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World & Nation

Outraged over the theft of nude Jennifer Lawrence photos? I’m not

Celebrity photos posted
Nude photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Rihanna were pilfered, possibly from iCloud storage accounts.
( AFP/Getty Images)

What is wrong with me?

I can’t seem to work up any kind of outrage over news that nude photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna were pilfered, possibly from iCloud storage accounts and passed around over the Labor Day weekend on sites, including Perez Hilton, Reddit and 4Chan.

I maintain now, and have always maintained, that if you are a celebrity and you make a sex tape, you should not expect it to stay private. If you are a celebrity, and you pose nude for digital photos, you should not expect them to stay private. Especially if the images are stored on your Apple iCloud account, where they could be stolen either by someone unlawfully accessing your account or by a hacker.

As my colleague Christie D’Zurilla reported Tuesday, some women have compared this attitude to victim blaming. She noted that Lena Dunham, the creator of the HBO series “Girls” tweeted, “The ‘don’t take naked pics if you don’t want them online’ argument is the ‘she was wearing a short skirt’ of the web. Ugh.”

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No, it is not. It will never be your fault that someone steals your property. And by all means, any violated celebrity is entitled to sue the, um, pants off the thief, and anyone who posted stolen property.

Just don’t act surprised.

I have to admit, it was refreshing to see gossip blogger Perez Hilton, who has built a career on embarrassing celebrities, squirm and apologize after posting the stolen photos. Unlike Reddit and 4Chan, whose administrators are more or less anonymous, Hilton has a strangely intimate relationship with his millions of readers, who shamed him into taking down the images. 

“Some people are calling me a rapist and a sex offender,” Perez said in a 4 1/2-minute video apology. “I need to take a moment and let that sink in.”

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Some feminist writers have claimed that anyone who views the material is guilty too at the very least of willfully humiliating the celebrities in question.

(“And that’s really the point, isn’t it?” writes The Atlantic’s Jessica Valenti.  “To take a female celebrity down a notch?”)

Well, no. That is not the point at all.

The point is voyeurism. The point is to gain gratification by looking at naked photos of women who, among their other extraordinary talents, happen to be sex symbols, whether by accident or design. Looking at naked pictures of famous women is not the moral equivalent of stealing the naked pictures. If you can resist the urge to look, certainly you are a better person than the guy who can’t resist. But you are hardly guilty of trying to destroy or humiliate anyone.

And to respond with outrage? That, frankly, is ridiculous.

How long has this whole Internet thingy been going on, anyway? How long has electronic piracy been going on? Identity theft? How long have we known about phishing? How often have our public figures been told that if they don’t want to see something splashed on the front page, they shouldn’t engage in that behavior in the first place?

It’s pretty damn simple: If you don’t want people to see your naked body, don’t pose naked for photos that could be vulnerable to theft. No one can protect you from that kind of electronic violation.

Isn’t that pretty obvious by now?

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