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From Emma Watson's nude threat to abusive YouTube comments: why women aren't safe on the internet

From Emma Watson's nude threat to abusive YouTube comments: why women aren't safe on the internet


Let me get this straight: I'm supposed to believe a threat doesn't matter because it isn't carried out?

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Hoax threats still count as threats.
Hoax threats still count as threats.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Shortly after some assholes leaked stolen nude photos of celebrity ladies, someone else popped up to promise similar leaks of Emma Watson, because it's still not safe to be a woman on the internet.

The Emma Watson leaks were a hoax, but that doesn't make the existence of the threats okay. Here's the thing: no one has access to your intentions except you, and I'm with Dr. House — everybody lies. Forget intentions. We've got something more powerful to analyze: behavior. It is way more effort to lie with behavior than it is with words.

What was the behavior of the group responsible for the hoax? Promising to leak Emma Watson's nudes. Threats are a behavior which demonstrate no regard for her safety or well-being. She received a threat, one predicated entirely on the fact that she was a woman. It was meant to frighten her, and the rest of us as well.We know women to be at extremely high risk for violence at the hands of men

Maybe I sound exasperated. I am. I cannot believe it is 2014, and threats against women are still treated as fundamentally unserious. Here's why: One in five U.S. women has been raped in her lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in six has been stalked. One in four women has experienced violence from a domestic partner. When women are murdered, two times out of five, the culprit is an intimate partner, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Domestic violence is a leading cause of death for pregnant women, the CDC warns. So it's in our best interest to take threats seriously, even when they're coming from internet strangers, because we know women to be at extremely high risk for violence at the hands of men.

Threats make the internet unsafe for me, and for Emma Watson, and for a lot of other women, too. Ask Anita Sarkeesian. Ask Kathy Sierra. Ask Catherine Mayer, Lindy West, or Alyssa Royce. This isn't even an exhaustive list, it's just the first women that came to mind, because the sick thing is that this never stops. And honestly, if we — all of us — don't make it stop, it never will.

Whenever nude photos are leaked, there's always someone willing to say, in front of God and everyone, "Well, if she didn't want her photos leaked, she shouldn't have taken them." Because, as we all know: good girls don't like sex and would never take pleasure in photographing their own bodies and possibly sending them to a lover. And bad girls — any woman who has taken a nude of herself is a de facto bad girl in this line of argument — are undeserving of protection.

If we don't make it stop, it never willThis isn't just a dumb hangover from our Puritan past, it's actually dangerous. If good girls aren't supposed to enjoy sex, then forcing sex on them is okay. Meanwhile, bad girls "deserve" it. Either way, it's possible to justify rape. If that doesn't frighten you, it should. It's implicit in the argument that women have no right to enjoy nudes privately and safely; it implies that women are public property. It says our consent doesn't matter.

Stolen celebrity nudes are, by definition, not consensual. Someone who looks at them is complicit in the abuse — he is looking at something released explicitly against the will of the person depicted. That's bad behavior. It's also scary behavior. Because if someone doesn't care about consent in that context, where else might he decide it doesn't matter?