I haven’t looked.
This past Sunday, hundreds of nude photos of major female celebrities, such as Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, and Kate Upton, were leaked onto the forum website of 4chan. The veracity of some of the photos are still up for debate, but many have been confirmed as authentic. J Law’s publicist confirmed hers and Mary Elizabeth Winstead tweeted that hers were taken by her husband and had been deleted. And with those two on the list, that’s almost half of the Freebie Five that I would have if I had a significant other.
However, despite the physical attraction I have to these celebrities, I didn’t google their pics. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t tempted, we all have our issues, but I was able to maintain my resolve. Which then affords me the moral high ground to write this post. But…wait a minute. Why am I patting myself on the back for not looking at nude pictures of people who didn’t consent for me to see them? How is that right?
It goddamn isn’t.
As a society, we can agree that 4chan is just the worst. Yet the place that these images purportedly first surfaced, AnonIB, is the ISIS to 4chan’s Al-Qaeda, a splinter group existing on a completely different level of perversion. They are the dregs of the internet, and the world would be better without this archaic site full of MRAs, pedos, and sociopathic 14-year olds. But I digress, because I would expect this shit from them. What I don’t expect is how quickly the images were shared throughout the (slightly) more reputable online communities such as Imgur and Reddit, and the callousness with which they are dealt. First off, if the Imgur staff is running on full alert deleting these images and albums, then you can be damn well sure that something is wrong. Despite their terms of service, they will allow just about anything to be posted. But the illegality of the whole affair did not deter a large number of users asking for ‘sauce’, links, and how to download full albums, so they could get all of the images on their personal hard drive before the authorities removed them.
This shows an enduring lack of understanding about consent. These celebrities had their right of choice taken away from them, and every person who looks at a picture might as well be trying to sneak a peek through a starlet’s bedroom window. This is their private life, and something that was never meant to be seen outside of a relationship. Yet because it is somebody famous and the images can be seen with the simple click of a mouse, any thoughts about morality goes right out the window that you’re peeping in. A large part of the internet community feels an ownership over these celebrities, thinking about them as objects rather than human beings.
The most popular comment I’ve seen about the leaks is always some variation of, “If she didn’t want them to be seen, she shouldn’t have taken them.” This is victim blaming, pure and simple, and scoffing at them this way leads to the harmful belief that women don’t own their own sexuality. Because some random shitbird decided that celebrities’ privacy is less important than bitcoins, how is that at all her fault? If I buy a car, is it my fault if it gets stolen? If the KFC secret recipe was “hacked”, would we blame KFC for creating it? No, it’s the “hacker’s” fault (and can somebody please get on this. I’d much rather have delicious chicken than J Law nudes [also, hacker is in quotation marks because this appears to be a flaw in the iCloud design that allowed the accounts to be cracked rather than hacked]).
Somehow our society is simultaneously able to seek out these images and judge the subject, as Americans have a curious mix of puritanical prudishness while maintaining a teenage obsession with sex. And despite what you might incorrectly infer from this article, I am not anti-sex. Discussing sex seriously makes many uncomfortable to the point where they have to either shut down the conversation or just awkwardly laugh it off, but I believe we should take a more libertine stance in our country, as the holdover puritanism of early America is obsolete. If parents and schools concentrated on educating our young men and women in both sexual health and what consent means (a not-impaired, non-threatened person saying yes), the country would become a much more healthy, respectful, and safe place. Men would stop seeing women as conquests and sexual objects, while women would stop feeling ashamed for natural urges, hopefully ending some of the nasty, voyeuristic tendencies we see from these situations.
Though I guess this could all be summed up by:
Update 9/3/2104: McKayla Maroney’s PR team states that the photos of her that were leaked were taken while she was underage, meaning it is child pornography.