What We Can Learn From the Nude Photo Leak


Privacy is defined as the state or condition of being free from observation and disturbance by other people. When most people think of privacy, they think of closed doors, quietness, and the choice to protect themselves. Their opinions, thoughts, and secrets are theirs to keep from the world if they so choose.

The idea of privacy has been breached at a new level through the infamous photo leak that happened just a couple weeks ago.

In August, a 4chan user leaked nude photos of more than 60 celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian (as well as ordinary people). These photos circulated at a rate unmatched by any other post on 4chan, and before the end of the day, thousands of people had reposted, screenshotted, and shared these photos through various social media sites. Thousands of people had violated these women’s privacy. Thousands of people had taken away their choice in who gets to see their own bodies. Because of the lack of respect for privacy that was shown, thousands of people committed sex crimes against women of different cultures, jobs, and statuses.

More frightening than the act itself was the backlash from the public. Tweets, status updates, blog posts, articles online — they all said that these women shouldn’t have taken the pictures to begin with, shouldn’t have sent them out to whomever they were directed at, and that this came with the territory of being a celebrity.

The disrespect of these statements is that at their most basic level they blame these women for the actions of thousands of people who violated their bodies and denied them their choice. The lack of sympathy should be discouraging to every person who believes that we each have the right to choose what we do with our body — we, as a society, instead decided to take away several young women’s choices on handling their own bodies. We, as a society, decided that the instant gratification of looking at a young woman’s nude body was more important than the sexual humiliation that these women felt – humiliation that multiplied each time their photos were viewed. We, as a society, took something that they can never get back.

In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American woman to ever win the title of Miss America. For the first time, the idea of beauty was not limited to just white women. Ten months later, Penthouse, a pornographic magazine, published unauthorized photos of a 19-year-old Vanessa Williams in a spread titled Miss America, Oh God, She’s Nude! The publishers paid millions of dollars for these photos without her consent, and in turn started a domino effect of public humiliation for Williams that ultimately forced her to resign as Miss America. We, as a society, took away from her a title she had worked for her entire life in exchange for the instant gratification of seeing her nude body.

Over thirty years later, here we are, taking the same things from young women because our society still lacks self-control and altruism. Unfortunately, most people don’t see it that way. Most people see clicking through a forum online titled “Nude Leaks HERE!!” as harmless, because they weren’t the ones to actually post the photos, and they aren’t sharing them; so really, how much more harm could be done by one person seeing them? However, each individual that makes the conscious choice to click on those links and view those photos is sending a loud, clear message to the victims of the crime, and that message is this: “Your basic human right to the privacy of your own body is not worth suppressing my want to see your naked body.”

Even if the viewers of these leaked photos didn’t mean to do harm, irreparable damage was done to these women’s careers, personal lives, and self-image. To take something from them is to place your worth and desires above theirs’. To place yourself above them creates a barrier of supremacy between you and these women. This idea of supremacy has been the foundation for imposing terrible injustices on people before; we shouldn’t let it happen again.

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