why leaked photos of female celebrities matter

body-not-public-space

Unless you spent Labor Day weekend hibernating (which, hey, I wish I were you!), then you've heard about the massive hacking incident that has resulted in several women's private, personal photographs being leaked to the Internet. I've been extremely unsettled by not only the leaked photos, but also by the disgusting and damaging responses of others. What this hacker, or hackers, did is illegal and completely inappropriate, yet they are being celebrated for bringing these explicitly sexual images to the public eye. All the while, the victims of the hack are being harassed, blamed, and spoken about as if they did something wrong. To clarify, these women did not do anything wrong by having personal, private, sexually explicit photographs of themselves.

Whether these women took the photos for themselves or for someone of their consensual choosing, the Internet has no business spreading the images around. What's happened to these celebrities may not damage their career, but it must be so traumatic for them as humans. On a larger scale, this incident tells women of any age that they are not allowed to celebrate their own bodies and sexuality--even in private--without risking someone coming along and exploiting them. Women are already shamed for sending photos to recipients of their trusting and choosing, and now they're shamed for having the photos at all. Women everywhere from music videos to school hallways are called whores just for existing, so, you know, why would this be any different? It should all be different.

Women's bodies are not property. They cannot be sold. They cannot be owned. They cannot be traded, exchanged, or bought. Women's bodies cannot be controlled. Women have agency. We are more than sexual beings and explicit photographs, and yet we have the right to enjoy sex and sexy photographs for ourselves and/or for the people we trust and choose to share them with. Women do not owe anyone sex, or explicit photos, or even our attention.

Being a woman often feels like a balancing act of harm reduction. I'm a woman outside of my house, so I better have pepper spray and roofie-recognizing nail polish on to protect myself. I better never have a drink, wear clothing that could be considered provocative, or even make eye contact. If something happens to me, it's because I didn't take the necessary steps to prevent it. One of the women whose photos were leaked told the press that the images had been deleted a long time ago, meaning that the hacker went out of his way to them track down. She took the necessary steps, and this still happened. This is not her fault, nor is it the fault of any of the celebrities whose photos were leaked or any other woman who has ever had a private image used to exploit her. If anyone thinks this hacking incident isn't directly related to rape culture, they are truly misguided.

So what's the positive that can come out of this? I don't want an app that traces hackers so we can figure out who takes private photos and posts them for the world to see. I want the exploitation to stop. I want men to know that we do not exist for them, and that they cannot continue to profit from their exploitation of us. I want women to stop dragging each other across the coals for something a man did. Where's the Sisterhood at, y'all? Situations like this make me feel so helpless. How can we come together to make sure that men don't think this incident makes it okay to spread photos of a girl who told him no? Having conversations about incidents like these is a start. Calling out misogyny and rape culture when we see it and hear it is important. Supporting one another is powerful.

This isn't an isolated incident. A few leaked photos of celebrities does matter to us as a whole. We can't let this happening in the media make it okay for it to happen to each other.

linking up with the F-Word

14 comments

  1. Thank you so much for wiring this post! Thankfully, I haven't seen many of the reactions to these photos being leaked, but I've seen them before and I know how awful they are. These women were sexually assaulted, and the men who did it are not only getting away without being punished, they're being PRAISED for it. I just find it so disgusting that the only people being blamed here are the women who dared to take pride in their own bodies.

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  2. Chrissy Teigen is the worst. She's said other stuff and its like "just stop."


    Anyway, once again totally well-written and I agree 100%.

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  3. Fantastic read. I'm a blog lurker who reads via Feedly, but felt I needed to comment my support. I've been following this story since it broke, and it's so easy for people to say, "Don't take naked photos if you're famous!" but they're missing the point. A lot of these women were in long-term serious relationships, but I think it's pretty crappy they have to have a "reason" to want to take these photos. I'm getting so tired of the anti-rape / anti-sexism "training" doled out to women ("don't do this..." "or this..." "don't you dare wear that!"). Can't the attackers face some heat?

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  4. Ahhhh thank you thank you! This needs to be said 1000x over. We are not here for your entertainment!

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  5. Great post, Nicole! I'm so glad I read this because I never thought of it like that. I heard that news of the leaked photos and didn't think much of it, other than the fact that that sucks for them, but now that I read this I realize it really is horrible. Very well-written!
    ~Sara
    Sincerely, Sara

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  6. Such a great post, Nicole! Thank you for stopping by my blog so I could find yours.

    I entirely agree with what Lena Dunham said and what you've expanded on here--the "Don't want photos leaked? Don't take photos" is the new "Well, you were wearing a short skirt." It's entire part of rape culture and it needs to be pointed out and talked about in an intelligent manner.

    I think ultimately what we're fighting against here is that the female body in and of itself is seen by many as public domain, both for celebrities and every day women. That women can't even enjoy their sexuality, their youth or their bodies without having any of that exploited. You're only young once and it's such a shame that many are made to feel like they can't enjoy that time or appreciate their life/health/body without fear of exploitation or harassment.

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  7. I actually hadn't heard of this (trapped at a fan convention, a society which has its own issues with entitlement and the female body as a public space), so THANK YOU for writing this post and bringing it to my attention. I'm really disturbed by knowing that this situation has happened--4Chan has always been the scum of the earth to me, but this is just the cherry on the very large sundae. I'm also disturbed that this is once again only a reminder that women can never just be women--by being anything other than a cisgender white male, we carry the automatic burden of blame. A lot of the comments I've seen thus far (reading and commenting simultaneously) seem to be that this comes with the territory of being a celebrity, which is Not True--this happens with normal people too, women like us, who dated a guy who turned out to be a dick and who took naked pictures of us while we slept, then released them upon the internet as revenge when we finally decided we had enough. There seems to be no end to this bullshit, and I for one am sick of it.


    Great post, bb.

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  8. So much truth in one post, and very well-written!

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  9. Thank you so much for writing this post and sharing it through the link-up. The fact that this happened in the first place and the responses most people have had leave me shaking my head. It's disgraceful.

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  10. YES. I can't handle how many people are justifying sharing/viewing the images based on the weak argument that these women shouldn't have risked having nude photos on their computers if they didn't want anyone else to see them. Yeah, no. Those photos were stolen from them and it's disgusting that they're being passed around and gawked at.

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  11. Yes to all of this. Our behavior is so. . .self-censoring. We do so many little things to avoid negative attention or consequences. But if we don't do them, and something happens, it's our fault. And that nail polish thing. . .everything about it is so sexist, ugh.

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  12. Amen. I love you. This whole leaked photos thing has me enraged. I need more people in my life who think like you and I do, because I'm tired and disgusted about reading all of the damaging and ignorant comments about these women's photos, bodies, etc.

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  13. You know what, you've definitely opened my mind through this post. I've taken a few (hundred) sexy photos that were shared between me and my partner but I've always viewed those whose photos have been leaked as irresponsible or even worse, asking for it. You've definitely helped me to see this for what it is, exploitation. Thank you!

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  14. wow, i'm so happy to hear that my post helped you see it from a new perspective. you have a right to take those photos and share them with whomever you want without worrying that some creep is going to exploit you. thanks for commenting!

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