The latest batch of nude celebrity photos leaked on the Internet once again reminds us that the Internet is anything but friendly to women. Despite an avalanche of slut-shaming, victim-blaming headlines and social chatter, though, there are scattered signs that some people are starting to assign blame where it belongs—on the perpetrator(s) of these felony crimes and the bystanders who enable it.

Oh, and comedian Ricky Gervais.

“Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer,” Gervais tweeted on Monday. His post followed news that actress Jennifer Lawrence, model Kate Upton and others has revealing photos stolen from their Apple iCloud accounts in one of the largest known celebrity-related security breaches.

Blowback from the Twitterverse was swift and furious. Gervais, known for his unapologetic, take-no-prisoner tweets, deleted the offending post. Also, he apologized.

Gervais, who is funnier than most and famous because of it, nonetheless tried to pass off the cliched criticism as comedy. “Of course the hackers are 100 percent to blame but you can still makes jokes about it. Jokes don’t portray your true serious feelings on a subject,” read a subsequent tweet.


A Crime Is A Crime Is A Crime

It’s not a joke when everybody’s mom and dad are tweeting the same crusty comment that’s been repeated by civilians and security experts ever since somebody stole Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s honeymoon sex tape, reportedly from their household safe.

Let’s just cut to the chase. If you walk down an unlit street at midnight counting $100 bills and you get mugged, you are stupid. But the mugger is still a criminal. We all need to take precautions to protect ourselves from theft.

But it doesn’t follow that we should then blame victims for being targeted by criminals. We should be able to live in a world free of muggers and 4chan photo thieves.

As history shows, we put too much emphasis on victim-blaming and not enough on troll-blaming.

Putting the criticism on the violated parties will likely remain the default response to what the celebrity magazines call “scandals.” But along with the Gervais’s Twitter apology, there a few bright points on the Internet indicating that some day, that won’t always be the case.

We Are Bigger Than The Scandal Sheets

In a post titled “Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photo Leak Isn’t A “Scandal.” It’s A Sex Crime,” Forbes contributor Scott Mendelson writes:

The actresses and musicians involved did nothing immoral or legally wrong by choosing to take nude pictures of themselves and put them on their personal cell phones. You may argue, without any intended malice, that it may be unwise in this day-and-age to put nude pictures of yourself on a cell phone which can be hacked and/or stolen. But without discounting that statement, the issue is that these women have the absolute right and privilege to put whatever they want on their cell phones with the expectation that said contents will remain private or exclusive to whomever is permitted to see them just like their male peers. The burden of moral guilt is on the people who stole said property and on those who chose to consume said stolen property for titillation and/or gratification.

It’s likely not lost on self-identifying female feminists that Mendleson is a dude, or that he’s echoed by other males on Twitter who criticize the primary focus on the women whose privacy was violated. That’s not to say these guys deserve special commendations any more than men who help out with the housework.

Still, for dinosaurs like yours truly who’ve observed appalling Internet behavior against women since the notorious early 1990s “cyberspace rape” in the online multi-player gathering LambdaMOO, it does offer the smallest suggestion of social change. 

Whether this means anything in practical terms beyond possibly alleviating the abuse its victims get—from the famous to victims of revenge porn—remains to be seen. (After all, the Internet is so enlightened on every other controversial subject, from race to politics to gender relations.)

But maybe there’s a draining-the-swamp argument that goes: By reducing the social acceptability of slut-shaming victims and trading their pictures with your bros, it’ll limit the acclaim (and money) that hackers are after.

Something to hope for, anyway.

Lead image by Peter

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