If you deliberately seek out any of these images, you are directly participating in the violation not just of numerous women’s privacy but also of their bodies.
In what’s being called the biggest celebrity hacking incident in internet history, more than 100 female celebrities have had their private nude images stolen and published online. The bulk of the images posted have been officially confirmed as belonging to Jennifer Lawrence, but a complete list of victims’ names - including Krysten Ritter, Kate Upton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rihanna, Brie Larson and Kirsten Dunst - has been subsequently published. (Link does not contain pictures, only names.)
The images were first uploaded by an anonymous member of the underground internet sewer known as 4chan and have since been enthusiastically shared across platforms like Reddit and Twitter. A representative for Lawrence has confirmed the images are real, condemning the theft of them as a “flagrant violation of privacy” and adding that “The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos.”
There are a few different issues that a criminal act like this brings up, but before I get into them it’s necessary to make one thing clear: If you deliberately seek out any of these images, you are directly participating in the violation not just of numerous women’s privacy but also of their bodies. These images - which I have not seen and which I will not look for - are intimate, private moments belonging only to the people who appear in them and who they have invited to see them. To have those moments stolen and broadcast to the world is an egregious act of psychic violence which constitutes a form of assault.
The people sharing these images are perpetuating an ongoing assault. The people gleefully looking at them are witnessing and enjoying an ongoing assault. When you have been asked by victims of a crime like this not to exacerbate the pain of that crime and you continue to do so anyway, you are consciously deciding that your enjoyment, your rights and perhaps even just your curiosity are more important than the safety and dignity of the people you’re exploiting.
That out of the way, let’s get a few other things straight.
1. This is not a ‘scandal’
It’s a crime, and we should be discussing it as such. Some media outlets are salaciously reporting it otherwise, as if the illegal violation of privacy involving intimate images is little more than subject for gossip. When associated with sex, the word ‘scandal’ has been typically interpreted as something that assigns responsibility to all parties involved, a consensual act unfortunately discovered and for which everyone owes an explanation or apology. Remember when private nude photos of Vanessa Hudgens (whose name also appears on the list of victims) were leaked online and Disney forced her to publicly apologise for her “lapse in judgment” and hoped she had “learned a valuable lesson”? Never mind that Hudgens was an adult and a victim of privacy violation - the ‘scandal’ was painted as something for which she owed her fans an apology. Which leads us to:
2. These women do not ‘only have themselves to blame’
While depressing, it’s sadly unsurprising to see some people arguing that Lawrence et al brought this on themselves. Part of living in a rape culture is the ongoing expectation that women are responsible for protecting themselves from abuse, and that means avoiding behaviour which might be later ‘exploited’ by the people who are conveniently never held to account for their actions. But women are entitled to consensually engage in their sexuality any way they see fit. If that involves taking nude self portraits for the enjoyment of themselves or consciously selected others, that’s their prerogative.
Victims of crime do not have an obligation to accept dual responsibility for that crime. Women who take nude photographs of themselves are not committing a criminal act, and they shouldn’t ‘expect’ to become victims to one, as actress Mary E. Winstead pointed out on Twitter.
Sending a photograph of your breasts to one person isn’t consenting to having the whole world see those breasts, just as consenting to sex with one person isn’t the same as giving permission for everyone else to fu*k you. Victim blaming isn’t okay, even if it does give you a private thrill to humiliate the female victims of sexual exploitation.
3. It doesn’t matter that ‘damn, she looks good and should own it!’
Stealing and sharing the private photographs of women doesn’t become less of a crime just because you approve them for fapping activity. I’m sure many of the women on this list are confident of their sexual attractiveness. It doesn’t mean they don’t value their privacy or shouldn’t expect to enjoy the same rights to it as everyone else. It also doesn’t mean they want strangers sweating over their images. That line of thinking comes from the same school which instructs women to either ignore of welcome sexual harassment when it’s seemingly ‘positive’ in its sentiments.
None of these women are likely to give a shit that you think their bodies are ‘tight, damn’. Despite what society reinforces to us about the public ownership of women’s bodies, we are not entitled to co-opt and objectify them just because we think we can defend it as a compliment.
I will not be seeking out these images out and I urge everyone else to avoid doing the same. I hope that all the women who have been victimised here are being appropriately supported by the authorities and their network of friends. And I hope sincerely that more people take a stand against this kind of behaviour.
Because this incident aside, it strikes me as deeply ironic that we will vehemently protest a free Facebook messenger app because we’re outraged at reports that it can access our phone’s numbers, and yet turn around and excuse the serving up of women’s bodies for our own pleasure. Our appreciation is no less disgusting just because it’s accompanied by the sound of one hand clapping.
Take a facet of crime, and then look at television shows/movies that feature those criminals as protagonists.
White serial killers.
White political corruption
White drug dealers
I mostly want to talk about this as a TV phenomenon, but pick a crime, any crime, and Western media has probably made a movie/TV series/play/etc. with a white person that romanticizes the criminal activity. No matter what, a white person can do whatever terrible crimes and still have a TV/movie fanbase that loves them.
When you see black or brown people committing crimes on screen, you are to see them thugs and criminal masterminds and people to be beat down.
When you see white people committing crimes on screen, you see a three-dimensional portrait of why someone might commit that crime, how criminals are people too, and how you should even love them for the crimes that they commit because they’re just providing for their families or they’ve wronged or they’re just people and not perfect. This is particularly a luxury given to white male characters, since there few white female criminals as protagonists.
If and of the above shows were about black or brown folks, there would be a backlash of (white) people claiming that TV and movies are romanticizing criminals and are treating them too much like heroes and that it will affect viewers and encourage violence and “thuggish” behavior. And yet fictional white criminals get to have a deep fanbase who loves these white criminals, receive accolades and awards, get called amazing television that portray the complexities of human nature. Viewers of these characters see past the atrocious crimes and into their humanity, a luxury that white characters always have while characters of color rarely do. The closest that mainstream TV has come to showing black criminals as main characters is probably The Wire, and even then, the criminals share equal screen time and equal status as main characters as the police trying to stop them.
The idea that crime can be so heavily romanticized and glorified to such a degree is undoubtedly a privilege given to white characters. The next time you hear someone talk about Dexter Morgan or Walter White in a positive way, it may be an opportunity to rethink how white people can always able to be seen as people no matter what they do, while everyone else can be boiled down to nothing but a criminal.
I always felt extremely uncomfortable with this trope because, not only is it racist, but it tends to feed into the already too common propensity society has to humanize, romanticize and exonerate irrevocably terrible white men. Like if you’re a white man and you commit awful crimes, you will likely go down in history as a legendary celebrity and historical figure
I’ve thought about this but this articulates it well
I don’t know about other English-speaking cultures, but in Britain thick means dim, slow, a bit stupid. So I quite like the fact that the video for Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines features his surname as a hashtag in giant red letters. It’s like he’s misspelling an insult to himself. Flashing up #THICKE on the screen, he might as well include #STUPIDE #MORONE #IDIOTE #BRAINLESSE WANKERE