So the other day, as you probably know, someone on 4chan leaked a bunch of nude photos of celebrities on the site’s notorious /b/ board, triggering a drama bomb that sent waves of controversy around the internet. Some of the celebs whose nudes got leaked included:
- Jennifer Lawrence.
- Kate Upton.
- Justin Verlander.
- McKayla Maroney (olympic gymnast).
- And others.
I’ll start by getting the necessary disclaimers out of the way:
- The photo leak was obviously an illegal act and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
- The celebrities affected obviously were not “asking” for this and deserve to have their privacy respected as much as is possible given the reality of their position.
However, despite that, there are a few aspects of the media’s coverage of this event I take serious issue with. I’ll start with what I think is the most obvious:
1. Celebrities Being Treated Like Fragile, Special Snowflakes.
Here’s one example:
Remember, when you look at these pictures you are violating these women again and again. It’s not okay.
– Lena Dunham.
With a few exceptions, the people who had their photos leaked in The Fappening were famous multimillionaire celebs. These are people whose livelihood depends on constant public exhibition and display. They are used to the limelight; paparazzo are well known figures in their lives. They know privilege and wealth beyond anything the rest of us can comprehend. This doesn’t make what happened to them right. But let’s not pretend that this is on the same level as some innocent kid being forced to strip naked and have pictures taken against their will & distributed around the internet. These are public figures and, like all public figures, their privilege, as well as their fame, makes some level of privacy intrusion inevitable. As much as the photo leak was, legally speaking, a crime, it’s not the tragedy these commentators are making it out to be… Nor is it even that unusual.
2. Claims That This Was An Act Of Sexual Assault.
Here’s one example of this gem of an argument:
“Stealing someone’s naked photos is the same as tearing someone’s clothes off in public. It’s sexual assault.”
– Lucas Neff
Now let’s look up the definition of assault, per Cornell Law School:
Intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.
Key word: contact. But let’s get even more specific. Here’s the definition of SEXUAL assault, from Princeton.edu:
a statutory offense that provides that it is a crime to knowingly cause another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat.
As far as I can recall, whatever sexual acts took place in the pictures (if indeed any did occur) were completely consensual. The only thing that was not consensual was somebody accessing the pictures. That’s not causing anyone to do anything. I almost have to question the mindset of somebody who calls this sexual assault. Are they just flagrantly lying, hoping nobody will call their bluff? I’d hate to think that but the argument they’re making is just so stupid I can’t see any mature adult making it with any intention other than to dupe people who are just so stupid or gullible they don’t even question half of what they hear.
3. “Women’s Rights Issue.”
Then we have those who have described The Fappening as some kind of women’s rights disaster. One such example.
Indeed, we know this because while the attacks on celebrity women grab the headlines, the vast majority of victims of non-consensual nude picture-sharing—usually called “revenge porn”—are ordinary, non-famous women.
– Amanda Marcotte.
Marcotte also felt the need to include this little gem of emotional blackmail in her piece:
These hackers, likely mostly or all men, have a semi-private group that exists just to trade stolen photos and, of course, brag about getting the biggest “score” in terms of the fame of the person whose privacy they’ve violated.
“Most or all of them men.” Really now. I’m sorry, I thought some gang of rogue lesbians was responsible for the leak.
But to get back to the main point, that of revenge porn. This bothers me for three reasons:
- The author doesn’t present any evidence that there is an “epidemic” of revenge porn. What constitutes an “epidemic?” I know hundreds of people and none of them have been victims of revenge porn. Unless my own personal experience is way out of the ordinary, this problem is hardly comparable to a medical epidemic, which requires that a substantial proportion of the population be affected.
- Revenge porn isn’t JUST a male on female crime; according to the Wake Forest Law review, 22.5% of victims were male. Not equal, but not as dramatically lopsided against women as Marcotte would have you believe.
- What the hell does revenge porn have to do with The Fappening? Key word: revenge. Who exactly was being “avenged” in the nude photo leak? Unless I’m missing some major details on the case here, I don’t think these two issues are at all related.
Under the law, everybody has a right to privacy. That includes celebrities as well as non-celebrities. It’s regrettable that J Lawrence and others had the humiliating experience of having their private photos leaked onto the internet. But the claim, advanced by the media and celebs themselves, that this issue has anything to do with “sexual assault” or “revenge porn” or any of the other nefarious crimes they want to associate it with, is pure nonsense. The hacker’s action were essentially a paparazzi act; slimey, to be sure, but nothing the grown adults who were affected by it can’t handle. So let’s all be big boys and girls and forget about it.