There has been lots of talk lately about the recent hacking and subsequent release of multiple celebrities’ private photos. People have opined that this type of act goes beyond simple invasion of privacy and into sexual assault territory. People have suggested that everyone who seeks out and views these photos is complicit in the crime. People have wondered why the hell so many celebrities have naked pictures of themselves (seriously, what is up with that?).
I essentially agree with all of these points, and I’m not going to completely rehash them now. Yes, I think there should be an extremely harsh punishment for someone who not only breaks into a private cloud account, but also publicizes the information. There can be no purpose behind that besides humiliation and degradation if another human being, and whether it is done in person or through technology shouldn’t really be a factor.
No, I do not agree that asking why someone has naked pictures of themselves is akin to victim shaming. Obviously, having private photos of yourself on your own personal device is not a tacit admission that you deserve to have them exposed. Everyone deserves privacy, even those who out themselves in the public eye. However, in this day and age it is simply a fact of life that if you don’t want something out there to be seen, you can’t put it on the internet. Even in a private account. Isn’t that the entire plot of the movie Sex Tape? It’s a sad truth that nowadays you just don’t have the room to be silly and foolish and young- we’ve had talks with our kids about how even the most innocent post to social media can be taken out of context and used against you for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, it is just an aspect of our current technological abilities, that you have to approach every photo and tweet with the acceptance that it can never truly be deleted, and it may be seen by a far wider audience than you ever intended. (I personally have some “before” bikini shots on my phone that I took before I started my yoga training, in the hopes that someday I will have impressive “afters” to compare them to. I would be embarrassed beyond belief if they ever went public, not only because they are supremely unflattering and highlight every lump and ripple, but also because of the hysterical blindness that would strike down anyone who accidentally saw them.)
The biggest issue I’ve seen with this discussion is the constant blame places on our society. “Society creates the demand for paparazzi photos and encourages people to go ever further in search of exposing, embarrassing, or invading celebrities’ lives.” “Society always places blame on the victim, whether it be for having naked pictures or wearing a short skirt after dark.” “Society dehumanizes women, placing value on their physical appearance rather than their minds.” Because here’s the thing: society is a myth. There is no Society, deciding things and setting boundaries for behavior. There are only a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand individuals each making the personal choice to judge, or shame or defend. Every single person who viewed a naked photo of Jennifer Lawrence chose to view her as an object whose privacy was less valuable than their own curiosity. Every single person who looks a woman and thinks “nice outfit, slut” is perpetuating a stereotype that revealing clothing contributes to loose morals.
Society doesn’t judge. We do. One at a time, every day, when we allow negative thoughts about another person to overshadow their humanity. I’m guilty of it. I took a photo of a woman recently who was very heavily overweight and squeezed into too small clothing for the purpose of texting my husband and making a joke at her expense. Just because she will never know, does that make it harmless? No. Because I allowed my distaste for her physical appearance to outweigh the fact that she is a human being with feelings and the same right to respect as myself.
The label ‘society’ makes it all too easy for us as individuals to step back from our responsibility to show simple consideration for each other. Society didn’t click the link for naked photos- you did. Living in a culture that is obsessed with celebrity doesn’t excuse
you from making the personal choice to participate in an invasion of privacy through your computer screen. One person set up the ladder to peek through those windows, but one by one people lined up to climb it.
I’ll admit my first response is curiosity. But I can’t bring myself to perpetuate the degradation of another human being solely to assuage a moment’s boredom. I’ve found my opinion of anyone who has seen those photos (either by choice or by accident) definitely lowered, and my standards for my own behavior have been raised.
My decisions and my actions are society’s decisions and actions. The tail doesn’t wag the dog.