The Real Reason Why Perez Hilton’s Upskirt Shot Of Miley Cyrus Is Wrong

Every blog and media outlet in existence has weighed in on Perez Hilton‘s fixin’-for-a-jail-cell tweet that linked to an up-skirt photo of Miley Cyrus. Perez quickly deleted the tweet, so most of us have not actually seen it. But, apparently, Miley wasn’t wearing any underwear while she was exiting a car and … well, you know what happened next.

Miley Cyrus is only a few months shy of turning 18 years old, so everyone is wondering if Perez will be busted for “child porn.” Now, nothing really shocks me anymore, but as deep as my utter cynicism can be penetrated, I’m shocked that so many smart, compassionate people are missing the real story here:

It doesn’t matter if Miley Cyrus is a few months shy of 18 or she’s 100 years old. When a photographer distributed, and Perez then posted, a crotch shot, Miley was violated.Amelia and I disagree a little bit about whether Miley is allowed the same level of privacy that we normal folks have. She doesn’t think Perez Hilton should have posted the up-skirt pic, of course, but she says paparazzi photos come with the territory. And yup, that includes paparazzi photos of everything. Don’t want your naked crotch photographed when you’re in a public space? Wear panties.

I say that paparazzi absolutely have to draw the line at seeking out and selling photographs (accidental or not) that are purposely trying to humiliate their subjects. That’s what a nip slip or crotch shot is. It’s not photojournalism; it’s humiliation. (When Kristen Stewart recently said that she feels like she is looking at someone being “raped” when she looks at paparazzi photos, she obviously used a controversial and insensitive term to describe what happens. But her sentiment was absolutely spot-on.) I personally don’t care if Miley or Kristen or Britney or any of those other stars want to pose with their panties on their heads and boobs hanging out. At least in that situation, they have agency. When a famous female has her bodily integrity violated, we justify it by saying celebs were “asking for it” with their fame. In fact, American culture has become far, far too permissive with humiliation as entertainment.

When I was in college (maybe even high school), this creep that I used to hang out with aimed his video camera between my legs at a party. We were in his family’s TV room and I was wearing a bikini with some kind of beach cover-up over it. He was sitting on the floor and I was sitting on the couch, chatting with people; it took me God knows how long to realize he was taping me. I’m sure I shrieked, told him to stop and eventually laughed it off because I didn’t stand up for myself when I was younger. And why would I have bothered? This “friend” surely would have said he was just joking around, which apparently is the catch-all excuse for anything obnoxious (or racist, sexist or homophobic).

Was it my fault because my legs weren’t crossed? Was I asking for it by wearing a bikini? Was it Miley’s fault because she wasn’t wearing underwear when she exited a car? No, it’s the fault of the person who takes away a person’s agency and who violates another person’s body through a photograph.

Miley can kiss her backup dancer or swing herself around a pole all she wants. Throw the photo agent who sold the pic, and Perez Hilton, in jail.

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