Taking Nude Selfies in an Imperfect World

This is my opinion on the leaked nude pictures of a large group of female celebrities. It’s kind of disjointed and rambling, and many people probably won’t like it. Just do me a favor and read the whole thing before you judge it.

First things first: the guy who stole and published intimate photos of those women should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and I personally hope he spends a significant portion of the remainder of his life sharing a small, uncomfortable cell with a large, terrible roommate. It is no secret that what he did was immoral and illegal, and – having done it of his own free will – the full responsibility of his actions is rightfully laid at his feet. It’s been truthfully said over and over again that just because she was drunk, just because she was wearing a short skirt, just because she was flirting with you, that doesn’t give you the right to have sex with her without first obtaining her consent. Just because they stored their nude pictures on a cloud server with inadequate security doesn’t make it okay for some douchebag to steal said pictures. It’s still wrong, and the only person responsible for the crime is the person who perpetrated it.

I just want people to understand that the world isn’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. I want people to stop pretending it’s bad and wrong to take steps against those who would victimize you, simply because they shouldn’t victimize you. Is it wrong for people to break the law and violate others? Yes, it is. Should people eschew immoral and illegal behaviors on the basis that they are immoral and illegal? Yes, they should. Should we do our best to prevent these crimes from occurring, anyway? Yes, absolutely. These are not mutually exclusive ideas, folks. Laws against hijacking planes can and should coexist right alongside airport metal detectors and bulletproof cockpit doors.

I often like to explain things with analogies, so here’s one from my own personal experience. US forces set up bases of operations in Afghanistan, just like we have in most other major conflicts. And any combat leader worth his or her salt knows that the first thing you establish when settling into your new base is your security. You fill and position sandbags and berms and concrete barriers. You put out concertina wire and Claymores. You make sure your machine gunners have good fields of fire. You establish targets for your mortars and artillery. Only after you’re completely secure do you even think about building the chow hall. Because there’s bad guys out there in the hills, just waiting for an opportunity to send you home in a box. Now, at the end of the day, it is that enemy fighter’s decision to squeeze that trigger. He is responsible for what happens after that rocket leaves its tube or the bullet leaves the barrel. But just because the destruction is on him doesn’t mean we don’t take steps to prevent it. I’ve still filled plenty of sandbags, cleaned plenty of weapons, registered plenty of targets. Because the one thing we could always count on the bad guys to do was be bad guys.

Put more simply, is there a lock on the door to your home? Do you lock it at night or when you leave for work? Do you protect the PIN to your debit card from the general public? Would you turn down a ride from a stranger in a panel van with the words “FREE CANDY” spray painted on the side? For most of  you, the answer to these questions is likely a resounding “YES!” But why? Burglary is wrong. Stealing money from someone’s bank account is wrong. Abducting someone in your shaggin’ wagon is wrong. But the fact that those actions are wrong and illegal doesn’t stop some people from doing them, so you take measures to protect yourself. If someone picked up your phone, would they have to ask you for a password to use it? Why? They shouldn’t be looking through all the shit on your phone anyway, right? But you still password protect it. This has come up recently in another discussion, one about nail polish that detects date rape drugs. I see people actively bashing the nail polish, seemingly on the basis that it shouldn’t be necessary. Well, of course it shouldn’t be necessary! But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea in a society that just isn’t where we want it to be yet.

In a perfect world, people don’t commit crimes or act on immoral impulses. But the real world is far from perfect. We all take measures every day to protect ourselves, as is prudent. You don’t set your wallet down on the seat of a crowded subway and turn your back on it just because it would be wrong for someone to take it. If your apartment gets robbed because you didn’t lock your door, no amount of screaming about how illegal burglary is will get your flat screen back.

People in civilized societies have a responsibility to act in accordance with the law and a generally agreed-upon set of morals. But people should also take steps to protect themselves from the transgressions of those who violate the social contract. If I had chosen to stand in the open in an Afghan valley, alone, wearing no body armor and carrying no weapon, and some Taliban scumbag had shot and killed me, my blood would be on HIS hands. None of my actions would have resulted in my death until HE pulled the trigger. But that doesn’t mean that it would have been a good idea to stand there like that.

Now an important thing to remember here, lest you think I’m advocating some shit that I’m not: I am NOT saying it’s okay to blame or shame the victim of a crime, even if they did absolutely nothing to protect themselves against it. It is the perpetrator’s fault, plain and simple. I don’t blame the victims for their photos being published by some fuckstain who absolutely knew better. Anyone who says they shouldn’t have to worry about protecting that stuff is 100% correct. I agree wholeheartedly, and I wish that’s how the world really was. Unfortunately, it’s not.

You’re not going to be able to secure everything from everyone all the time. For the majority of their existence, NSA has been synonymous with security (it’s right in their name!), and even they are now dealing with a massive breach. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to prevent our victimization. And like most other things in life, security exists on a spectrum. Being on the extreme end of either side of that spectrum is probably not the best course of action. There is certainly such a thing as too much security, just as there’s too little. Again, this is the real world. I don’t expect everything on your smartphone to have a unique, 30-character password with at least four uppercase letters, four lowercase letters, four numbers, and four special characters. That shit’s impractical. It nullifies the convenience that is the very point of the smartphone. I don’t expect your apartment door to be rigged with a trip-wire shotgun. Some people will never, ever take a nude picture of themselves, simply because they wouldn’t want it to be made public. That’s okay, but you have to understand that that doesn’t cut it for everyone. Because there’s nothing illegal or inherently wrong about sending a naked picture of yourself to someone who consents to receiving it. I can not recall ever having sent any racy pictures of myself to my wife, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong or that I wouldn’t if she asked me to. You have to think of what’s reasonable. And when I say that I think it’s probably a bad idea to store nude pictures of yourself on a cloud server, that’s just my idea of what’s reasonable. Your mileage may vary. Maybe you’re a “never take naked pictures of yourself” person; maybe you’re a “make the person you send them to promise, like, really hard not to show them to anyone” person. Either one is perfectly okay, but realize that one option is much less likely to result in your old high school principal seeing pictures of your junk on the internet.

I guess there are three points I want people to take away from my thoughts here, none of which are mutually exclusive:

1. I think that, no matter what, the person responsible for a crime is the person who commits that crime. Nobody else.

2. I think people should be realistic and understand that the less you secure yourself, the more likely you are to be violated.

3. I think it’s really stupid to imply that nobody should take steps to secure themselves in the real world just because they shouldn’t have to in an ideal world.

4. I think that, no matter what, the person responsible for a crime is the person who commits that crime. Nobody else. (It bears repeating.)

I guess that about wraps it up. This is my first post on this WordPress thingamajig, so I’m not sure if you can comment on it. If you can, great! I welcome thoughtful discussion. Just keep in mind that you’re probably wrong.

Have a great night.