October 2014

Line in the Sand: Nude Pics Exposed! Who's to Blame?

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson

Barry Kaufman
As part of his daily homework routine, my son is required to have me initial the line in his daily agenda book next to where he has charmingly scribbled the title of whatever kid book he’s been asked to read that night. A few weeks back, he approached me for my initials and I saw that right there, next to “Counting with Coco,” he’d already scribbled in an adorable little BK.

“Buddy,” I said in a tone that I realize is probably super patronizing, “you’re not supposed to write my initials there. I’m supposed to do that.”

“Oh,” my son said, before staring down the writing instrument in his hand and saying, “Stupid pen, what’s the matter with you? Don’t do that.”

Why do I bring this up as a lead-in to a column about nude celebrity photos being leaked online? Because I get paid by the word and that intro was an easy $3. And also because at that point, it was the strangest case of misplaced blame I’d ever witnessed.

That is, until nude photos of a bunch of celebrities got leaked, and for some reason people started blaming the celebrities.

My counterpart Courtney will argue that Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, et al, should probably not have been taking nude photos of themselves in the first place. Fair enough. You almost have to know that no computer security in the world is completely invulnerable, and it’s safe to assume that if you’re among the Kate Uptons of the world, you’re the first account hackers are going to check for nudie pics.

But Kate Upton is going to be Kate Upton. I think it’s strange to take photos of yourself naked, but that’s my deal. Her job is to be professionally good looking, and that job has something of a shelf life; so if she wants to document a time in her life when everything still hung at the right altitude, more power to her. I’m sure I do things that Kate Upton would consider strange, which is probably why we never wound up dating.

So really, let’s place the blame on what should be the most obvious set of shoulders: the guy or guys who actually broke into their accounts and stole the photos. Actually, let’s do so with extreme caution, because those photos first surfaced on a website called 4Chan, and everything I know about that site tells me that 4Chan users will totally ruin my life if I try and do something stupid like blame them. (Hey guys, unlike CNN, I actually know you’re not some systems administrator named 4Chan—we cool?).

Look, if some guy broke into Jennifer Lawrence’s house and stole those photos, would we be so quick to blame her for having those photos? Sure we like to think our homes are a little bit more protected than our iCloud account, but the principal is the same. It’s theft, plain and simple.

Maybe we blame the celebrities because of what was stolen. After all, you can assume that they store their nude photos under the same sort of security they store really important stuff, like credit card numbers and bank statements. Jennifer Lawrence pulls down seven figures a movie. Whoever broke into her iCloud probably could have made off with a year’s salary without her noticing. But he chose to instead steal nude photos and try to ransom them for bitcoins. It’s such a weird crime we almost can’t process it.
But it’s still a crime.

The hacker or hackers, going under the name “Original Guy,” took something that wasn’t theirs. You steal a car, you go to jail. You steal a nude photo of a celebrity, you’re Robin Hood. Am I missing something?
If I am, I blame my keyboard.

Courtney Hampson
My husband was very excited when I told him about our topic this month. “Surely you can’t argue against taking naked pictures until you try it yourself,” he mused. “Um hello, have we met?” read the thought bubble above my head. So today, while he was golfing, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror. Naked. And I tried to take a picture of myself. I hemmed. I hawed. I looked away. I tried again. I closed my eyes. I just couldn’t do it.

Lest you think I do this every day, I don’t. In the shadow of the Great Naked Celebrity Photo Leak of 2014, I was trying to figure out what all the hype is about. Why are so many people taking pictures of themselves? And why aren’t they wearing any clothes?

I have zero understanding of the age of the selfie that we have entered. I hate having my picture taken. Just ask our editor, who has to ply me with wine once a year to capture the shots to accompany my column on these pages. The camera really does add 10 pounds. (How many cameras are on me?) I can’t imagine being in front of and behind the camera. Oh, the horror.

Let me be clear. I’m 100 percent pro naked. In fact, to stay true to my beliefs, I am actually writing this column in the nude, but no one is photographing it. I’m kidding. Relax. And stop picturing me naked.

Guess what people? It isn’t just celebrities who are taking nude photos. Normal people (except me and the other 80 percent of boring people) do this too. A 2013 Pew Research study (among a sample of 2,252 adults 18 and older) tells us that “sexting among adults is up since 2012 and that technology in relationships is not just limited to coordination and logistics; it now encompasses even the more intimate moments. Sexting, or sending sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos and videos via cell phone is practiced by couples and singles alike.”

Here’s the data: Nine percent of adult cell owners have sent a sext of themselves to someone else, up from six percent of cell owners who said this in 2012. Twenty percent of cell owners have received a sext of someone else they know on their phone, up from 15 percent who said this in 2012. Um, nine percent are sending, but 20 percent are receiving. I am no mathematician, but something isn’t adding up here.

The study also says that “Married and partnered adults are just as likely as those not in a relationship to say they have sent sexts; single adults are more likely to report receiving and forwarding such images or videos.” So, sexting is now part of the courtship? I am so lame.

So, my original intention this month was to flash fluorescent lights around the selfie and the naked selfie revolution. My plan was also to blame it on our youth. To back up my argument, I did conduct a very non-scientific study of my own, asking a sample size of one 26-year-old male for his opinion. His belief was that a sense of confidence and security comes with age. Ergo, a whole generation of 20 year olds is taking naked selfies to garner the attention of their clueless counterparts. Based on that logic, there would be a 20-year-old roll of film (how is that for a blast from the past) in a box somewhere with pictures of me. There is not.

So, maybe I need to loosen up a little bit? Stop being such a prude and realize that the times they are a changing? I’m not so sure. I innocently go to sleep one night and all of a sudden I wake up to a U2 album in my iTunes. I guess I am thinking if the all-powerful “they” can give, they can certainly taketh away. My luck, I take one naked picture and suddenly Bono and you too (get it?) have it as a screen saver.

No thanks.

Sorry darling husband. I am still going to stick with what I know. Two thousand images of food, cocktails, dogs, CrossFit, the start and finish lines of races, dogs, cocktails, dogs, cocktails, food, and more races, will continue to maintain residence on my phone. My texts to you will still look a little something like, “Can we have tater tots for dinner?”

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