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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Victims and the trouble they invite

At the risk of coming late to this party, The Right Stuff simply has to get this off its chest: There exists precisely one option for anybody — and this goes for unknowns as well as the fabulously famous — who wants a 100 percent guarantee against nude photographs of themselves circulating all over the global internet.

Don’t take them or allow them to be taken. That’s it.

I’m not suggesting this amounts to genius advice. It’s drawn from the same deep well of everyday wisdom Mom used to tap when she’d say, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of the newspaper.” OK, Mom was old school. Today she might say, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want leading Gawker or linked to by the Drudge Report.”

This also doesn’t excuse the creep or creeps who pried the images loose and sent them on their tawdry way. The Right Stuff hopes the location of their mom’s basement or rumpus room (or Moscow coffee shop) is quickly identified, the pervert[s] is/are nabbed, perp-walked, successfully prosecuted and banished to a place where tapping code on a concrete block wall is as high tech as communication gets.

But wriggle as they might, the women whose — ahem — honor has been violated must understand that their actions, in some not-insignificant part, initiated this sad scenario. If the innocents in our world want to describe this as “blaming the victim,” that’s their business. They’re wrong, and their go-to analogy — nobody says stop using credit cards online when your financial data gets hacked — is wrong, too. While proving fraud is bothersome, it isn’t difficult, and financial institutions have an obligation to make its victims whole.

But where do the women who’ve been exposed go to reclaim their (for public purposes, anyway) modesty? It cannot be done. And so it comes back to their role in the scandal’s genesis, their creation of what lawyers call “an attractive nuisance.”

Lacking loser-pays tort reform in America, we are constantly stamping out physical attractive nuisances in America, which explains why our public playgrounds have become static and boring, especially compared to their you-knew-and-accepted-the-risks counterparts in, for instance, Great Britain. Still, such things exist, and it is up to responsible adults to act, well, responsibly.

I am reminded of the sign posted at a car wash that is otherwise lost to memory. It said, essentially, while ownership does everything it can to maintain a roster of supremely honest employees, their mission is aided when customers remove temptation — valuables, emergency cash, cups filled with loose change and so on — as they exit their vehicles.

In other words, customers assumed the risk of loss for anything they left behind. The same, alas, goes for celebrities who get naked for private photo sessions and then leave them to the hackable mercies of the cloud. Again, what’s happened to Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and others is awful. And, again, no, they didn’t have it coming to them.

But participating in the creation of the photos in question was dangerously narcissistic; thinking they’d never go public was willfully naive; and harboring any notion the images can be popped back in the bottle is the false triumph of celebrity privilege over technical reality.

The World Wide Web never forgets, never forgives and, alas, never, ever blushes.