Republished with permission from the Liberty Unyielding blog.
“Susanna Gibson, a House candidate in Virginia, had sex with her husband in live videos posted online and asked viewers to pay them money in return,” notes USA Today. A recent video shows the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s House of Delegates doing sex acts. She allegedly also had sex with other people, not just her husband.
When a Republican operative brought this to the attention of The Washington Post, which ran a story about it, Gibson claimed that was an “illegal invasion of privacy” and a “sex crime.” The New York Times made that dubious “invasion of privacy” claim the focus of its story about her, declining to quote any free-press advocate or lawyer who could have pointed out that Gibson can’t sue for any invasion of privacy over the release of this publicly-available information. Gibson’s lawyer has also claimed that the release of this information is a criminal violation of Virginia’s revenge porn statute. But it is doubtful that this information can be criminalized as revenge porn, given the fact that the First Amendment protects speech on matters of public concern even when a state law defines it as an “invasion of privacy.”
As journalist Brent Scher notes, “Only a Democrat could post videos on Chaturbate for the whole world to watch her doing anal, and get the @nytimes coverage to be about ‘leak of sex tapes’ and ‘invasion of privacy’. It was all on the internet until about 3 days ago!” As another commentator notes, “Susanna Gibson hosted” sex acts “live to her audience of 5,700 subscribers and took requests….on Ch*turbate.” For example, she was “offering to let men watch her pee while she was running for office.”
As The Washington Post reported:
A Democrat running for a crucial seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates performed sex acts with her husband for a live online audience and encouraged viewers to pay them with “tips” for specific requests, according to online videos viewed by The Washington Post.
Susanna Gibson, a nurse practitioner and mother of two young children running in a highly competitive suburban Richmond district, streamed sex acts on Chaturbate, a platform that says it takes its name from “the act of masturbating while chatting online.”
Chaturbate videos are streamed live on that site and are often archived on other publicly available sites. More than a dozen videos of the couple captured from the Chaturbate stream were archived on one of those sites — Recurbate — in September 2022, after she entered the race. The most recent were two videos archived on Sept. 30, 2022.
As the Daily Beast observes, Gibson “had sex with her husband in live videos and encouraged her audience to pay to see specific acts.” And apparently had sex with other people as well.
Gibson’s behavior is classified as criminal activity under the Code of Virginia. If an individual performs sexual acts for money or an equivalent, or if an individual offers to perform sexual acts for money or an equivalent, then the individual is guilty of prostitution, under Section 18.2-346(A) of the Virginia Code.
Having sex on the internet for “tips” or other compensation constitutes prostitution in most states (California is an exception, which is why the porn industry developed there first). For example, Arizona judges have ruled that if you have sex with someone in exchange for money from a third party, that’s prostitution even if it is being done for the purpose of producing pornography.
Gibson could not successfully sue for the “illegal invasion of privacy” she claims. In 2002, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that “public disclosure of true, embarrassing private facts” is not a reason to sue for invasion of privacy in Virginia. Virginia is where any lawsuit by Gibson would be filed against the political operative who brought the videos to The Washington Post’s attention. (See footnote 5 of the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision in WJLA-TV v. Levin (2002)).
Even if that were not true, Gibson still could not sue for invasion of privacy, because people have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they perform sexual acts for viewers on the internet.
Moreover, disclosing such videos is protected by the First Amendment. That’s because there is a strong public interest in reporting on such activity by politicians, as a California Superior Court judge ruled in Hill v. Heslep, which imposed anti-SLAPP sanctions against ex-Congresswoman Katie Hill for filing a lawsuit over the release of photos of her engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct far milder than that which Gibson engaged in for money. The Supreme Court ruled in Time v. Hill that the invasion-of-privacy tort is limited by the First Amendment when a lawsuit is brought over speech on a matter of public concern.
But that isn’t stopping Gibson from trying to shut people up. She is claiming that the disclosures are a “sex crime.” As a state Libertarian Party notes, “Susanna Gibson, a Democrat in Virginia, performed live sex acts for tips, streaming them on the internet for anyone to watch. She’s now claiming that sharing them is a ‘sex crime’ and illegal.”
As Rich Baris observes, “I do not care about pols’ sex lives and don’t think most voters care, either. But they do care when people like Susanna Gibson are purporting to be something they’re not, and refusing to own when they get caught, calling it a ‘sex crime’ to expose her publicly available online activities. Takes a lot of nerve to claim it’s ‘an illegal invasion of my privacy’ because people found out without paying for it. Of course, the public deserves to know whether that money from her husband [to finance her campaign] came from Chaturbate.”
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