Speaking Out

Jennifer Lawrence’s Furious, Perfect Response to Nude Photo Leak: “It Is a Sex Crime”

The ‘Hunger Games’ star tells Vanity Fair that the hackers behind her nude photo leak are criminals in a blistering, pitch-perfect statement on the disgusting affair.

Mike Blake/Reuters

Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect amount of angry.

Several of the actresses who were victims of “The Fappening” have released statements in the wake of the leak of their stolen, private photos, but none have been given a platform quite as big as the Hunger Games star has just gotten: the cover of Vanity Fair. And, true to form, she launches a scorching tirade against the people responsible for the invasion of privacy, like a girl on fire.

As far as she’s concerned, they’re criminals.

“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” Lawrence told Vanity Fair contributing editor Sam Kashner. “It’s a sexual violation. It’s disgusting.”

It was last month that nude photos of Lawrence were released, along with a flood of similar pictures of a red carpet’s worth of other female celebrities—including Kate Upton and Ariana Grande— in a crass hack of their personal collections crudely dubbed “The Fappening.” Since the first massive dump of images, three more waves of leaks have taken place, a gross and widespread—not to mention misogynistic—invasion of privacy that included the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Kim Kardashian, Kate Bosworth, and Winona Ryder.

At the outset, only a handful of the victims spoke out about what had happened to them. Their resounding sentiment—we are victims—sent a clear message to those who either blamed the starlets for taking these photos in the first place (I believe the word for this “slut shaming” and it is a pathetic practice) or called them hypocrites for taking offense to these photo leaks when they’re so often consensually naked, or nearly so, for profit in their careers (I believe the word for this is “asinine”).

“To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves,” Mary Elizabeth Winstead tweeted.

Actress Gabrielle Union was far more direct in her statement: “I can’t help but to be reminded that since the dawn of time women and children, specifically women of color, have been victimized, and the power over their own bodies taken from them. These atrocities against women and children continue worldwide… We have done nothing wrong.”

As time has passed, though, the only word from Lawrence’s camp was from her publicist, who called the hack a “flagrant violation of privacy” and promised prosecution of whoever was involved.

And while it must be noted that it is by no means her responsibility or her duty to be candid or outspoken at all times, especially traumatizing ones like these, it still seemed odd, or at least atypical, that the actress we’ve come to respect for her unfiltered and impassioned comments on everything related to her career had not given a lengthier statement.

Even Kashner, who had already done much of his reporting with Lawrence for the Vanity Fair cover story before the leak of her photos, told the magazine, “I could just sense after having spent a little time with her that she would come out swinging.”

As it turns out, we were all right. Lawrence says she had actually started and stopped writing several statements expressing her outrage over the hack, but “every single thing that I tried to write made me cry or get angry. I started to write an apology, but I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for. I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long-distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.”

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

Her comments to Vanity Fair about the incident, however, are remarkable for the careful way they’ve been measured as more time passes since the initial sting of the personal attack on her privacy and admirable for their very pointed, very passionate, and, most of all, unapologetic wording.

“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this,” she says. “It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world. ”

When you save your statement on a major news item like this for the cover of a magazine, there’s pressure on you to make sure what you say is good. And what Lawrence has to say is perfect.

For one, she’s not laughing it off. Well, at least not completely.

There’s definitely a route that Lawrence could’ve followed, and maybe one that we expected her to, where she appears on Jimmy Fallon’s talk show, tells a knock-knock joke, makes a farting noise, and rolls her eyes exasperatedly about that “cray cray” thing that happened to her. You know, pulling out the Jennifer Lawrence charm in order to dust the controversy under the rug and promulgate her image as America’s Sweetheart, the self-effacing wise-cracker whose career succeeds because she lets the bullshit just roll off her shoulders.

It’s pretty great that she’s actually calling out the bullshit. It’s pretty great that she’s angry. It’s pretty great that she’s on a mission to make these people pay, and it’s pretty great that she’s shaming all of us who not only looked at those photos, but who gave web traffic to sites who ran or obsessed about those photos (which we at The Daily Beast are complicit in, with our incessant—and, I think, important and useful—dissection on the ramifications of this event on a sociopolitical culture, and what the discourse that has sprung from it says about our society).

“Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offense,” she says. “You should cower with shame. Even people who I know and love say, ‘Oh, yeah, I looked at the pictures.’ I don’t want to get mad, but at the same time I’m thinking, I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body.”

And her message to the tabloid community: “You have a choice. You don’t have to be a person who spreads negativity and lies for a living. You can do something good. You can be good. Let’s just make that choice and—it feels better.”

Lawrence’s comments begin to hit on something that I think has been missing from the conversation surrounding these leaks and hacks. There has been so much talk about slut shaming and victim blaming and responsibility and sexualization and everything in between, the nuances of which are impossible to separate from the sheer reality that these are all beautiful, sexy, famous women who have been implicated.

Thus far, there has been only one male victim of “The Fappening”—Nick Hogan, son of Hulk Hogan—and the dump of his photos includes only one image of himself nude among dozens of naked photos of women that these girls supposedly sent to him. How will the discourse change if suddenly a spate of male stars find their nude photos leaked, and society forces them to explain themselves? When the misogynistic titillation element is gone, and it’s the male body that is being exploited?

Sexting is typically a two-way dialogue. If these women were sending explicit photos, it’s not unreasonable to expect that at least some of the men were sending photos of themselves back. Is that what it will take to get this taken seriously as, as Lawrence calls it, a “sex crime”?

It seems pretty inane to wonder if male victims will be the last straw, when the last straw should’ve fallen after the first invasive leak last month. But if an entire industry of actresses are telling us that they have been victimized and society, let alone the government, is still polarized on whether to take them seriously, you can’t help but wonder if the lack of action is a sexist response.

Perhaps, then, Zac Efron’s leaked dick pics will save us all.

“The law needs to be changed, and we need to change,” Lawrence says. “That’s why these Web sites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”