In case you haven’t heard, nude pictures of several women, notably Jennifer Lawrence, were stolen and leaked a few days ago.
Out of the people talking about the incident, there is (sadly unsurprising) a lot of victim-blaming, but even among those who don’t go quite that far some have called it a “scandal” and more or less implied that what happened had more to do with the people in the pictures than the ones who stole them.
Well, this wasn’t a “scandal”, it was a crime. The blame lies entirely with the criminals. The Belle Jar has a good account of what’s been going on and what’s wrong with it. (Reddit being the worst of the worst is equally unsurprising.)
Now, I wasn’t sure at first about calling it “sexual assault”; not all nude pictures are sexual and I’m not going to judge ones I haven’t seen (and I don’t want to see them; there’s hardly any shortage of nude pictures that are actually intended to be seen by the general public)…but then I thought again, and realized that the motivation for stealing them makes “sex crime” an accurate descriptor regardless of the intent of the pictures themselves. It’s definitely a serious crime by any definition.
I also have to question whether it’s really appropriate for “legitimate” reporting on the subject, on sites that know better than to show the pictures themselves, to attach galleries of the sexiest legal, non-nude pictures of her that they can find to their stories about this.
Actually, I want to compare this to another recurring situation. A non-famous teenager takes a picture of herself, that picture gets stolen and put somewhere on the internet, and the teenager gets arrested for taking a nude picture of someone underage (herself), while the one who stole tends to get away with it. In that case, the law itself engages in victim blaming and potentially ruins the life of someone using the very law intended to protect teens. (How can the same person be both the criminal and the victim in the same crime?)
But the point I really want to make is that it’s the same as with the celebrity pictures; the fact that material intended to be private becomes public is not a problem with the behavior of the person expecting privacy; it is simply a privacy issue. Telling people what they can do to protect their privacy better is all well and good, but the only people who should be blamed for an invasion of privacy are the ones who did the invading. Even if someone’s password is “1234”, that doesn’t mean they deserve to get victimized.
And it’s also an issue of the same action being viewed very differently depending on what technology is involved. Sending a picture is somehow different from showing someone in person, and stealing a digital picture is somehow different from stealing physical property. (As long as the stolen picture is someone’s personal property, anyway. The minute you send someone a copy of anything that is being sold, though, then it’s somehow different in the opposite direction, with the copyright holder arguing you should be punished more than someone who had stolen a physical copy would be.)