People really can suck sometimes.
So over this weekend, a hacker (or hackers) released a massive cache of very personal photographs and videos belonging to famous young women cribbed off Apple’s iCloud service. This included the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, and purported to include further photographs of Ariana Grande (apparently debunked at the moment,) Victoria Justice, and more. You may say, ‘holy shit, those women are incredibly attractive, must fap nao’ or whatever, and a great number of people out there have hastily downloaded archives made available on torrent sites or linked to Reddit, which – to nobody’s surprise – appears to have greatly popularized the leak, even chronicling the leaks in real time.
If you had anything to do with this, including downloading and consuming the leaked media, congratulations! You’ve helped perpetrate a sexual crime, to say nothing of digital theft.
Sounds pretty dramatic, right? But it isn’t. What else would you call the forcible theft of incredibly sensitive and potentially humiliating data for public release or, it has been rumored in the case of even more intimate media, put up for sale to the highest bidder? Piracy at the very least, and of a very sexual nature – the very definition of a sexual crime. Now you may say, ‘Jesus, Michael, these people are famous already, this comes with the territory.’ Indeed, that’s an argument that gets tossed around with this sort of thing in the past, and The Fappening is certainly no exception. But what makes that any different from saying ‘she shouldn’t have worn that out’ or ‘you were drinking, you were asking for it’? What is this but victim shaming? None of these women were asking for anything, certainly not to get their very personal media stolen and released to an entire planet’s worth of strangers. Celebrities and other public figures are not public property; just like every other human being, they do not exist for the purpose of being exposed, however loved or lusted for. What we see here is a particularly pernicious juxtaposition of our culture’s view on celebrity and its view on women, especially young and beautiful women: they are made to be on display, they are made to be desired, and they were brazen enough to take pictures and video of themselves – thus they deserve that is coming to them.
We’re eating it up, too. The very name of the ‘event’ is a clear example of our society’s habit of boiling important things down into something ostensibly fleeting and thus easily thrown away; #fappening2014 is a hugely trending tag over on Twitter right now, for example, and someone’s apparently managed to troll Twitter users into posting nudes of themselves in ‘support’ of the women involved through the #leak4jlaw and #leakforjlaw hashtags. Anything for visibility, right?
Look, when if comes down to it, it doesn’t matter that they’re young, or beautiful, or famous, or female. The type of pictures or videos doesn’t matter either. It certainly doesn’t make them somehow bad people. They certainly don’t deserve it. People, especially women, owe our society nothing that they aren’t willing to give freely of themselves. These women are not just celebrities or public figures. They are human beings, and they have been victimized. This isn’t a joke, and it sure as fuck isn’t funny. It’s not just a trespass of privacy, either. It’s a sex crime, full stop, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
Come on, folks, we’re better than this. At least in theory.
EDIT: Reddit is coming out and warning downloaders that at least two of the young women in the “Fappening” collection were underage at the time their stolen pictures were taken. So that’s a sex crime for sure, then, innit?