This week, ‘leaked’ photos of celebrities ended up on 4Chan and Reddit – those pseudo cool sites where desperate men go for wank-bank material – and then continued being circulated around other social media sites. I say ‘leaked’ because that term implies an oops situation, a somehow accidental occurrence with limited fallout – that isn’t what this was. Calling them ‘leaked’ trivialises the situation, undermines the validity of the victims in feeling outraged and abused and suggests that this was an inevitable consequence to be expected. Hacking into people’s private accounts, stealing private photographs and ransoming them out for bitcoins, kudos or whatever isn’t an accident – it’s abuse. It’s a violation of privacy. It is a violation of consent. Worryingly though, I think that is what some people are enjoying the most. The humiliation; the embarrassment. Tearing apart women and then proclaiming that patriarchy doesn’t exist.
These photographs weren’t meant for us. They weren’t meant to be seen by dry dick dudes desperately refreshing their twitter feeds in hopes of an ass shot. They weren’t meant to be seen by detached, faceless observers who casually download an image and then instantly forget it, thus further reinforcing the idea that female bodies are objects to be used, disposable and easily tossed aside. Viewing them from whatever angle you’re using to justify it, isn’t okay. Unless those photos were personally sent to you by the person involved, they weren’t meant for you.
Somehow, the issue of consent seems to blow the minds of some people. I have heard countless excuses as to why the photos are fair game; they shouldn’t have taken them in the first place; they are celebrities so it’s fine; Kate Upton poses nude anyway! What’s the difference?! They should have been more careful with deleting or storing the images… My answer to all of this is stop with the victim blaming bullshit. That includes you Ricky Gervais – we all saw your tweet. Being a celebrity does not mean you sign away the rights to your private life; it shouldn’t. Choosing to act or sing or model shouldn’t bring with it conditions such as your naked body, vulnerable, sexual, posing for your partner, being public property. It is NOT the same as posing for a photo shoot, where you consent to the images being seen, where you choose which images are used and included in a magazine spread, where you are in control of the situation. It is not the same as appearing topless in a movie where you consent and context is your friend and you have a discussion about what can and can’t be shown on screen etc. Just because a woman chooses to pose nude in certain situations, does not mean that her body is yours whenever you feel like it. She has the right to dictate the conditions of her exposure.
Blaming women for this by saying they shouldn’t take nude photos is just another symptom of a society which would rather focus on blaming the victim, than on tackling entitlement to our bodies, privilege, objectification of women and the routine way in which we dehumanise celebrities. It is the modern media equivalent of saying don’t go out in a low cut top. Sites like The Spectator who say that ‘women are being let down by their ignorance of the pitfalls of technology’ and ‘ girls must learn to protect themselves on-line by taking meticulous precautions against digital theft’ miss the point completely and play into the idea that it’s somehow the victims fault. If only those silly girls knew about technology, this would have all been alright, yeah?! In addition, no one seems to care that somewhere behind these images are people requesting them. No one seems to challenge memes like these, that encourage men to view women as objects and public property – who seem unable to understand the difference between consensual behaviour and privacy.
We have become so adjusted to defending the rights of men to control and objectify women, that rather than challenge the hacking, the posting and the subsequent refusal of sites like Reddit or Perez Hilton to take the images down, we lay the blame on the women for taking the photos in the first place. Instead of protecting the women, we defend the hacker and poster;
We shame them for their actions, judge them. The way in which society treats female celebrities is misogyny in practice; we build them up; elevate them to giddy heights and then get off on the subsequent fall from grace. Look at Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears. It is terrifying how quickly society turns against women and feels duty bound and justified in tearing them apart.
One of the celebrities released a statement saying the images were for her husband and the collective sigh of relief from certain areas of Twitter were palpable – this was ‘acceptable,’ the images were for her husband! Of course! This complies with the heteronormative relationship focus we fall back on and people felt able to ‘justify’ these much more quickly than they could others that had no obvious recipient. Those women were ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’ for their behaviour obviously and people frothed at the mouth; one hand typing viscous insults, the other jerking off.
Taking nude photos is not a crime, not bad, not the issue. Hacking and stealing and violating trust is. That’s the problem. People feeling entitled to see the images, who believe that these women’s bodies are public property and there to be lusted over, that is is the problem. It’s interesting to me that we have a culture where women are sexualised, told to be sexual, sexed up and yet when they conform to this ideal, when they are acting in a sexual manner they are shamed for it anyway. If anything screams we can’t win, it’s this situation. Women being blamed for being sexual by a society that damn near demands it of them.