Sex tapes – whether home made or professionally produced – have become so common they are virtually part of our culture. Unsurprisingly, “revenge porn” has become almost as common. Add the internet to the mix, making it so easy to disseminate sexual material on-line, and it becomes a question of when, not whether, these tapes, often driven by a desire for revenge, go viral.

Under British law, “revenge porn” is defined as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.” And it’s illegal.

However, revenge porn in the context of sex tapes goes far beyond the relatively common situation of one party posting on-line footage that may have been shot in earlier and happier times before a relationship ended. It is far broader than the narrow legal definition. Revenge porn shows itself in many other situations, including in the conduct of third party abusers of the participants in sex tapes.

Participating in a sex tape leaves you vulnerable to emotional and even physical abuse. And I’m not just talking about the recent trend of “revenge porn” that we often assume is limited to the breakdown of an intimate relationship. Revenge porn covers a far wider range of situations than that – including family, friends, current and prospective employers and workmates – even complete strangers.

The reality is that if you make a sex tape, when it gets out (and you should assume it will), it not only affects you, it affects your family, your friends, your acquaintances and the rest of your life.

You may be surprised to learn that some people who are very close to you will use the fact you made a sex tape against you at any opportunity. It will be virtually impossible to overcome.

Making a home sex tape is no different to making porn. They are both sex on film; they are both available to the whole world; there is little you can do to erase or control access to them; and in the wrong hands they can be soul destroying – even life destroying.

As a strong, confident person, it’s natural to think that tomorrow is another day and everything we do today will be fine tomorrow. And you’re right to some extent. However, you need to realise that what you choose to do today can affect you tomorrow, and the day after that, and the one after that too – forever. Before you know it, you will be 30 or 40 years of age, and you will still be living with the consequences of the choices you make today.

Trust me, I know. I can talk openly and expertly about these topics because I made one of those choices – I joined the porn industry. And I have suffered abuse as a consequence of that decision that has affected me far more than anyone can realise. In my 20’s, I lived a carefree existence. And like most 20-somethings, I had no crystal ball to show me how my decisions would affect me later in life. I was a young, single female, and full of confidence. In the absence of a capable and supportive partner, I entered the world of porn to make the money I needed to support my young family. And, at the time, I loved it. I achieved my financial goals – each of my children – and on occasion their father for that matter – wanted for nothing.

But it cost me dearly, both emotionally and physically. I made the mistake of thinking I could move back into a normal way of life after I had achieved my goals and left the industry. The reality was that I could not.

It seemed that everyone I knew had seen me having sex on film. Some even thought it was OK to try and touch me when I was out – for the record, it was not OK. People I once considered friends insulted me, even saying I was nothing but a slag – I was not a slag. Even some of my own family used the fact I had participated in sex tapes against me when they wanted the upper hand in an argument. They constantly reminded me of how it affected them. Seriously, it got to the point where I felt so insulted and emotionally beaten that on occasions I thought it would have been better if I had never been born. One member of my close family even said outright that it would have been easier for her if I had never existed.

So, how did I deal with it? I saw a counsellor for a while to help me cope with the abuse, and its impact on my self-esteem. That was helpful.

The most positive strategy I devised to deal with the effects on me of the abuse and insults and associated self-loathing, was my decision to help others as a sex and relationships adviser.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the ability to survive this sort of abuse and insults. On occasion, even I have doubted whether I could survive the abuse I have endured, and still endure 18 years later.  

That is why I am so passionate that every young girl should understand the effects making a sex tape could have on their later life. It can be so difficult for them to understand that their current love is not forever. But the effects of a decision to impress their boyfriend on tape may be just that – forever! The self-destructive journey that follows is a long road to travel. Most victims of revenge porn will try to travel it alone because of the low self-esteem that results from the abuse and insults. Trust me, there is no lonelier road than losing people you love – and who should love you – because of their abuse and insults aimed at your life choices – to use your past as revenge against you. 

Your decision to make a sex tape will always be remembered. You will always be remembered for it – as “that” girl. And you will spend a lot of time defending your decision and actions.

Sure, you may be fortunate enough to have people in your life who accept you for who you are, not what you did – who will accept that your past has made you the person you are and who they love today. And that’s how it should be, of course.

Unfortunately, some people will simply overlook the context of your past decisions and actions; they will ignore all that you have achieved, and what you have done for them; most of all, they will not consider who you are today. They will simply use your past decisions and actions to try to destroy you. And, even more unfortunate, is the fact that often the people who do so, are those who are closest to you – those you love and who are supposed to love you – people you have supported and loved their entire lives.

I want to make people understand that revenge porn goes far beyond the scenario where – “boy meets girl; they think they’re in love; they make a sex tape; and one of them shares it with the world when they break up”. The impact of revenge porn is far wider than that. It includes insulting someone for making a personal choice to make a sex film. And that insult is not fun; it’s not clever; it’s nothing short of mental abuse. 

Hopefully, at some time in the future, you will be hopelessly in love and feel you will be with that person forever. The reality is you may not be. It takes experience to realise relationships don’t always end amicably. Often, they end with hurt on both sides. Which is why everyone needs to learn the skills on how to deal with ending a relationship; to understand and accept others’ life choices; to empathise with others’ feelings and reactions. It’s about mutual love, respect and empathy.

So, remember, it’s OK not to be always  available for people; it’s OK to not want to do as others do or they may want you to do; it’s OK to say ‘NO’ to a boyfriend, maybe your first love, who is asking for a video of you masturbating or having sex. Unless you have complete ownership of that footage it is never OK. It is never OK to provide such entertainment for anyone’s pleasure if you are not in a solid relationship. I would suggest reminding your partner that the brain is actually the biggest sex organ, and that watching professional pornography is just as good, if not better, than making your own. 

But most importantly, remember also, if you know someone who has got themselves into this situation, it is so important to hold out your hand and accept and support them. Don’t abuse them. Abuse cannot be taken back. Otherwise, you are as guilty of revenge porn as the criminal who posted the film on-line in the first place – oh, and you’re also a coward