No doubt you’ve heard by now of the Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of 2014. Thanks to an asshole hacker on 4chan, we now have proof that – as Roxane Gay notes – “beneath their clothes, celebrities are naked.” Shocking, I know. Here’s a reminder from Clementine Ford that the release of these stolen photos is a crime — and a violation that you are are participating in if you seek out and share the images.
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. (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 like 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.
As Jessica argues, the public interest in photos like these is precisely ”because they were taken without consent.” As Luke O’Neil puts it: “It’s as if we’ve gotten something over on the woman.” Or, to quote revenge porn king Hunter Moore himself: “When you’re not supposed to see it…it’s like you’re taking away something from them.”
Since we somehow believe our celebrities have waived their right to privacy in exchange for fame, the particular brand of victim-blaming the Jennifer Lawrences of the world are subject to may be a little different from the rest of us — but ultimately the nonconsensual leaking of nude photos is always about the same thing: Our belief that women’s bodies are public property.
And, as Roxane points out, the message sent to women by such violations is also the same: “Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against you.”
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.