Nude photographs “scandal” is a sex crime

Last Sunday, nude photographs leaked of several high-profile female celebrities, including Kirsten Dunst, Kate Upton, and Jennifer Lawrence.

The perpetrators were hackers who had presumably taken advantage of security vulnerabilities in Apple’s iCloud system. The knee-jerk reaction of the public and mainstream media has been to call this a “scandal.” However, the real scandal here is not that the pictures exist but that their leaking constitutes a gross violation of privacy and women’s autonomy, as well as an unquestionable sex crime.

An encouraging number of news outlets have spoken out in condemnation of the hackers and of the victim-blaming usually rampant in such cases. Many have jumped in with the not-so-helpful advice that these celebrities should simply “not take nudes,” thus solving all of their problems. Such arguments place the bulk of responsibility not on the criminals, but on the women exercising their legitimate right to express their sexuality however they wish and — on a practical level — to store personal photos in a place they expect to stay private.

The “don’t take nudes” argument is the virtual equivalent of “don’t wear short skirts” if you don’t want to be raped. In addition, as we have recently seen with the advent and viral phenomenon of “anti-rape nail polish,” buying special nail polish, dressing conservatively, and never taking suggestive photographs are hardly the secret to stopping the real perpetrators of sexual crime.

No person — celebrity or otherwise — deserves to have their privacy so callously infringed upon. If someone wants to take nude photographs of their own free will and volition, that is their right. Conversely, if they don’t wish to take nude photographs, they are free to abstain.

However, when the inevitable next round of photographs are leaked, and are known to be published without the consent of their subjects, we should all take a moment to think.

By seeking out these photographs, by looking at them, we feed into the harmful societal practice wherein women’s bodies are commodified. Instead, we must refuse to sacrifice human dignity for the sake of cheap sexual gratification and a fast food-reminiscent hunger for scandal.