Over the weekend, hundreds of naked photos of famous women celebrities were leaked onto the Internet. Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande and dozens more. The photos were reportedly stolen from the celebrities' own cell phones and cloud accounts by hackers and spread like wildfire through social media. The tabloid media have covered the story extensively, happy to be able to put "Jennifer Lawrence" and "naked photos" in the headline for a purportedly legitimate news story.
I started thinking about the motivations of the men who obtained these photos and distributed them to the entire world. And what I found was troubling.
If all you want is to see beautiful naked women, the Internet is full of options of women who gladly take their clothes off with full knowledge -- and perhaps hope -- that strange men will take a look. So this is not about fulfilling some basic sexual need of men.
Instead, it is the sinister pleasure the voyeur feels when exhibiting power over his victims. It is about bringing an unattainable woman down low by saying, "I can look at you naked whenever I want; I can distribute nude photos of you wherever I want; and you can't do anything about it because to me you are a thing, and I have power over you."
The commenters on the Internet and their accomplices in the media want to blame the women involved. "If they didn't want naked photos out there on the Internet, they never should have taken them." They are routinely accused of leaking them for publicity or called "sluts," "whores" or worse. The general feeling seems to be that because they are famous and attractive, they were "asking for it."
Should celebrities take naked selfies? In this digital age when cell phones are commonly hacked, my instinct is to say, "No, it's not safe." But if you are asking me whether they did anything wrong, I'd say even louder, "Hell, no!"
The "blame the victim" mentality that crops up after each of these cases is absolutely disgusting to watch. The fact that desperate men want to see them naked does not make women less deserving of respect, and the insinuation that they somehow deserve this horrible violation of their privacy is as reprehensible as the initial act.
Let's be clear: If you are a guy who has to assault a woman's dignity and privacy in order to fulfill your sexual fantasies, that says far more about you than it does about her.
The good news is that the courts do not share the tabloid media's lax standards on expectation of privacy. Two years ago, 36-year-old Florida resident Christopher Cheney hacked into the cell phones of many famous women, including Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and others. Like the hackers who perpetrated this crime, he leaked stolen nude photos of the women onto the Internet. Now he is serving a 10 year sentence in federal prison and was forced to pay $66,179 in restitution.
Perhaps we need a few more men like Christopher Cheney sitting in jail cells before the lesson is learned that women are not just outlets for sexual fantasy and the right to control your own body is absolute.