Social commentary

The J-Law photo leak: why your opinion is important – by Sophie Whitehead

Jennifer LawrenceUnless you’ve been living under a wifi-less rock for the last couple of months, you know about the celebrity nude photo flood.

I say flood rather than leak because of the sheer quantity of celebrities who were involved: Jennifer Lawrence, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Kaley Cuoco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ariana Grande, Anna Kendrick, Cara Delevigne and Kirsten Dunst are just a small fraction of a huge list of household names.

Jennifer Lawrence has somehow become the face of the saga because of her status as Hollywood’s current “it girl”, and because frankly, there are too many victims to list every time the situation has been discussed in the media.

Female celebrities

By doing some research into the rest it seems as though every young, attractive female celebrity has been included. No one can accuse the hackers of not being thorough. Except for the obvious: they have mainly targeted female celebrities.

In fact, out of the hundreds of stars to have images of their naked bodies paraded through social networks and sharing sites, only one (American reality star Nick Hogan) is male. One.

Why? The hackers were hoping to make money from their finds, and deduced that the target market most likely to pay for images online would be heterosexual and male.

What’s your view?

The reactions of the public can be roughly grouped into three camps:

The first camp is the one I have pitched my tent in – this is not only a breach of privacy and theft of personal property but a non-consensual form of sexual violence and those responsible need to be stopped and held accountable.

The second camp is occupied by those who think this sort of thing comes with the territory of being in the public eye and those girls should have known better.

The third is made up of those who just don’t care.

People who share or look at the images are from the latter two camps. They either think the celebrities deserved it, or they simply haven’t thought about it at all. I’m not sure which view worries me more.

What it says about our culture

The whole situation says a lot about the state of our culture and western society at this point in time: how we view celebrities, how we view privacy, and how we view women’s bodies.

So many people, mostly men, have seen these images, not just as passive viewers but as active sharers too. And this behaviour is often accepted as normal by themselves and by those around them.  This is a blatant example of the false and dangerous idea that men cannot and should not be asked to control their sexual desires. The internet in this instance has removed any sense of restraint and any notion of empathy for the victims.

In one swoop these women have been reduced from individuals with complex personalities and wills of their own, into objects of sexual pleasure, without their consent.

What does it say about you?

People who haven’t thought about it, or just don’t care, have accepted that this is normal. People who think it is the fault of the celebrities, that they should not have taken the photos in the first place, are encouraging the idea that men are out of control and it is the responsibility of women to keep themselves safe.

If you are one of these people then you are part of the problem.

You may not think this deserves as much attention as it is getting, or that people like me need to calm down, but this is naïve – we all need to be aware of the affect of the media on society and on individual behaviour.

Behaviour is learned, and when this type of behaviour is seen as being accepted or as “normal”, it contributes to a culture where sexual violence is not taken seriously, where men “can’t help themselves” and where women are parts instead of people. We all deserve better.

What can you do?

Make yourself aware. Stand up for victims. Do not view or share nude photos without the consent of the subject. Report people who share these images (most sites do not allow their distribution).

Think about what messages your actions are sending. Treat everyone as a human being, whether or not they are famous.

Sophie is a creative copywriter for an advertising agency in London. Check out her blog at

8 thoughts on “The J-Law photo leak: why your opinion is important – by Sophie Whitehead”

  1. That’s a good argument, but I don’t care very much because there seem to me to be roughly 1,001 more important things to fix in the world – this is a bad thing but it doesn’t matter as much as, say, poverty, climate change, ebola, war in the middle east, religious freedom or misogyny that affects ordinary people instead of millionaires with PR teams and lawyers.


    1. I don’t agree Ben. I acknowledge all those things are terrible but celebrities are people too. This is the kind of violation that could only be experienced by someone in the public eye – just imagine what this kind of exposure of something private must do to you. I think the power of Sophie’s argument is that our personal behaviour on the internet is a public and political issue – combating misogyny and sexual violence starts with how we use our mouses and search engines.


      1. Not to mention that this form of misogyny does affect ordinary people everyday. There is a whole genre of porn on the internet called “Revenge Porn” where ex-boyfriends publish indecent photos of their former partners in an attempt to shame and disempower them. When I was at school an explicit video was spread of a young girl and every single male student had the file on their phone within a week. We were all only 16 at the time but it was seen as normal by most – I was the opinionated one for disagreeing. This is the same situation but on a much bigger scale. How we handle it has a significant impact.


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