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why leaked photos of female celebrities matter


Unless you spent Labor Day weekend hibernating (which, hey, I wish I were you!), then you’ve heard about the massive hacking incident that has resulted in several women’s private, personal photographs being leaked to the Internet. I’ve been extremely unsettled by not only the leaked photos, but also by the disgusting and damaging responses of others. What this hacker, or hackers, did is illegal and completely inappropriate, yet they are being celebrated for bringing these explicitly sexual images to the public eye. All the while, the victims of the hack are being harassed, blamed, and spoken about as if they did something wrong. To clarify, these women did not do anything wrong by having personal, private, sexually explicit photographs of themselves.
Whether these women took the photos for themselves or for someone of their consensual choosing, the Internet has no business spreading the images around. What’s happened to these celebrities may not damage their career, but it must be so traumatic for them as humans. On a larger scale, this incident tells women of any age that they are not allowed to celebrate their own bodies and sexuality–even in private–without risking someone coming along and exploiting them. Women are already shamed for sending photos to recipients of their trusting and choosing, and now they’re shamed for having the photos at all. Women everywhere from music videos to school hallways are called whores just for existing, so, you know, why would this be any different? It should all be different.

Women’s bodies are not property. They cannot be sold. They cannot be owned. They cannot be traded, exchanged, or bought. Women’s bodies cannot be controlled. Women have agency. We are more than sexual beings and explicit photographs, and yet we have the right to enjoy sex and sexy photographs for ourselves and/or for the people we trust and choose to share them with. Women do not owe anyone sex, or explicit photos, or even our attention.
Being a woman often feels like a balancing act of harm reduction. I’m a woman outside of my house, so I better have pepper spray and roofie-recognizing nail polish on to protect myself. I better never have a drink, wear clothing that could be considered provocative, or even make eye contact. If something happens to me, it’s because I didn’t take the necessary steps to prevent it. One of the women whose photos were leaked told the press that the images had been deleted a long time ago, meaning that the hacker went out of his way to them track down. She took the necessary steps, and this still happened. This is not her fault, nor is it the fault of any of the celebrities whose photos were leaked or any other woman who has ever had a private image used to exploit her. If anyone thinks this hacking incident isn’t directly related to rape culture, they are truly misguided.

So what’s the positive that can come out of this? I don’t want an app that traces hackers so we can figure out who takes private photos and posts them for the world to see. I want the exploitation to stop. I want men to know that we do not exist for them, and that they cannot continue to profit from their exploitation of us. I want women to stop dragging each other across the coals for something a man did. Where’s the Sisterhood at, y’all? Situations like this make me feel so helpless. How can we come together to make sure that men don’t think this incident makes it okay to spread photos of a girl who told him no? Having conversations about incidents like these is a start. Calling out misogyny and rape culture when we see it and hear it is important. Supporting one another is powerful.

This isn’t an isolated incident. A few leaked photos of celebrities does matter to us as a whole. We can’t let this happening in the media make it okay for it to happen to each other.

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