Whether she’s walking down the street or working in an office, it’s not uncommon for a woman today to have a hard time feeling like she owns her body. Through cultural phenomena like slut shaming and victim blaming, or as survivors of sexual harassment or assault, women are often denied the right to control and enjoy their bodies on their own terms.
This feeling of constant violation isn’t unique to any one demographic of women and isn’t usually in the news, but a recent public iteration of this victimization was “Celebgate,” when an anonymous hacker posted dozens of stolen nude pictures of female celebrities—including Jennifer Lawrence, Victoria Justice, and Kim Kardashian—to the website 4chan.org.
As news of the unprecedented leak broke, publications and voices from Fortune to The Washington Post and even comedian Ricky Gervais rushed to point fingers. Questions were raised about the security of Apple’s iCloud, and suggestions were made that the victims shouldn’t have taken the photos in the first place. Amid this cacophony of opinions, many spent Labor Day searching for the private images, spreading them, and even offering the hacker money in exchange for more photos.
But here’s what traditional media got wrong: In the rush to point fingers, the real wrongdoers haven’t gotten the same press attention as the highly visible celebrity victims. A woman’s body is not a commodity and does not exist to be looked at without her consent. As such, the person who stole and distributed the photos, and anyone who looks at them or helps spread them, are the actual parties at fault—the people that knowingly violated a woman’s privacy.
Taking nude photos of oneself does not mean someone is allowed to steal them, and just because those nude pictures are now accessible to anyone on the internet does not mean someone should feel allowed to look at them. Distributing and calling attention to Jennifer Lawrence’s pictures is a violation of her privacy, period. Instead, we should call attention to these sorts of aggressions against women and acknowledge that they occur all the time. This issue didn’t start with Jennifer Lawrence, and it will likely not end with her.
Despite the tech columns popping up that advise readers on how to avoid similar thefts, no one should have to take extra precautions to secure their private photos. Sensitive, intimate content should come with the understanding that it should only be privy to the sender and the recipient—not the entire internet, no matter who leaks it or who it depicts.
It’s perfectly reasonable that women should be willing to do what is necessary to ensure their safety and privacy, but too often the narrative becomes “don’t get hacked” instead of “don’t hack.” Culturally, it seems we would rather police the female victims than those who attacked them. The age-old axiom is that “boys will be boys” and that women should have to change their behavior to maintain their own privacy and safety. Instead, there should exist a universal right in our social contract for us all, regardless of sex or gender identity, to respect ownership over our own bodies.
Women are people, too. We are not here for your sexual gratification. So please, don’t click on those pictures.