People

Published: Tuesday September 2, 2014 MYT 8:15:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday September 2, 2014 MYT 3:36:15 PM

Naked celebrity photo leak: It is only the beginning

Nude photos purportedly showing many top stars, including singer Ariana Grande, were circulated on social media on Aug 31, in an apparent massive hacking leak. - AFP

Nude photos purportedly showing many top stars, including singer Ariana Grande, were circulated on social media on Aug 31, in an apparent massive hacking leak. - AFP

A leak of naked celebrity photos is a reminder that privacy is a privilege often denied to women.

Privacy, for most people, is little more than an illusion, one we create so we can feel less vulnerable as we move through the world, so we can believe some parts of ourselves are sacred and free from uninvited scrutiny. The further away you are from living as a white, heterosexual, middle-class man, the less privacy you enjoy – the more likely your illusions of privacy will be shattered when you least expect it.

For celebrities, privacy is nonexistent. You are asked intrusive questions. You can be photographed at any moment. Your family is investigated, photographed or harassed daily. Celebrity is, in some ways, an infection that is only marginally beneficial.

We’re not going to cry for celebrities, of course, not really. When you choose that life, you must sacrifice certain dignities for the privilege of fame, of fortune. For the most part, these intrusions of privacy are all in good fun, fodder for gossip magazines and websites – because ... celebrities, they’re just like us! They go to the grocery store! They drink coffee! They wear jogging bottoms! Celebrities are just like us – until they aren’t, until such intrusion involves the celebrity woman’s body, in intimate poses, splayed across the internet for delectation and debauchery and debate.

Nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna were leaked in the hack. – AFP

On Sunday (Aug 31), nude and otherwise revealing photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Lea Michele, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Hope Solo and other famous young women were leaked. It is likely only the beginning. Because there will always be another leak, because there is an insatiable curiosity when it comes to the nude celebrity woman’s body. She puts herself in the public eye and, in turn, we are entitled to see as much of her as we so desire, or so I am sure the justification goes.

It’s not clear what the people who leak these photos hope to achieve beyond financial gain and notoriety. I suppose such impoverished currency is enough. These hackers are not revealing anything the general public does not already know: Beneath their clothes, celebrities are naked.

What these people are doing is reminding women that, no matter who they are, they are still women. They are forever vulnerable. The permanence of such a violation is a bitter thing. These leaked images are instantly widely available and they always will be. They will be downloaded and viewed and shared; their lives and private choices dissected. They are women, so they must be judged.

Revealing nonconsensual nudes of the famous female body is not new. In 1983, Vanessa L Williams was the first black woman crowned as Miss America. She had little time to enjoy her achievement, however, because Penthouse published naked pictures of her, and she was forced to relinquish the crown. Williams has gone on to have a successful career in film, but her biography will always have this footnote. Nor is this exploitative exposure of women’s naked bodies an issue that only famous women must deal with. This practice is so pervasive it even has its own name – revenge porn; nude photos and explicit videos unleashed on the Internet, often by disgruntled ex-lovers. The Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of 2014 is meant to remind women of their place. Don’t get too high and mighty, ladies. Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against 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 for girls. I suppose we should be grateful for this latest reminder. – Guardian News & Media

Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, a collection of essays and criticism.

Tags / Keywords: naked photos, celebrities, Internet hack, leaked photos

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