Monday, 1 September 2014


"The Great Naked Celebrity Photo Leak of 2014" - that's what this is about. For those who need filling in, a 4chan user recently leaked naked photos of multiple female celebrities thus horrifically invading their privacy.

I heard about it via social media and due to the kind of pages that interest me, that means I got a whole lot of feminist critique.

Now I think it goes without saying, or at least without me saying (because everyone else has already said it) that if you decide to view these naked images, you're engaging in assault. Clementine Ford put it best in her article:

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. 

No argument. If you choose to view the images you are quite simply a horrible, assaultive bumcheekheadcretin. But that's not what I came here to tell you.

I want to talk about vulnerability. I want to talk about it because, until you're made aware of your own vulnerability, you forget it's there. You're not even sure that you're vulnerable. You're not angry enough.

I was made to feel pretty vulnerable recently and I am angry about it. At first I was angry with myself for being vulnerable but then I realised that what I'm really angry with is this climate. A climate that cultivates vulnerability so that when people get bored, they can prey on non-consensual images of naked celebrities until they are satiated. Or they can harass you in the street. Or they can take advantage of you when you're drunk. Or they can rape you.

I'm not sure it's always got anything to do with sex. In fact, the more bad experiences I have, the more convinced I am that it hasn't. Sex epitomises vulnerability - giving yourself up to someone or being got - either way, the other person gains a similar psychological reward. It's the same feeling you get when you bully someone. When you enjoy bullying someone. And I know what that's like because I was an evil child who enjoyed bullying people. Your parents might tell you that bullies are just jealous, or suffering themselves and that might really be the case... but sometimes it isn't. Besides, the thrill is the same whatever your motive. As I was saying, I really enjoyed it. But as I got older, the fear and the hurt in their faces started to bother me. It's not like I wasn't aware they felt that way before, it was just that my feelings were somehow more important. I can only describe it as this urge I needed to satisfy. As it turns out, I'm not actually a psychopath, I just learnt empathy a tad later than most children. Maybe it was the ADHD, I don't know. But I awoke to the reality of what I was doing and my urges weren't so important anymore, gradually they stopped altogether and were replaced by a deep rooted loathing for anyone or thing that made other people or creatures feel small. Because it's easy. It's really, really easy to make people feel small. It's easy to make people say yes when they don't want to. It's SO EASY to manipulate people. People talk about consent a lot but they don't really talk about how easy it is to give consent when you honestly don't want to. Because you're made to feel a certain way. Some people have the courage to say no, and some people don't. We are vulnerable.

Naked images are used to expose female vulnerability a lot. I read Roxane Gay's article about the leaked photos and although everything she said relied heavily and fairly on this fact, the tone occasionally bothered me:

The Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of 2014 – or perhaps we should call it The Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of August 2014, given that this happens so often that there won’t be only one this year – is meant to remind women of their place. Don’t get too high and mighty, ladies. Don’t step out of line. Don’t do anything to upset or disappoint men who feel entitled to your time, bodies, affection or attention. Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against you. You bared body can always be used to shame and humiliate you. Your bared body is at once desired and loathed.

This is what we must remember. Women cannot be sexual in certain ways without consequence. Women cannot pose nude or provocatively, whether for a lover or themselves, without consequence. We are never allowed to forget how the rules are different girls. I suppose we should be grateful for this latest reminder. 

And it bothered me because sometimes it is about sex. I imagine a lot of people are going to look at those images purely to satisfy that baby makin' urge. They're not doing it to "keep women in their place", they're not doing it because women are getting "too high and mighty", they're doing it because they're horny. I hate that word, but that's why they're doing it. It's still assault though; these images are a human right violation. These people just need someone to point out that exploiting another human in order to satisfying their urges is bullying. And bullying leads to a climate of fear. And when people are scared they say yes to things they don't want to and I don't even see how we can have this big conversation about consent when even consent isn't consent yet! I hope you read that sentence with as much rage and heartfelt emotion as I put into it.

Because the second paragraph I quoted from Gay rings true. Women cannot be sexual in certain ways without consequence. Sex always comes with a huge risk of "consequence". Usually humiliation. Sex is a completely natural act and people have it either to make babies or to satisfy the urge to make babies. If you're not having safe sex then the only risks involved should be BABIES and STDs. Not shame or guilt or embarrassment (which you are also likely to be subject to if you refuse to have sex). Symptoms of bullying. Nevertheless, if you're a woman (not exclusively but especially) then, in this climate, you are always going to take these risks into consideration. You are vulnerable.

And you should be ragin'.

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