Yesterday, the biggest news story in the world was – apparently- that a group of famous women had had their phones and computers hacked, with hundreds of nude photos digitally stolen, copied and distributed countless times across the internet. Some famous men had their photos stolen too, but surprise surprise, I have yet to see any suggestion that they were ‘asking for it’ or their morals being called into question for having bodies which don’t always have clothes on.
Let’s be clear. The theft of intimate photos of women is not a scandal, or a ‘leak’ that they could have somehow prevented if they weren’t so careless. It is a sex crime, and it should be treated as such. To say, as Ricky Gervais did, for example, that if you don’t want nude photos stolen from your computer then you shouldn’t keep nude photos on your computer is senseless victim blaming. Every one of these women had the right to take whatever photos they wanted of themselves, for whatever reason they chose. In the case of Mary Winstead, who had deleted her photos some time ago, one can only ‘imagine the creepy effort that went into [obtaining them.]‘
It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Kate Upton, Victoria Justice and the rest are beautiful women who I’m sure a lot of men want to see naked. There are hundreds of equally beautiful women on the Internet who want you to look at them naked, and who have taken photos voluntarily for you to do so. Any titillation that comes with these stolen photos is directly a result of the humiliation of the women involved, of the fact that these photos weren’t “supposed” to be seen. In short, it comes from the lack of consent given. And if you’re the kind of person who gets a thrill out of women’s bodies used sexually without their consent, then there are registers for people like you.
I remember a few years ago, before I’d really developed a feminist conscience, when nude photos of Vanessa Hudgens were stolen. She was forced to apologise for her ‘lapse in judgement‘ and say that she hoped she would learn a ‘valuable lesson‘ from the ordeal. Looking back on it now, it is infuriating that the victim of a crime was made to apologise for an incident where she should have been given nothing but support. Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton are other examples of private sexual imagery, videos in these cases, being released and reproduced without their consent. They both managed to use it to their advantage and build huge careers on the back of it. This should be seen as an admirable show of resilience, but instead they are (still!) constantly chastised for not feeling appropriately ashamed of what they chose to do in their own homes with consenting partners.
It goes to show how much we still hate the idea of women having sexual agency, or indeed, how much we still hate women full stop.
I haven’t seen the latest batch of photos and I have no intention of seeking them out. To do so would to be complicit in a kind of hideous misogyny that I want no part of, and that anyone with even the vaguest sense of conscience should be outraged by.