Editorial: Nude photos amount to real violation
Every sex tape scandal, every violation of a celebrity’s privacy, reveals more about society than it does the victims.
The release Sunday of stolen nude photos of dozens of stars – including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst – was no exception.
What quickly became clear was that there is widespread contempt for famous people. That’s not to say Americans don’t love their celebrities – they do – but they love them as objects of worship that aren’t entitled to expectations of privacy. The argument goes that if you don’t want paparazzi following you around or hackers stealing photos off your phone, don’t become an actress. After all, that’s the price you pay for fame.
Even some fellow celebrities seem to share that perspective. Actor and comedian Ricky Gervais took to Twitter to criticize the women for putting themselves in the position to be exploited. When the inevitable “blaming the victim” backlash arrived, Gervais claimed he was joking and deleted the tweet.
Others saw the hackers’ actions as symptomatic of larger cultural issues.
Roxane Gay, writing for theguardian.com, viewed the crime as nothing less than a calculated effort to “remind women of their place.”
“The further away you are from living as a white, heterosexual, middle-class man, the less privacy you enjoy,” Gay wrote, “the more likely your illusions of privacy will be shattered when you least expect it.”
Buzzfeed’s Anne Helen Peterson went in an entirely different direction, urging Lawrence, Upton and the others to embrace the release of the photos, saying, “Sexuality isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a dirty secret.” And in an effort toward solidarity, the Huffington Post’s Stefanie Williams posted a nude photo of herself at the end of her article, which was headlined, “Nude photo leaks are the new slut-shaming.”
Actress Lena Dunham urged people to fight back against the hacker by not viewing the photos at all, saying that every glimpse amounted to the further violation of the victims.
What’s abundantly clear is that the celebrities did nothing wrong. To argue that they shouldn’t have taken revealing photos of themselves misses the point entirely. Imagine the shock of discovering that someone had hacked your phone and computer, and posted your private information for all the world to see. Even if you feel as though you have nothing to hide, the violation would change your life. After that, no text, no photo, no email would be secure. You would be just like a celebrity: Any expectation of privacy would be a joke.
For that reason, it’s a good idea for people to engage with the digital world as if a hacker was waiting for them. True computer security may not exist, but precautions such as two-step verification, complex passwords and a solid understanding of how cloud technology works can help. And parents would be remiss not to use the latest scandal as another opportunity to educate their children about the limits of electronic privacy.
For women, unfortunately, the fight against objectification continues. While real victory may be impossible, the battle itself is vital to social evolution. That is why it doesn’t matter whether you agree with Lena Dunham or Stefanie Williams or Roxane Gay. It is their loud, clear, defiant voices engaged in debate that really matter.