., Flynn, A. & Powell, A. (2020) ‘It’s Torture for the Soul: The Harms of Image-Based Sexual Abuse’, Social & Legal Studies, online first,

  6. Powell, A, Henry, N, Flynn, A & Scott, AJ (2019) ‘Image-Based Sexual Abuse: The Extent, Nature, and Predictors of Perpetration in a Community Sample of Australian Adults’, Computers in Human Behavior 92: 393-402.

  7.  Powell, A., Scott, A.J., Flynn, A. & Henry, N. (2020) Image-based sexual abuse: An international study of victims and perpetrators – A Summary Report. Melbourne: RMIT University.

  8. Powell, A, Henry, N & Flynn, A (2018) ‘Image-Based Sexual Abuse’, in WS DeKeseredy & M Dragiewicz (eds) Handbook of Critical Criminology. New York: Routledge, Chapter 25.

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