In this day and age, some celebrities are a bit like genies in a bottle.
In the beginning, they're self-contained and a danger to no one. The next minute there's a point of no return ... no stuffing them back in the bottle. Farrah Abraham is the latest in a string of such celebrities, although her seamy saga is less Aladdin and more Pandora's Box. From here on in, there will absolutely be no ignoring her. Consider yourselves warned.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the soap opera so far, here's a potted history: Farrah Abraham, now 21, was a 'star' of MTV's series 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom. But it wasn't enough for the aspiring model and musician to be known as merely a teen mum. Last month, famed porn company Vivid Entertainment released a sex tape featuring Abraham having sex with porn star James Deen.
It has since been reported that the 21-year-old herself sold the footage, which was intended to be marketed as a 'leaked' celebrity sex tape, to the distribution company for $1.5m.
It's a grubby ploy by anyone's standards, but regardless, Farrah has landed fully on-radar as a 'celebrity'.
It's a given that Farrah was merely following the footsteps of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, both of whom built careers on their sex tape infamy. The latter in particular has become a thing to behold in the firmament of celebrity – with seemingly no talent to hand, Kardashian has managed to parlay one sex tape (with ex-boyfriend Ray J) into a net worth of $40m.
"Young girls see how Kim found fame, and I think now Kim and Paris have set a trend," observes Georgie Gavin, head of entertainment news at Spin 103.8 (www.spin1038.com). "They see it as a cool and easy way to get fame and fortune. What's happening is that young girls are so tempted by fame that they're willing to do anything." Where once a sex scandal would cause a frisson and damage careers in Hollywood, they don't appear to have the same knock-on effect any more.
"Kim's sex tape doesn't even come up any more," notes Georgie. "People see the fame, the money, the famous boyfriend, the clothes. She wasn't 'punished' as such for her sex tape, and I've no doubt she thought to herself, 'I'll get my fame, people will forget the tape and I'll be a fashion designer or role model for new girls'."
Kim's 'momager' Kris Jenner is widely thought to be the brains behind Kim's spectacular sex-tape coup. While she certainly brokered the wallet-busting deal with distributors, unconfirmed rumours also abound that Kris planned Kim's tape. There is, however, such a thing as the law of diminishing returns. The more people try to get famous via sexploits, the less effective a strategy it will be.
"I do think Farrah's 15 minutes of fame will be up very soon," contends Georgie. "Unfortunately for her, it probably won't be the same scenario as with Kim Kardashian."
Yet while Farrah considers her next move under the glare of celebrity, one thing rings clear.
In a world obsessed with celebrity, there will be a trickle-down effect to civilians. Sure, everyone larked about with a partner when they got their hands on their first cameraphone. In a healthy adult relationship, there's no harm in indulging in a spot of on-camera tomfoolery, once everyone is aware of the consequences of having the episode on record forever.
But what of teenagers who are constantly in thrall to celebrities? Do they follow suit? What's more, do they expect similar results to Farrah, Kim & co?
"The sexual norms for teens are changing rapidly... my own daughter who is just finishing school and is 19 is shocked at some of the things that first and second years get up to," says Bernadette Ryan, an adolescent counsellor at Teen Between (www.turntome.org).
"One unfortunate girl I'm aware of sent a compromising photo of herself to her 'boyfriend', which he sent to all his mates. They were all horrified and couldn't believe she was so gullible."
The influence of celebrity sex tapes on youngsters is clear to see. On social networking site Reddit, the 'Gone Wild' section features naked teens under banners like 'stripteasing in my nightgown before bed'. The site says users must be over 18 to use the site, but ticking a 'yes' on the home page isn't exactly an effective policing system.
Some well-known men have gotten in on the camera action too (just last week, Kirk Norcross from The Only Way Is Essex was caught in a naked and steamy Skype session).
But for now, the majority of civilians who follow suit and put their bodies online for public 'approval' tend to be women. Perhaps it's because the world's gaze is trained to focus on women's appearance. There's no disputing that women have been objectified (research notes that only 28pc of speaking parts in Hollywood movies were for women). Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the public followed suit?
Things have reached a depressing nadir in this regard with a new TV show in Denmark. On Blachman, women strip naked in a room, only to be appraised by two men (one of which is Thomas Blachman, known as the Danish Simon Cowell). By way of defence for the show, Blachman contends that the female body 'thirsts for the words of a man'. And, if you spend more than two minutes on the Reddit Gone Wild site, you'd begin to think that he might have a point.
"I think it is possible for a young teen girl to be convinced of anything if she is infatuated with a boy," adds Bernadette. "I don't think she would realise the consequences. Teens tend to live in a very narcissistic bubble and are not really aware or particularly care about what goes on outside it.
"Also, the frontal cortex does not fully join up until the 20s – this is the area of the brain that deals with actions and consequences.
"That is why they do not consider the dire consequences of some actions that would be obvious to adults."
"It is no wonder they identify with that other narcissistic bubble that is celebrity culture," she continues. "They are heavily influenced by TV shows like The Only Way is Essex. It has an almost brainwashing effect. I think they do not understand where reality ends and fantasy begins. Who are you going to l isten to... your boring mother or the very hot Paris Hilton?"
But Georgie adds: "Paris and Kim live in a different world. Young girls need to be very careful. It will last forever for a young girl and in a very sinister way."