Jennifer Lawrence's agent has confirmed the photos are real and a complete violation of the star's privacy. Photo: Mike Marsland
- Nude photos leaked online
- Backlash against outlets who published photos
- How to keep your photos safe from hackers
In what's being called the biggest celebrity hacking incident in internet history, more than 100 female celebrities have had their private nude images stolen and published online. The bulk of the images posted have been officially confirmed as belonging to Jennifer Lawrence, but a complete list of victims' names - including Krysten Ritter, Kate Upton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rihanna, Brie Larson and Kirsten Dunst - has been subsequently published. (This link does not contain pictures, only names.)
The images were first uploaded by an anonymous member of the underground internet sewer known as 4chan and have since been enthusiastically shared across platforms such as Reddit and Twitter. A representative for Lawrence has confirmed the images are real, condemning the theft of them as a "flagrant violation of privacy" and adding that "the authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos".
There are a few different issues that a criminal act like this brings up, but before I get into them it's necessary to make one thing clear: If you deliberately seek out any of these images, you are directly participating in the violation not just of numerous women's privacy but also of their bodies. These images - which I have not seen and which I will not look for - are intimate, private moments belonging only to the people who appear in them and who they have invited to see them. To have those moments stolen and broadcast to the world is an egregious act of psychic violence, which constitutes a form of assault.
The people sharing these images are perpetuating an ongoing assault. The people gleefully looking at them are witnessing and enjoying an ongoing assault. When you have been asked by victims of a crime like this not to exacerbate the pain of that crime and you continue to do so anyway, you are consciously deciding that your enjoyment, your rights and perhaps even just your curiosity are more important than the safety and dignity of the people you're exploiting.
That out of the way, let's get a few other things straight.
1. This is not a 'scandal'
It's a crime, and we should be discussing it as such. Some media outlets are salaciously reporting it otherwise, as if the illegal violation of privacy involving intimate images is little more than subject for gossip. When associated with sex, the word "scandal" has been typically interpreted as something that assigns responsibility to all parties involved, a consensual act unfortunately discovered and for which everyone owes an explanation or apology. Remember when private nude photos of Vanessa Hudgens (whose name also appears on the list of victims) were leaked online and Disney forced her to publicly apologise for her "lapse in judgment" and hoped she had "learned a valuable lesson"? Never mind that Hudgens was an adult and a victim of privacy violation - the "scandal" was painted as something for which she owed her fans an apology. Which leads us to:
2. These women do not 'only have themselves to blame'
While depressing, it's sadly unsurprising to see some people arguing that Lawrence et al brought this on themselves. Part of living in a rape culture is the ongoing expectation that women are responsible for protecting themselves from abuse, and that means avoiding behaviour which might be later "exploited" by the people who are conveniently never held to account for their actions. But women are entitled to consensually engage in their sexuality in any way they see fit. If that involves taking nude self portraits for the enjoyment of themselves or consciously selected others, that's their prerogative.
Victims of crime do not have an obligation to accept dual responsibility for that crime. Women who take nude photographs of themselves are not committing a criminal act, and they shouldn't "expect" to become victims of one, as Winstead pointed out on Twitter.
To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves.— Mary E. Winstead (@M_E_Winstead) August 31, 2014
Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this. Feeling for everyone who got hacked.— Mary E. Winstead (@M_E_Winstead) August 31, 2014
Sending a photograph of your breasts to one person isn't consenting to having the whole world see those breasts, just as consenting to sex with one person isn't the same as giving permission for everyone else to f--- you. Victim blaming isn't OK, even if it does give you a private thrill to humiliate the female victims of sexual exploitation.
3. It doesn't matter that 'damn, she looks good and should own it!'
Stealing and sharing the private photographs of women don't become less of a crime just because you approve them for fapping activity. I'm sure many of the women on this list are confident of their sexual attractiveness. It doesn't mean they don't value their privacy or shouldn't expect to enjoy the same rights to it as everyone else. It also doesn't mean they want strangers sweating over their images. That line of thinking comes from the same school that instructs women to either ignore or welcome sexual harassment when it's seemingly "positive" in its sentiments.
None of these women are likely to give a shit that you think their bodies are "tight, damn". Despite what society reinforces to us about the public ownership of women's bodies, we are not entitled to co-opt and objectify them just because we think we can defend it as a compliment.
I will not be seeking out these images and I urge everyone else to avoid doing the same. I hope that all the women who have been victimised here are being appropriately supported by the authorities and their networks of friends. And I hope sincerely that more people take a stand against this kind of behaviour.
Because, this incident aside, it strikes me as deeply ironic that we will vehemently protest at a free Facebook messenger app because we're outraged at reports that it can access our phone's numbers, and yet turn around and excuse the serving up of women's bodies for our own pleasure. Our appreciation is no less disgusting just because it's accompanied by the sound of one hand clapping.