Hugo Rifkind

Is clicking on Jennifer Lawrence’s naked pictures really as bad as hacking and distributing them?

And if so, what was your justification for clicking on the headline above?

6 September 2014

9:00 AM

6 September 2014

9:00 AM

‘If you click on Jennifer Lawrence’s naked pictures,’ said the headline on the Guardian’s website, ‘you’re perpetuating her abuse.’ That gave me pause. Even though I haven’t. In all honesty, I haven’t even had the opportunity, and I thought I actually followed quite a lot of invasive perverts on Twitter. But if I had, and I had… well, just clicking? Really?

The creepy mouth-breather who hacked them, sure. Definite abuse there. Might as well be hiding behind her curtains. And the people who circulate them. ‘Stand on this hillside,’ they could be saying, ‘and point your binoculars over there. Look! Look!’ And the people who, well, enjoy them, in the traditional manner that nude internet pictures are enjoyed; that’s definitely bad too. But a click? Just a wee click?

It’s true and, at once, not true. It’s a bit like the established wisdom about nasty pornography; that he (it’s always a he) who looks is as complicit in the crime as he who makes. It’s a good argument this, and a healthy thing to believe. But it’s another question, and a dangerous one, whether it’s actually right. It’s no small business, after all, making your own nasty pornography. It’s not something you can just knock out, if you’re of that horrible ilk, when you fancy.

Planning, subterfuge, malice, a list of countries with malleable extradition laws; all these things are required. Which seems on the face of it quite a lot worse than a click. ‘I can’t think of another instance where doing something so bad is so easy,’ writes Jamie Bartlett, in his excellent new book The Dark Net, and he’s quite right. We are used to thinking of terrible crimes requiring a bit more oomph and agency. This is more like suddenly, on our own desks, having the nuclear button.

Lots of nuclear buttons, in fact, and lots of opportunities to press them. Taking naked pictures of myself isn’t my thing, weird old fart that I am. I’d worry, among other things, about how much to zoom, and whether one ought to put something else in shot (a coin? A marrow?) to convey scale. Still, it does seem to be a trend. Weirdly enough, I don’t remember all this talk of abuse and violation when pictures of the penis of New York congressman Anthony Weiner flooded the internet, or the other week when there emerged that truly alarming photo of something that looked like a distended haggis on Ian Botham’s Twitter feed, though he denied posting it, saying he’d been hacked. It may be that people are just more kindly disposed to a beautiful young actress. If one is abuse, though, then I guess the others are, too.

Now I think of it, in fact, there’s possibly a fair amount of abuse in that last paragraph. Indeed, if it’s abusive to click upon a stolen picture of Jennifer Lawrence, then is it not also a bit abusive to get people talking about them, these intimate snaps she’d rather have kept to herself, on the website of the Guardian? Or, if not, where does it stop? Wrong to click on a link, but fine to click on a link about clicking on a link? Or what?

I try not to be a fan of brainwashing, even when it is designed to make people stupider than me agree that I’m right. Half of me, the perturbed half, sees this ‘clicking is a crime’ business as just that — benevolent, sure; even essential, maybe — but brainwashing nonetheless. The other half, though, wonders if that’s just old-school analogue thinking, in an ever more digital world. Everything is easy these days. And a bad thing does not get less bad because it is easy to do.

We are all grown mighty, that’s the thing, and will grow mightier yet. The web has put vast powers at our fingertips — powers which were once the preserve of publishers, magnates, spies and the possessor of the Ring of Gyges. And I suppose that all we can do in the end is our utmost not to be vicious, evil, or total wankers.

Dutch courage

I’ve been in Scotland these past few weeks, gearing up for the referendum. You’ve heard about that? It hasn’t passed you by? Oddly, of all the people to whom I spoke — and there were hundreds — the one who sticks in my mind was an incredulous Dutchman. I don’t remember the exact words he said to the ‘yes’ campaigner at his door, because I didn’t write them down. But the gist was this.

‘You’re mad,’ he said. (Or didn’t, but nearly did.) ‘And selfish. Selfish and mad. Have you seen how screwed up the world is? All the evil? Ukraine? Isis? Boko Haram? Holland can’t do anything about that — we’re tiny. Britain can. And you want to leave it. Because you don’t care about anybody except yourselves. How do you sleep?’

Not an argument I’d heard before. Doubt Scots would really have gone for it. But my God, it sounded good on that front step.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times.

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Show comments
  • Kitty MLB

    Those who hack and distribute such photos of these woman who
    have been caught out by their own vanity are dark seedy little characters who inhibit a subterranean bottommost pit of the internet. But if these women were not so vain and self-obsessed such pictures wouldn’t exist and you wouldn’t need to ask such
    questions..why be so foolish when you know such atrocious cretins exist.Oh the internet is public…didn’t think of that one..
    really, Eh!!

    • But that’s the trouble, right there: the Internet is private sometimes and public at others. What happens when the two get jumbled?

      • Wessex Man

        An old man’s cockles get stirred,

      • LordJustin

        Where there’s a jumbled concept, scratch the surface and you’ll find a feminist.

  • Rik

    Am i really supposed to equate the use of the word abuse about a dumb blonde who cant set up a proper password with the abuse of 1412 children. Get a life get a sense of proportion, stop devaluing our language.

    • Liz

      Why is she dumb? You so sure your accounts could withstand a concerted hacking attempt by 4chan members intent on selling your humiliation to millions of willing collaborators?

      And why is she “a blonde”, she a breed of dog?

      You wait until your body is hawked across the Internet against your will with a variety of reactions by millions of prying eyes from the viciously hostile and threatening to the grossly degrading to the high handedly contemptuous to the pettily sexist. Then try it in a world where you live with the constant threat of that really mattering. You may breeze through life feeling blissfully unthreatened by sexual violation, but that I’m afraid is not the situation for women.

      • Wessex Man

        You are thankfully unlike all the wonderful women that have graced me with their presencein my long life.

        did you come into this world with a snarl on your face against mankind?

        • Liz

          No, it came about from my interactions with dickheads.

          • Wessex Man

            I knew from your comments that you were mixing with the wrong sort of bloke!

          • Guest

            now what If I call you a cunt. That is essentially the same thing as a dickhead, but you will get really pissed and go on a feminist rant against me.

      • FootLong

        Why would she need naked pictures of herself on her computer in the first place? Sounds like something only a dumb person would do.
        By the bye, does anyone know where can I find these photos?

        • Liz

          Why shouldn’t she? You’re the dumb one.

          • FootLong

            Why shouldn´t she? Reading this article the answer seems pretty obvious doesn´t it?

          • John Smith

            Because every dumbass knows it leaks like a sieve. Apple could not care a sheet about security

      • Rik

        I apologise wholeheartedly i am sure she is just as damaged by her abuse as the children of Rotherham NOT

      • Rik

        Great feminist rant i am sure that she is just as damaged by her”abuse”as the children of Rotherham were. NOT. try growing a sense of proportion it is misuse of the word abuse that annoys me she suffered embarrassment NOT abuse

        • Yankswanks

          Get your head out your ass.

          • Rik

            thank you for your cogent contribution to the debate

          • Wessex Man


      • LordJustin

        All good emotional stuff this anti-male, moralising, feminist claptrap. But the truth of this story lies in your second sentence, specifically the words “intent on selling”.

        What these celebs are angry about is that somebody is making MONEY out of their images and they are not being paid a ROYALTY for the pics, not that their privacy has been infringed or their modesty has been compromised.

        There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be paid for the commodity they sell for a living – in this case their image. I would be livid if someone nicked one of my pics and made money out of it without paying me my share. But, it’s the ‘poor me’ hypocrisy that is so sickening.

        Why not own up that it’s really about the cash instead of all this wailing and gnashing of teeth about perverts, when some people might think it more perverted to pose for and store the pictures than to admire them?

        After all, these self-same starlets who protest so loudly about their privacy being infringed were busy queuing up to attend fund raisers for a president who has been spying on the world for years.

        • Mc

          Spot on, LordJustin. Many starlets are perfectly comfortable with being paid to appear nude in movies, but for some reason are outraged when their nude photos are spread across the web.

          • Wessex Man

            no royalties then are? I expect this is why the one who posts as Liz is really upset.

      • Darnell Jackson

        Not often that I agree with you Liz, I agree with you on this though.
        Vile scum the hackers, wonder what they would think if someone hacked and published pictures of their mum, sister, girlfriend etc.

        • little islander

          single parent, father, italian movie, tells weeping daughter to open the door, and no, he won’t be angry with her. girl opens door. SMACK! across face. both hug and bawl. law firm offers to sue the boy. boy’s parents come pleading for mercy. sent away. come again with goat, goose and vegetables. father relents. what else can you do, DJ? start WWIII?

          • Darnell Jackson

            Full moon today?

          • little islander

            ok, will ‘sell crazy somewhere else’. didn’t know you are ‘stuck up here.’

      • Nicholas_Keen

        She’s not dumb — actually very bright and charming judging from the interview I saw recently. She made a mistake that many have made and will no doubt exercise more careful judgment in future.

      • Roger Hudson

        My cloud will never be hacked, i never store anything except email off-site. Even my computers won’t show any nude photos of me, or anyone else. Think carefully before you act on line.

      • colchar

        Oh yes right, no man has ever been sexually violated. Not one. Ever. If she wants to take naked pictures she should smarten up and buy a Polaroid (yes, they are still available) rather than storing them somewhere that anyone with an ounce of common sense knows is vulnerable.

      • Che Bob

        She’s certainly not dumb but either her, or people around her, should certainly expect that when they play this ridiculous celebrity game that we call “being an actor/actress”, you’re inevitably making yourself a target for this sort of crap and that it’s a good idea to take certain precauctions.
        But of course, I doubt the people around her care that much. They get more publicity and more money if photos of her get leaked. It’s only her who suffers, almost everyone else benefits. That’s what happens when you foster this ridiculous celebrity culture.

      • Fergus Pickering

        My body hawked across the I(nternet? Is that a promise? Why did she make the nude pictures then? Have you made nude pictures of yourself, Liz. And how did the pictures she made get onto the internet? I reallywant to know. Well I want to know a bit.

    • FootLong

      There are reports out now that some of the white girl rape victims got fgm so they would fetch more money for their Muslim pimps.

      That´s not as important though as Hollywood nudies for these pissants in the media who worship these celebrities like gods.

    • Cymrugel

      I don’t think the girl is dumb. she strikes me as quite bright.

      That said it seems pretty daft to put private pictures online.

      I wouldn’t leave a sensitive file on my desk with a port it note saying “no peeking”.

      but lots of clever people do daft things.

  • Oh come on. Lots was said when Anthony Wiener — could he have had a worse/better name? — showed the world exactly what a wiener he is. The man is a dick. I’m not the first to say it.

    By the way, the Dutchman is right.

  • Liz

    My justification for clicking on your headline, Hugo was that I wanted to know if another male journalist just wasn’t getting it and was helping to perpetuate and incite male self-entitlement and sociopathic behaviour towards my s*x, so I felt it was my duty to come and set your audience right.

    You lot were why the hackers devoted months of their lives hacking these accounts.

    • Wessex Man

      and very kind of them to do so.

      • Liz

        Aren’t you the pithy sadist.

        • Wessex Man

          don’t be stupid, I don’t even kill spiders or slugs!

          • Liz

            Nor did Hitler.

          • Wessex Man

            can you prove that? probably not your rants are of the playground!

          • AmandaP


          • No, he just killed Jews, gays, Romanies, outlying Europeans, Englishmen, and anyone else he didn’t like the look of.

            You walked right into that one, schweetheart.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            … political opponents, homosexuals, and the physically and mentally handicapped

          • Guest

            And Godwin’s Law strikes again!

    • Hugo Rifkind

      But Liz, I agree with your comments entirely. So does the piece.

      • Wessex Man


        • AJH1968

          I think you should thank your lucky stars that you feature
          in her (Liz) bad books. If you were in her good books it would mean that you were
          completely craven and spineless with no independent thought process. This woman
          frightens me, hate to meet her in a dark alley, cannot help but think “Irene
          Wuornos” when reading her diatribes.

          • Liz

            He isn’t in my bad books. I said I clicked on it to find out, then I found out.

            Then I just checked the comment section.

          • Wessex Man

            well nice of you to say so, post us a picture.

          • Wessex Man

            I know!

    • LordJustin

      You may have noticed a story this week that the author of the Game of Thrones stories/scripts has been inundated by women wanting more male nudity in the plots?

      Is that perpetuating female self-entitlement or sociopathic behaviour towards my “s*x” (as you demurely spell it)? I “felt” it was my duty to give you this chance to come and set your audience right.


    • Gwangi

      Your s-x? Haha! You ain’t no normal woman, love – a twisted manhating femiloon mutation. But I guess no-one would want to share photos of your deformity. Maybe start a Third S-x pressure group? Just a thought.
      Always the pity party victim eh? Crave that victimhood, sister, CRRRAAAAVVVVVE!
      This is not abuse at all. You are playing that modern feminist trick of claiming abuse is whatever some attention-seeking self-pitying bint says it is.
      Time to grow up, sisters. if you don’t want anyone to see naked pictures of yourself, don’t take them and share them!
      And besides, women get revenge on men in so many other ways.
      Time the law was made gender neutral, so NO extra sympathy for blubbing women who claim to be ‘alarmed and distressed’ and infantilise themselves in a devious attempt to get innocent men arrested (using silly fake laws which are utterly unjust and misused).

      • little islander

        it’s only liz. let the law be.

    • Distance Left

      It won’t have been months the vulnerabilities that were exploited would have taken at most a fortnight to get through.

      It’s simple; anyone not wanting nude pictures of themselves online; don’t put them there, it is not a private system, it was built to seamlessly share physics data, and it’s still fundamentally the same.

    • Che Bob

      Ditch the tribalism. “Another male journalist”. “Towards my sex”.
      If you can’t argue about an issue as in impartial outsider without polluting it with self-interest, you really shouldn’t be arguing about it.

  • Liz

    I wonder how many of the men who airily dismiss revenge p*rn or who like the commenter, Wessexman below, enjoy it, would watch a live channel streaming rape.

    Because this is out of the same box, these women would stop you helping yourselves to their body if they could. You are causing them distress, but you carry on.

    • Lina R

      It isn’t rape or abuse. These women have voluntarily taken pictures of themselves naked or in an intimate act. Many of them also don’t mind stripping off in films or in photo shoots, and present themselves in a sexualised way. If you don’t want naked pictures of yourself splashed across the net, don’t be so narcissistic in the first place and take them.

      • Liz

        Oh I see, they were asking for it! What’s a guy to do except hack, steal, hawk and help himself? Boys will be boys afterall, or sociopaths or something.

        • Wessex Man

          Darling, you need help!

        • whattheflip

          More hateful and deranged utterances from a lunatic femi-troll. Thanks Liz.

        • whattheflip

          I have flagged and reported your comment to the moderators for the sadistic piece of hate-speech that it is. Shame on you

        • AmandaP

          Thank you, Liz. I cannot believe the comments posted on here. It truly is heart-breaking to read people justifying a sex-crime, in order to create some sort of cognitive dissonance, so they can jerk off without conscience.
          I’m a pro-porn kind of gal, but this isn’t a porn situation. These photos were ILLEGALLY STOLEN. What is so difficult to understand? The women have been violated and humiliated.

          This thread contains mostly victim blaming and complicit rationalization. The lazy, lazy heuristics remind me of how far we have to evolve before CIVIL RIGHTS extends to both genders.

          Dear dudes: No one cares about your boner.
          It’s called bodily autonomy, read a book.

          • AmandaP

            Before anyone cries misandry, I also think the slut-shaming and victim blaming perpetuated by women, such as the many on this thread, are equally as awful as the men crying over their boner’s rights.
            So fucking Victorian, people. Get over yourselves.

    • SimonToo

      The image is distinct from the act. In the present case we are talking of images to which the subject, it seems, did not object. She does object, though, to the extent of their distribution.
      There is an old but golden rule – if someone is going to photograph you in the nude, cover your face. It applies to men and women equally.

  • Liz

    There was a time when decent men would avert their eyes from a crying woman being stripped for their pleasure.

    The relentless industrial p*rn machine is harming you as well as us.

    • SimonToo

      “There was a time when decent men would avert their eyes from a crying woman being stripped for their pleasure.” No decent man would avert his eyes. He would go to her rescue. Even the coward would make his excuses and leave.

    • MrsDBliss

      Many of your posts seem to paint men as beasts, it’s nice to hear you acknowledge that men have been gentlemanly.
      I wonder why, in your view, the change that you perceive to have occurred happened?

  • Teacher

    The Dutchman was right! The modern Scots, many of them, seem to have forgotten selflessness and duty.

  • Zimbalist

    Oh yes, it should be a criminal offence to even think about clicking on a story such as this discussing whether one should click on a link about a link to a picture.

    • LordJustin

      Articles like this prove that great writers will always find something meaningful to write about, and the rest work as columnists in the Spectator.

      • little islander

        As Jeeves said to Bertie, “Orange, sir, is perfectly fine for morning juice. Apple, on the other hand,…….”

  • LordJustin

    You know, this story puts me in mind of the anecdote of the attractive young woman who went up to a uniformed policeman in one of our great metropolises, pointed out two men across the street who were staring at her unquestionably traffic-stopping assets barely covered by a diaphanous top, and entreated him to arrest the ugly one.

  • Terry Field

    Oh for Gods sake.
    Britain the new failed state with puritanical self-hating tendencies.
    Looking at tits and bums is HEALTHY of they are attached to an attractive woman, who has, by whatever means, made her pictures available.
    Get over the national sex-hate fever.
    Deal with the Islamic elephant in your squalid ‘lounge’ (which is what most of you do most of the time),and while you are at it, deal with the mass Islamic rape-fest.
    Accept your national lie-fest is so utterly grotesque that the Scots are going to leave- and why the hell wouldn’t they??????????

    The only abuse is the possible appearance of unwanted cellulite.

  • Rory O’Connor

    My justification was seeing whether you’d ask that dumb question

  • John Smith

    What fool puts sensitive pictures on the iCloud? Everyone knows it leaks like a sieve. Its nearly as stupid as saying your mobile phone has been hacked, when you were too lazy to change the default password

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Come on guys, you surely don’t think those “wardrobe malfunctions* are kosher.

  • Distance Left

    No it isn’t abuse; Rotheram was abuse. This was the unfortunate outcome of an adult placing too much trust in a new technology that anybody living in the world we now do should know, is likely to be crackable or at least not as safe as polaroids in your top-drawer.
    Simply put; if you don’t want naked pictures of yourself online, don’t put them there in the first place; think before you act and take responsibility for your actions, whoever you are.

  • Roger Hudson

    It is far too easy for a single ‘click’ to cause huge personal grief, you read about it all the time . I was once searching online for an old schoolfriend but found i had accessed a porn site with a ‘performer’ of the same name. As far as some authorities are concerned you are always guilty so be very careful.

  • Peter Maal

    Dear Scots,
    Vote, out of your hart not out of your wallet.
    I wish you much strength.

    Peter Maal

  • AmandaP

    “I’d like to make two very specific points. Ms. Lawrence and the other victims have absolutely nothing to apologize for in terms of the contents of the photos or the nature in which they were leaked. The story itself should not be addressed as if it were a scandal, but rather what it is: A sex crime involving theft of personal property and the exploitation of the female body.”

  • AmandaP

    Lazy, lazy heuristics. Way to go, humankind.

    “If you have a peek and consider it no big deal, it normalizes the behavior for you. It makes violating people’s privacy, in a sexual way no less, something that you don’t worry about. It makes it feel like you have the right to do so. This is not a good mindset to have. I’m not saying looking at these photos will turn you into a rapist, or even a bad person. I just want you to stop and think. We can argue just how bad participating in this privacy violation is and get nowhere. Is it a little bad or a lot bad? What is certain is: it’s not good. “

  • No it is not.

  • Samantha Bryan

    she is a good actress

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    All part of the cunning plan to give every adult male in UK a criminal record.
    Jack, Japan Alps

  • Jingogunner

    At least she shaves it.

  • jenab6

    I barely know who Jennifer Lawrence is. I’ve spent the last 19 years without a television receiver, and my online concerns don’t include celebrities, until something I’m doing causes me to cross paths with one of them. And I avoid contact when I can because celebs can be such easily offended primadonnas. While I do admire and acknowledge good work, I don’t do the fan-boy kowtow thing, and that rubs some celebs the wrong way. You know the type: they’re the ones who preside over a court of groupie sycophants on blogs and newsgroups. I’ve been tossed out of two of them for failing to show sufficient respect to His or Her Majesty.

    But, as I said, I hardly knew who Jennifer Lawrence was until the naked pictures scandal went viral. I’d heard the name, and I’d assumed she was an actress. But I wasn’t curious about how she looked, naked or clothed, and I didn’t go hunting pictures of her to look at. I had better things to do. Like play Elder Scrolls Online and write essays about what’s wrong with liberal social ideas.

    Then along comes a big bunch of people telling me “Don’t look at Jennifer Lawrence’s naked pictures,” and what’s the first thing I do? Hint: never tell me not to do something that I can easily do. I might not care how Jennifer Lawrence’s body looks, but I’ll peek at the pictures just to spite you, Miss Moral Authority. I never could stand Aunt Nellies, and now that I’m grown up I’m going to repay them for pinching my cheeks when I was a boy by doing the opposite of what they want.

    Ho hum. She’s pretty. At least she was when the photos were made. She perhaps falls short of the theoretical maximum in female beauty, but she’s definitely in the top 15%. There’s a chance Playboy might send an agent to call upon her with a photo shoot invitation, assuming she hasn’t been previously so honored. But, again, I don’t care one way or another about Jennifer Lawrence being the 32,173,029th woman to have nude pictures of herself online.

    That’s one reason Jennifer Lawrence’s photos aren’t really a threat to the innocence of children. Children with computers can access explicit pornography if they want to. The porn peddlers erect new websites faster than the parental-control software vendors can block them. But very young children aren’t interested. (They don’t see the point.) Teenagers will relieve themselves in the common way with the help of visual aids, and the odds of their picking Ms. Lawrence’s pictures for that purpose are small. They’d be even smaller if this fuss about them had not been made.

    I agree that everybody has a right to keep their skin to themselves. But in order to exercise that right, you must never grant permission to anyone else to photograph you naked or to possess pictures of yourself naked. You’ve been deprived of a right only if someone STEALS from you what you had a right to deny them.

    For example, when an employer hides surveillance cameras in employees’ “private” offices, allowing them to think that they can simply shut/lock the door in order to have privacy for changing their clothes, and the employer (or his security chief, or one of his executive representatives) subsequently makes use of the images of a nude or underwear-clad employee, then the employer and all of his accessories before and after the fact should be liable for damages in a civil court. The tables should be turned, and the guilty should have their pants sued off.

    But if at any time you knowingly gave to someone permission to take your picture, whether you are dressed or not, then you have lost the right not to have your picture shown about.

    However, a word about contracts. Corporate lawyers think it is very clever to hand a prospective employee a thick book filled with thin text and tell him it’s the company’s terms of employment. Just take five minutes to read it over and decide whether you will accept it or not. The courts SHOULD put a stop to that kind of thing (though I doubt they will). Very few people are such speedy readers that they can absorb the document and understand what they are agreeing to. They need jobs or they will starve, but they can’t possibly know, with this going on, whom it is safe to work for. They simply sign in ignorance and hope for the best, and most of the time they end up betrayed. In my opinion, if a contract’s legal text is more than ten kilobytes long (uncompressed), and one of the parties to the contract is too poor to retain the assistance of a legal firm, then it is no contract at all.

  • James

    I found them over at but I guess this is what happens with dumb celebrities