The Bigger Issue: Will Americans Ever Get Past Their Peeping Tom Mentality?

Jokes are made about the salivating, ugly Americans ogling topless sunbathers at European beaches, but the schizophrenic nature of our country's relationship with sex has passed from laughable to lamentable to downright detrimental.
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There's much to discuss regarding the moral, legal, and privacy implications of the recent nude celebrity photo-hacking event. Clearly, as with any invasion of privacy or theft of personal belongings, there is no equivocation about the amorality and sheer creepiness of the as-yet-unnamed creep or creeps who pulled off the pillage. Hopefully authorities will find and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. After all, in these times of digital process and exchange, there can be no quarter given for those who take advantage of cyber property or privacy any more than those who heist tangible versions of the same.

There's also much to discuss regarding general naiveté about the clearly insecure security of "the Cloud," or, really, any digital storage system, as well as the wisdom (or lack thereof) of celebrities digitally storing items of any personal or private nature. In a world where online porn and sites like Mr. Skin ("the largest collection of naked celebs") are uber-popular, and even the most mainstream of press leads with headlines about side-boobs or Kardashian "see-throughs," naked celeb pics seem ripe for the kill. We are a culture of sexual voyeurs, Peeping Toms, which points directly to the underlying "supply and demand" element of this most recent fracas.

As with any action related to human "vice" -- drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. -- industry evolves out of a recognition that there's money to be made supplying what the public demands. In the case of celebrity nude photos, the demand -- clearly illustrated by the aforementioned, as well as the general appetite for sex product of every kind, the aggrandizement of porn, and the mainstreaming of sex in almost every arena of public discourse -- is off-the-charts. Paparazzi stalkers and their employers, sites and media that traffic in the business of celebrity nudity, wouldn't exist if the demand wasn't there. Every time a viewer clicks on said sites, downloads a hacked image, shares anything provided by those trafficking in the exploitation of celebrities' bodies, they register as "demand." Even if they "were just curious." And demand demands supply. It's that simple.

Of course, there are distinctions to be made about authorized and unauthorized, whether tacit or otherwise. Mr. Skin himself, in a bit of public defensiveness, defines his own work as "day and night" from the recent hackage in a piece at The Telegraph:

"While the tone and voice of my site is very tongue-in-cheek, it is a serious review site that treats celebrity nudity like the serious business that it is. The content on and is made up entirely of scenes that the actresses and actors willingly appeared in and that they knew would be seen by the eyes of the world. These photos were obviously never intended to be seen by anyone outside of whomever the celebrity chose to share them with, so it's really hard to compare the two."

Fair enough. I guess. But still, much recent social media has focused on "how could any celebrity not know it's stupid to leave private nudes anywhere online?" -- a valid argument, to some extent, when even most non-celebs (who nobody cares about!) are squeamish about such things. Some have even suggested that, given the career boost endemic to celebrity sex tapes and the like, it's possible those whose images were hacked knowingly left them vulnerable. I'm not of that mind personally, presuming even celebrities appreciate the privacy of their photographed sexual activities, but in a culture where being outed for sex tapes and explicit photos does seem to come with an uptick in presumed "hotness," who knows?

But while many are intrigued, angered, and horrified by the blatant invasion of privacy involved and the bigger implications of a society in which nothing personal can be kept private, perhaps we should also explore the contradictions of an American culture at odds with itself on all things sexual. While one contingent eats up porn, sees women as body parts, and acts as though boobs and ass are so exotic they simply must see those of hot famous people, the other is interfering with women's sexual health, defining sex education as suggestive or unnecessary, denouncing certain sexual orientations as demonic, and banishing nursing mothers from public places because they're "disgusting." How do we reconcile the incongruities? We can't.

Jokes are made about the salivating, ugly Americans ogling topless sunbathers at European beaches, but the schizophrenic nature of our country's relationship with sex has passed from laughable to lamentable to downright detrimental. Particularly when generations of children arrive at their adulthoods confused or uneducated about the deeper meaning of sex and its urges, who they are as sexual beings, and where the lines are drawn on a whole host of sexual boundaries (see Steubenville). We too often end up with a gamut of sexual dysfunctions from, at worst, public figures who can't keep their d**ks in their pants, adults who prey on children, and sex crimes of every horrifying nature, to, at our most acceptable, porn obsessions, political puritanism, general misogyny, media voyeurism, and a culture of Peeping Toms sniggering over the body parts of our most famous and attractive... to the point that hacking into the private phones of those appealing people seemed a good business strategy for someone.

Certainly let's strengthen the laws and protections of everyone to allow them the privacy of their personal lives without interference or appropriation from sleazy thugs. But, while we're at it, let's be sure, certainly the next time we're tempted to click on a baiting headline about Jennifer Lawrence's boobs or Rihanna's ass, that we're not, unwittingly or otherwise, contributing to the demand that's driving this industry. As one of my sassier friends says, "you ain't never gonna stop the business of sex," which is surely true, but when it comes to the illegal, immoral, and utterly dishonorable aspects of that business, let's raise the bar. Just enough that the only people whose body parts are on full display for the world to see are those who actively, unequivocally, and very willingly gave their permission.

Peeping Tom image from

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by Lorraine Devon Wilke

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