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Why This Revenge Porn Activist Is Selling Nudes to Get to DEF CON

The "tits to DEF CON" campaign, led by Badass Army, has already raised more than $11,000.

by Samantha Cole
Jun 18 2019, 1:00pm

Image credit Kelsey Bressler

When three of the five members of the Badass Army's technical team—a group of activists working against revenge porn—were granted scholarships to attend the world's largest hacking conference, the group didn't want to leave the other two behind. So they got creative.

"Selling nudes to attend #defcon2019. Ten bucks a tit. DM for cashapp," Kelsey Bressler, the CTO of revenge porn activism organization Badass Army, tweeted in early June:

The public discussion that followed online sparked a conversation about who "belongs" at a hacking conference like DEF CON—and even got the founder of the conference involved.

"We set up the GoFundMe based on that joke, and it spiraled from there," Katelyn Bowden, founder and CEO of Badass, told Motherboard. "We are determined to get the whole team to DEF CON because we want to raise awareness for our cause, make connections to those who would be allies against non-consensual pornography, and get a feel for the people who would hack into people's accounts to steal nudes without consent."

Tickets to attend DEF CON cost $300, plus travel and lodging in Las Vegas. Badass's GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $12,000 so far, with proceeds beyond their travel budget going back to the organization and helping revenge porn victims.

Since tweeting about selling nudes to make it to DEF CON, some people have told Kelsey they're disappointed, disgusted, and offended that she chose to sell nudes to make it to the conference.

"Because I am a woman with a body, everyone had an opinion," Kelsey said. "Either they thought it was a clever marketing scheme, or they got pissed off at the idea of a woman doing whatever she wants."

"We’ve seen reactions that range from EXTREMELY angry to incredibly positive," Bowden said. "I wasn’t shocked to see either, honestly. Nudity and sex, especially when it involves women, is taboo—it evokes some feelings in people."

The founder of DEF CON, who goes by Dark Tangent online, tweeted in support of the "tits to DEF CON" campaign. "It’s not a zero sum game or only so many slices are available," he said. "The more people that attend the bigger the pie for everyone."

Jackie Singh (formerly Stokes), founder and CEO of Spyglass Security, stumbled across Kelsey's tweets about her campaign and decided to jump into the conversation.

"Her being maligned for her actions seemed wrong, especially in connection with a 'hacker' event—and that many people might not understand the underlying issues, so it made sense to speak out," Singh told Motherboard. "Transgressive behavior is the norm for hackers, and breasts deserve the freedom to exist inside a technical space. When women use their bodies in ways that make others uncomfortable, many are quick to establish a public pillory."

Kelsey's intentionally left vague whether she's actually sending photos of herself nude to people; many, she said, are messaging her just to see if it's real.

"The whole nature of DEF CON is to be subversive, to buck tradition, and to circumvent any traditional methods, and I think our tongue-in-cheek campaign did just that," Bowden said. "Did we sell nude pics? Did we troll and send pictures of silly things instead? No one knows. That's the point—the whole thing was a social engineering experiment to raise both funds and educate people on the concepts of agency and consent."

If you can social engineer the internet into giving you more than $10,000 using a viral crowdfunding campaign and some boobs, you deserve to attend the hacking conference, Bowden said.

"To all the people who are angry about a woman using her body—a weapon previously used against her—we hope they bring that same energy the next time they see someone’s agency not being respected online," she said. "And we will be seeing them at DEF CON!"

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