Why We Shouldn’t Look for Leaked Celebrity Sex Tapes

kylie and tyga

SHORTLY AFTER the couple announced their split in May 2016, Tyga reportedly leaked video of Kylie Jenner on his website. At least one Twitter user claimed to have grabbed a copy of the tape before it was stricken from the artist’s page, and, although Tyga says he won’t sign over an official release of the video, rumor has it that it’s only a matter of time before the tape comes to light.

As soon as Kylie turned 18, porn publisher Vivid offered the couple $10 million for a sex tape. In September 2015, Hollywoodlife.com reported that the couple “ha[d] more than one sex tape to choose from, if Kylie decide[d] to take Vivid up on the offer.” Now, every celeb-watch website is on the lookout for a leak of the alleged tapes.

It’s difficult to imagine a way for Tyga to legally release a tape from his relationship with Kylie. Given that she has already expressed fear of the tape going public, distributing it would violate California’s revenge porn law. That’s bad enough, but the fact that Kylie was likely underage at the time the video was filmed makes it a work of child pornography depicting statutory rape. Unfortunately, these facts are lost on a public clamoring for more Kardashian shock gossip.

With the exception of California’s revenge porn legislation, the law has yet to catch up to technology. In 2014’s “Nudegate,” targeted hacking of celebrities’ digital storage accounts resulted in the leak of nude photos belonging to Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kirsten Dunst, among others.

The Internet was immediately in an uproar. There were no laws expressly forbidding what had been done. Licensing agreements prevent cloud storage users from suing providers for security breaches. The public rushed to view the photos online, and, at the time, it seemed that the victims’ celebrity made others’ less considerate of their privacy: They do this all the time. It’s all free publicity, isn’t it? What do they expect, taking those photos?

In a November interview with Variety, Lawrence summed it up brilliantly:

Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this. It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world. People forget that we’re human.

Celebrities aren’t the only women to fall victim to a double standard in which the public feels entitled to both look at their bodies and denigrate them for taking and using nude photography and video for their own purposes.

In March 2016, Leigh Anne Arthur, a South Carolina high school teacher, was fired after a student stole her cell phone and distributed her private, nude photos to other minors. Interim county superintendent David Eubanks called the images “inappropriate,” and suggested that Arthur might be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

None of the people who held Arthur responsible for her own victimization, Eubanks included, bothered to consider that, if the student had stolen money from his teacher’s purse, he would be considered guilty without question, regardless of whether or not she had locked or zipped her wallet.

Eubanks deemed a petition to restore Arthur as “insignificant”. After an investigation conducted by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the student was “charged with computer crimes and aggravated voyeurism,” and later pled guilty. Arthur also filed suit against Eubanks and the school district.

I’ll readily admit that, as a less-enlightened person, I looked at nude photo leaks. In the past, I would even have argued that Arthur and victims like her shared some culpability in the crimes committed against them. But once you realize that you shouldn’t look at someone’s body without permission, you start to feel conflicted for doing so.

It doesn’t matter how you feel about Tyga, Kylie, or the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Being annoyed by a celebrity does not give you the right to participate in crimes against them. Despite what many might think, celebutantes have feelings, just like the rest of us.

So, how would you feel if you knew that everyone in the world might have seen you naked? And if that violation involved sexual photography taken when you were a minor?

Look, I know that we are all rushing to engage in shared Internet experiences, because no one wants to be left out of the loop on the next viral video craze. And prurient interest does generate more attention for sex tapes and celebrity gossip. These are facts. But the excuse that “everyone else is doing it” does not hold water, and it’s even flimsier when we’re talking about participating in sex crimes, virtual or not.