The Trouble With Sex Tapes

Paris Hilton. John Edwards. Rielle Hunter. Tila Tequila. Chelsea Handler. Erin Andrews. Ashley Greene. Kid Rock. Scott Stapp. Kendra Wilkinson. Ke$ha. Snooki. JWoww. Cassie. Ex-Miss California Carrie Prejean. Ex-Miss USA Tara Connor. If you go searching on the internet, you can see any of these people naked, half-naked, covered in semen (allegedly!), or engaging in sex acts, or you can read about the sex acts they’ve performed in great detail. I’ve written about several of these “scandals” myself — oftentimes downright gleefully. Sometimes it’s just fun, as a writer, to get to say a celeb is covered in “masculine essence” or “ambrosia of man.” Other times there’s a delicious schadenfreude when some moralizing twit like Carrie Prejean falls off her high horse.

But I also know I’m guilty of taking it for granted that sex tapes and nude pics are so common that we just assume it’s our God-given right to see them.

In our culture, we — myself included — take it for granted that sex tapes and nude pics are so common that we just assume it’s our God-given right to see them. Do we ask ourselves who is releasing the material — perhaps trying to spite or embarrass the star? Do we ask ourselves how the person feels about the public seeing them this way?

Do we ask ourselves who is releasing the material — perhaps trying to spite or embarrass the star? Do we ask ourselves how the person feels about the public seeing them this way? There is no way of telling who wants their sex tape or nude photos released, and who vehemently does not.

We can a venture a guess that D-list celebs like Snooki and JWoww purposefully put out their sexy photos to prolong their 15 minutes of fame. But to so many others, it’s a very personal violation — as personal as if the sexy photos you snapped for your boyfriend were text-messaged to everyone in your class. If anyone made a sex tape or took nude photos in private and wants it to be kept private, in an ideal world, that privacy should be respected. (Yes, even the former United States vice presidential candidate who filmed himself boning his mistress while cheating on his cancer-stricken wife.)

Some people would say that of all the celebs listed above, only ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was truly victimized by a nude photo scandal, because she was filmed by some creepy stalker against her will through peepholes drilled in hotel room walls. The rest of these ladies and gents “asked for it” by having videos or photos taken in the first place.

Alas, that argument is just as slut-shaming and slut-blaming as the one that says it’s Miley Cyrus’ fault that paparazzi pics of her crotch were all over the internet two months ago. Miley should know photographers could take upskirt shots! Miley should know Perez Hilton would post upskirt shots! She should keep her legs closed getting out of cars! People make more accusations that Miley Cyrus should take personal responsibility than they demand that others should respect the personal dignity of a fellow human being.

I’m sensitive to this issue — although perhaps not as sensitive as I wish I had been in the past — because I have nude photos myself. I took them when I was 18 and a handful of ex-boyfriends and ex-lovers have them. They were taken by a friend who was then a photography student and is a professional photographer now. Some of them are intentionally “sexy” — my 18-year-old self mimicking what sexiness is supposed to look like — but others are more “artsy.” I think I look beautiful in the photos; I’d even say I’m proud of them. If someone tried to make me feel guilty or slutty for taking them, I’d give them the finger.

But I’m aware of the fact that not everyone feels the way I do. A celebrity shouldn’t be told it’s his or her fault their privacy has been violated any more than I should be told I must feel ashamed for what I did. We have to respect that and respect that each individual case of nude photos and sex tapes is very nuanced and context matters. That’s why I’d be “whatevs” if I were a celeb whose nude pics got out, but I still flipped out on my male roommate when he went online and watched the videos of Erin Andrews, despite the fact that he agreed she was victimized.

Going forward, I think we should all keep in mind that though we may have the right to read about or look at anything in the gossip rags, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.