Calling a woman a slut use to be a surefire way to shut her down, but these days it’s the people doing the name calling who are getting shut down. What’s changed is that a relatively new term—“slut-shaming”—has become phenomenally popular.
It seems like every few months a leaked celebrity sex tape is released or is rumored to soon be released. Last month there was chatter over a sex tape featuring Farrah Abraham, a cast member on MTV’s Teen Mom. Vivid Entertainment reportedly paid Abraham a whopping $1.5 million for the footage.
What sets Abraham’s tape apart from most other leaked celebrity sex tapes is the fact that this one wasn’t really leaked, but marketed to appear like it was. The ploy quickly unraveled when people pointed out that the footage looked professionally produced and James Deen, a professional porn actor, was her co-star.
This month, the latest celebrity at the center of a leaked sex tape scandal is Joe Francis, the founder of the porn franchise Girls Gone Wild. Apparently someone is shopping around a footage obtained from his girlfriend’s stolen iPad.
A few people have speculated that Francis is claiming the tape was leaked to create hype for it’s release, but so far there’s no proof of that and he maintains that the video was meant to be private. So for now, he seems to be a victim and that’s prompted a lot of news outlets to report on the scandal with a certain amount of smug satisfaction due to his reputation for being an exploitative jerk and all around sleazeball. Girls Gone Wild was criticized for releasing footage of intoxicated women and girls (some were under 18), who ultimately decided they didn’t want the sexually explicit images they filmed made public. Francis’s plight is being painted as a sort of ironic payback.
On the surface, the circumstances of the Abraham and Francis sex tapes appear to be wildly different. One was professionally filmed but intended to be released as a leaked tape, the other hasn’t been released and appears to have been legitimately stolen. What the two stories have in common though, is that they’re both glaring examples of how invading and exposing someone’s sexual privacy has become a disturbingly normalized. A leaked sex tape is an extreme form of violation because it turns someone into a porn performer against their will. And what makes it worse is that thanks to the internet, footage can be seen and shared with millions in a matter of minutes.
Vivid Entertainment could have easily marketed their video of Abraham as porn entertainment featuring a celebrity who wanted to be in porn, but instead they came up with a convoluted “leaked” tape marketing scheme. Far from being concerned about a backlash, they operated on the belief that the public believes pornography is extra titillating if it’s released against the star’s will.
It’s this same belief that some have used to justify the snarky coverage of the leaked Francis sex tape. For these folks, the thought of the porn entrepreneur being humiliated in this way is extra satisfying because he’d be getting a taste of his own medicine.
To be sure, it’s easy to understand how this could be satisfying for some, but such thinking is flawed and deeply troubling. To take glee in his humiliation is is to believe that it’s OK to violate someone’s sexual privacy if they happen to be a really shitty person. The act is always wrong and there’s never an instance when it’s a suitable punishment.
When it comes to all leaked (or fake leaked) sex tapes, I’d like for them to swiftly fall out of fashion (along with the exposed zipper trend!!). Whenever talk of a leaked sex tape hits the news, far too many of us seem to be passively accepting or rationalizing something that is clearly a form of public sexual shaming.