Nudes Flash: It Could Happen To You

On the surface, the idea of stealing the naked photos of young female celebrities and releasing them over the Interwebs is so culturally titillating and click-bait-y that the jokes just write themselves.

The New York Daily News proclaimed the unveiling of the massive photo hacking scandal as “Bad Nudes for us All!,” and called it a “Flesh Mob!”  The New York Post issued a “Nudes Flash.”

And not surprisingly, Stephen Colbert was a scold: “This is why we can’t have nice things, Internet!”  While using his own coverage, titled “The Invasion of Boobistan,” to make body-part and selfie jokes, he also pointed out the inherent hypocrisy in doing so:  “I stand with the Huffington Post, which posted a searing op-ed shaming anyone who looked at or shared these photos. So do not -- I mean this -- do not go look at these photos,” Colbert said. “You don’t need to. Instead, check out all the sideboob and nip slips on HuffPost’s actual sideboob page.”

He makes a great point. In our hypersexualized culture, in which a celeb like Kim Kardashian has made her career on an “accidental” release of a sex tape (and some say her “momager” mother sold her out) there’s such hypocrisy and contradiction around the issue of women and sexuality that it’s hard to keep up.

Certainly, by the XXX standards of the images that are readily available on the Internet, these photos are hardly shocking or revelatory. And they’re of celebrities, who sell themselves sexually on screen and when they’re promoting a project. So the thinking goes, “Isn’t this just part of the territory? Who cares?”

The easiest, most knee-jerk response to the hack was to play the fault-within-our-stars blame game. It goes along the lines of, “What idiots! Who would take these photos in the first place and actually store them? They deserve it!  They should have been more responsible!”

The best short answer comes from Farhad Manjoo, a tech journalist, who decimates that thinking pretty quickly. “I’ve never heard anyone respond to financial hacking by saying, Just don’t use online banking. That’s what you get for using credit cards,” he tweeted.

Indeed, the whole mess is a gross invasion of privacy, and outright theft, just as stealing your online credit card identity would be. Many of the victims said they had (or thought they had) deleted the images from their phones or computers.  Among other things, we’ve learned that “the cloud” has been given a genius name, conjuring up the celestial cumulo-numbii Zip code where the angels hang out and string harps. The reality is more like storage hell, a squalid place where meth addicts are constantly trying to break into your locker.

No matter how holier-than-thou we may feel about this particular “Celebgate,” as it’s been dubbed for PG audiences, we are all as vulnerable. We all have information or images floating around in the tech ether that we wouldn’t want stolen and disseminated publicly, for everyone to use and see.

Even more upsetting, “The Fappening,” (which unlike Celebgate, is the hands-down gross-outest name for the event -- Google it) has also sparked a massive dump on women. Within a few hours of the photo leak, there was a Jennifer Lawrence “slut” meme created.  Many of the slurs exchanged against these victims on Reddit (some of whom were underage when the photos were taken) would make any of us want to retch.

So does the growing online culture of “revenge porn,” in which an ex posts embarrassing pictures on the Web as payback for a break-up or relationship problems, real or imagined. These are photos of ordinary women and teenaged girls. Celebrity is not required -- only a naked human body.

This is serious business, which really highlights the pervasive black-ops underbelly of the Internet, run by hacker sociopaths who engage with each other on sites like 4chan.org. That’s a vast web of message boards on which users post images of everything from their favorite actors to, and I’m not making this up, their favorite bowel movements. It’s a festival of the grotesque, and allegedly, the (mostly male) hackers collected these celebrity images in bits and pieces and spent months trying to “score.” These ethically and soul-dead creeps aren’t looking for financial reward; instead, their rituals are more akin to scalpers bragging to each other about their collection of human heads, awash in a toxic stew of resentment and entitlement.

“Enough with your PC bullshit. It’s tired,” I was told by one of my Facebook friends, a successful man with teenaged daughters, after I disagreed with his post, which he saw as comic and outrageous.   After pointing out what morons these stars are, he offered the 24-year-old  JLaw some pretty graphic grooming advice for her “special area.” And lots of people hooted and LOLed on the thread. One of them responded to me with an insult that I won’t repeat, but it had to do with tightening up private parts.

I would hope that Celebgate outrage is not only not tired, but intensifying, just like the Internet theft invasion-of-privacy problem. 

It’s funny that many brands have now been offering messages to young women on being strong and unapologetic, based on research that shows that their confidence drops tremendously after puberty.  Well, stuff like this is a factor. How we talk about girls and women matters.  Please remember your humanity.

And to amend a famous advertising phrase, that idiot could be your wife or daughter.

Recommend (27) Print RSS
14 comments about "Nudes Flash: It Could Happen To You".
  1. Mike Azzara from Content Marketing Partners , September 4, 2014 at 12:04 p.m.
    Good post. Speaking as a man, this is a hard thing for men to grok. I was lucky in that two women I considered good friends walked into my office (this was in the late 1980s), closed the door and walked me through how what I considered innocent behavior actually was upsetting to them. What you've written about is much more egregious than what I was taken to task for, but it is of the same species. It took them a long time to get through to me, but it was time well spent. Ever since, I've remained sensitive to this issue.
  2. Edward Shain from EMS Associates , September 4, 2014 at 12:09 p.m.
    1) I've tried to have all my nude selfies hacked and posted, but no takers :: sob :: 2) This isn't so much about women as it is about power. Hackers are about power and thumbing their noses at authority. 3) It's anonymous and therefore beyond criticism. People will do what they do. My own belief is that women are no different from men in this regard, albeit perhpas more discreet publicly. 4) Privacy is *so* last year. I regret it. Everyone my generation regrets it, but I don't hink anyone else is listening. 5) Most of these celebrities are actresses who are nude or semi-nude in some of their movies. It's not about their nudity. It's about the invasion of privacy. 6) You're spot on about the hacker culture. If you believe what you've written - and I know you do - its about rebelliousness and thumbing your nose at everyone, not so much about PC and treating women badly. They'd post pictures of nude male stars, too.
  3. Nancie Martin from Tell My Story , September 4, 2014 at 12:22 p.m.
    Well said, Barbara. And I'm sorry someone thought it was justifiable to insult you.
  4. Steven Schreibman from Finish Line , September 4, 2014 at 12:24 p.m.
    Barbara--great job articulating this story! While even once so jaundiced as I rolled my eyes at yesterday's latest installment of "Naked People--They're Everywhere!" made me long for the days when Fotomat would not dare to develop surreptitiously-shot pix of the camp nurse in a bikini. I'm still amazed that people feel the need to take pictures of themselves without any clothes on anyway. But, to be fair, the naked celebs are the victims here. That the photos themselves were so easily hackable and then gleefully spilled all over the internet, followed by waves of expected outrage and joyful study by the proletariat, is what's truly frightening. It's as if were already treating this creepy breech in privacy as commonplace.
  5. Paul Van winkle from FUNCTION , September 4, 2014 at 4:54 p.m.
    I worry that the US embracing nudity will lead to other things Europe does, like recognizing climate change and offering maternity leave and paid vacation time.
  6. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel , September 4, 2014 at 5:24 p.m.
    Paul: While I chuckled at your comment & certainly hope you're correct that we'll join Europe in "recognizing climate change and offering maternity leave and paid vacation time," I don't think “Nudes Flash” has anything to do with "embracing nudity." Rather, it's all about shaming, and getting a kick out of shaming, which I think pretty much qualifies as the opposite of embracing nudity. But maybe you were speaking tongue-in-cheek here.
  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , September 4, 2014 at 7:46 p.m.
    How many people laughed when mothers and others complained that music lyrics would desensitize youth as they descend into adulthood many years ago ? Shaming as punishment or other mental qualm is not a new concept, just the expansion has exploded. People still have to be more responsible when "sharing" knowing this can happen including a better password password. It is not only the perpetrators who are responsible for privacy of any kind and the past disgust of the information created and shared, it those who make it possible. Back again to. Who Profits ?
  8. Jude Hammerle from The Next Level , September 4, 2014 at 7:52 p.m.
    We are moving back toward zero-privacy, which is the original human social condition. When we get there, the game of human social life will be better. Every player will know every other player's history and patterns in detail. Defectors will pay quickly and fairly for their failed strategies and tactics, while cooperators will elicit more cooperation. Until zero-privacy returns, humanity will struggle with the challenges of half-privacy. The best way to deal with this struggle is to invest (personally and professionally) in new technologies that record and surveil other players. Such technologies will frame the new future, and faster than we think. Remember all the asteroid footage from Russia? Most of It was captured by dashboard cams, an emerging social norm in that country--and soon this one. Jude Hammerle
  9. Dorothea Marcus from Weichert Realtors , September 5, 2014 at 2:16 a.m.
    Barbara, well done! I love your vivid image of the "cloud" as a storage hell. Re the insulting, sexist comments you and others have received, see the piece in the 9/1 New Yorker by Rebecca Mead on "The Troll Slayer". Cambridge academic and author Mary Beard has received the vilest threats from her battles against misogyny.
  10. david marks from self , September 5, 2014 at 11:18 a.m.
    Another spot on piece, Barbara, but really....are we to believe that these celebs were actually devastated by the hacks? They do live on the sexualized fanfare of their every motion, and struggle every waking moment to be memorialized in every medium. To believe that these women were actually assaulted by the release of these pics, would be to assume they have humility; no, they treasure the accidental exposure, the naked ship to sink a thousand sailors. They strive on their own indecent art, for without it, they are nothing.
  11. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , September 5, 2014 at 12:27 p.m.
    David-- I agree. They are not devastated. We don't have to cry tfor them. But my point is more that taking nude selifes has become an accepted part of life, and ordinary young women will get "slut shamed" for it by these horrible misogynistic online trolls. What I didn't say in the piece was that this person who was taking J.Law to task about her grooming said "she could grow corn in there." And all of his similarly late 40-s-early 50s male friends yukked it up. Some women, too. Total entitlement and compartmentalization when it comes to a) being used to being the "master of their domain" about porn imagery and B) not connecting their own teenaged daughters to the whole deal. this stuff goes get gross.
  12. Ruth Thomas from Second helping , September 6, 2014 at 8:27 a.m.
    Barbara, I totally 100% agree with you.....my first thought was "duh, stupid- that's what you get and most of us have seen all of you anyway..." Then reality struck how dangerous and invasive this is. I over share a lot and it occurs to me I am ripe for the picking...everything we do is on line...this story is so much bigger than breasts,( no matter how larged they are) it's about our security and identity theft
  13. Jim English from FJC , September 7, 2014 at 11:54 a.m.
    Nudity in the arts celebrates the beauty of the human body. But these hackers care nothing for art. They want only to humiliate women.
  14. Dario Veret from http://essaybasics.com , September 7, 2014 at 2:15 p.m.
    Awesome article, thank you.