CW: mentions of sexual assault
On June 15th, Bella Thorne tweeted that she was being blackmailed with her own nude photos. Her solution was to release the photos herself to take power into her own hands. This decision has sparked support, discussion, and outrage in the media on and offline.
The View Controversy
A few days later, Bella’s decision to distribute the photos became a topic of discussion on the daytime talk show, The View. Co-host/panelist Whoopi Goldberg reprimanded her, saying, “If you’re famous, I don’t care how old you are. You don’t take nude pictures of yourself. Once you take that picture, it goes into the cloud and it’s available to any hacker who wants it, and if you don’t know that in 2019 that this is an issue, I’m sorry. You don’t get to do that.” Thorne responded in an Instagram video, saying, “I don’t really wanna be beaten down by a bunch of older women for my body and my sexuality.” Backlash like this has been upsetting to Thorne, in addition to the stress of being hacked.
Celebrities Aren’t the Only Target
Thorne’s status as a celebrity with a large following makes her situation a relatively unique one. Most young people do not have millions watching what seems to be their every move. However, it’s not uncommon for young people to be shamed for what they choose to do with their own bodies. Thorne’s story is an opportunity to explore the relationships that young people have with their sexuality. It encourages a conversation about the impact the internet and the opinions and actions of others can have on becoming comfortable with one’s body.
I know I am not alone in feeling like older people were aware of my body and sexuality before I was or wanted to be. This has absolutely shaped how I see myself and how I present myself in an attempt to avoid unwanted attention.
We are harassed and encouraged to share our bodies to please people who don’t have our best interest in mind. However, there is ridicule and punishment when we embrace our bodies for our own benefit. The current system allows for the manipulation of young people without giving them the necessary space to safely explore themselves.
In the Instagram response to the View segment, Thorne said, “Saying ‘if you take a sexy photo then it basically deserves to get leaked, like, don’t be surprised at all and don’t feel sorry for yourself.’ So, if I go out to a party drinking and I wanna dance on the dance floor, do I deserve to be raped too? Because to me, I see those two things as really fucking similar.” This comment stood out to me. While studying abroad last year, I was assaulted by someone 12 years older than me. In the first few months after, I spent a much longer time blaming myself for being tipsy at a bar than I did the 32-year-old man who didn’t take my no for an answer and took advantage of me. Thorne’s story is, unfortunately, relatable to many and should be taken seriously regardless of her social status.
I commend Bella Thorne for making the best of a terrible situation. She and others who explore their sexuality should not be shamed. People should be able to express themselves so long as they are not hurting anyone in the process. Blame should be left for those who harass or take advantage of someone.
If you have been affected by abuse/sharing of unlawful images here are some organizations that may be able to support you:
Cyber Civil Rights Initiative: offers attorney listings, online removal guides, and a 24-hour crisis hotline
Withoutmyconsent.org: a non-profit that provides resources for victims of online harassment
RAINN: largest national anti-sexual violence organization with many resources