To strip or not to strip?
As Jennifer Lawrence and 100 other stars face having their intimate naked pictures leaked online, Aoife Kelly and Claire Cullen ask whether or not we should be taking naked photos on our mobile phones.
'Until the risk of exposure is eliminated entirely, perhaps it’s best to err on the side of caution'
As a woman, witnessing what is happening to Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Kate Upton and up to 100 other female stars, is utterly horrifying.
Thanks to an alleged phone hacker, their private, intimate photos, intended for their partners, are zooming around the web, available for anyone without scruples to screen-grab and store for all eternity.
Even if you wanted to avoid perpetuating the abuse of JLaw by viewing her images, it was difficult to avoid them on social network Twitter on Sunday night.
Celebrities don’t get much sympathy for being chased down like prey by paparazzi who then flog the photos for our rabid consumption every day of the week.
But it’s impossible not to feel outraged by this appalling breach of privacy. It’s one thing being photographed out in public – it’s part of the deal of being a successful actor. It’s another thing entirely to have your most intimate photo collection raided and exposed on the internet.
She may be brimming with talent and have an Oscar under her belt but at the end of the day Jennifer Lawrence is still just a young woman of 24.
She has parents – mum Karen, a children’s camp manager, and dad Gary, a construction worker. She has two older brothers, Ben and Blaine. Imagine how utterly devastated she feels about her big brothers or her dad, or their friends, stumbling across those images on the web.
Then there’s her new relationship with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. They have reportedly been dating for ten weeks. It's new. They probably don’t know each other very well. The photos were probably taken by a former boyfriend. It’s awkward, and embarrassing.
The truth is, the repercussions for Jennifer, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, and the others are far reaching. They have boyfriends, families, careers to protect.
Whatever about the fallout, it's important to point out that this whole sorry situation is not JLaw’s fault. No woman being abused in this way can be blamed for what has happened in the same way a woman cannot be blamed for being raped, no matter what the circumstances.
What the situation does highlight, however, is the considerable risks associated with storing intimate images on your phone or iCloud. I’m no technology expert, but as far as I know anything stored online is susceptible to hacking. If they can hack your online bank account, it seems to me that your iCloud would be something of a doddle.
Personally, I would rather someone hacked my bank account and cleaned me out than expose my private images online so I would like to see at least the same security protections in place.
Read more: 7 ways to protect your iPhone photos
Even leaving hacking aside, there are more pedestrian risks like plain old phone theft, or loss, a vengeful or careless ex, or even accidental posting. It happens.
Suddenly, the entire world can view, even store, your private images. Employers could Google your name and find them. Worse, your dad could unwittingly happen across them. Even if you’re not famous, the images can go viral. They can resurface when you think it has all blown over, years from now, when your sons are teenagers. The repercussions are endless. If you’re a celebrity it’s magnified.
Of course, celebrity or not, you have every right to do whatever you want with your partner in privacy, whether that involves taking naked photos with, or for, each other, or indulging in a shared balloon fetish (or whatever else tickles your fancy). It’s private. It’s nobody else’s business. It's legal.
The problem with photos or videos, as opposed to live action, however, is that you cannot guarantee they will remain private, despite your best intentions and efforts. It's not your fault if some creep hacks them. But regardless of whose fault it is, the fact remains that those images can end up online.
So, until the risk of exposure is eliminated entirely, perhaps it’s best to err on the side of caution, and refrain from taking intimate images with your phone at all. If you must, maybe dust down a good old-fashioned camera. After all, you can’t hack a Polaroid.
'Apparently now women are to blame for the perversions of others online as well as in real life'
Victim-blaming comes in many forms – the most modern being the online victim-blaming.
The conversation around risqué photographs and videos has been picking up steam over the last few years, and with the break of what is being referred to as “the biggest celebrity hacking in history”, it has understandably been taken up a notch. However, I am disappointed to see that the overwhelming census appears to be that if you don’t want nude photos leaked, don’t take them.
I have several problems with this hypothesis which I'd like to elaborate on.
1. Women are allowed to be sexual.
Starting with an easy one, women are allowed to be sexual. We are all naked under our clothes. Consenting adults should be able to express themselves safely and freely – without fearing retribution or without being shamed.
We need to stop shaming women for being sexual when men are celebrated for it.
2. Women have bodies.
Under women’s clothes, they are naked. People they choose get to see this. Maybe they even appreciate their figures or think they look good naked. Good for them! Stop shaming women for appreciating their naked form – obviously the hackers do, why can’t they?
3. Victims are not responsible for the behaviour of those that commit a crime against them.
I cannot stress this enough. Women are not responsible for strangers who make a concentrated effort to crack passwords and break into their private data. A woman in the 90s was not responsible for the thief that broke into her house and stole printed photographs and a woman now is not at fault if someone violates their privacy.
Looking at these images is a violation of privacy – it lacks the ‘consenting adults’ factor. The woman has not agreed to show you the photograph. You are at fault for looking and the hacker is at fault for hacking. She is not at fault for taking the images, or for being the owner of a naked torso.
Women are not responsible for crimes committed against them.
4. Hacking is illegal.
Taking pictures is not. Exchanging images between consenting adults is not. Celebrating your body is not. Being a sexual being is not. Hacking is.
5. Women should not have to protect themselves against perverts breaking into and sharing their private information, just like they should not have to protect themselves against rape.
It is the responsibility of the rapist not to rape, not of the woman to wear a longer skirt. The same applies to risqué pictures – it is the responsibility of those with the know-how to violate someone’s privacy not to do so.
I find it quite disturbing that only female celebrities appear to have been hacked. This gives a very strong indication as to the gender of the hackers – and don’t forget, gender politics are always at play.
Why are we telling women to stop taking sexy photographs in case they’re hacked but not telling men the same? Just because less men get hacked does not mean they don’t have naked photographs or take naked photographs. However, it appears to be more socially acceptable for them to do it, and careers have easily recovered (or in some cases, never faltered) when men have been revealed to be taking these pictures.
I have no problem with advising people to use strong passwords. I am a big fan of protecting your data and your privacy – but I don’t think you should stop creating said data “just in case”. I don’t think you are at fault for someone who went out of their way to steal something from you and I don’t think you should be constricted and regulated to prevent others from committing crimes against you. The fact that this is even in discussion is another example of the patriarchy at work in people’s subconscious – “Someone broke into her computer, through her passwords, managed to crack the iCloud encryption and posted them online in return for Bitcoins?... She shouldn’t have taken them, so!”