‘The Fappening’ Perpetuators Have a J.Law Come-to-Jesus Moment and ‘Cower With Shame’

After receiving a thorough thrashing in the pages of Vanity Fair by hacking victim Jennifer Lawrence, many of the anonymous posters who shared her stolen photos admit they were wrong.

Jennifer Lawrence has dug deep, and unloaded her quiver.

The Oscar-winning actress and Hunger Games star had been weighing how to confront her cyber-assailants since August 31, when nude photos and videos of the 24-year-old were allegedly hacked off her iCloud and disseminated online. She became, by virtue of being the most famous victim, the face of “The Fappening”—the crude moniker given to the widespread privacy invasion that targeted many of the most renowned women in the entertainment world, including Scarlett Johansson, Kim Kardashian, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and Cara Delevingne.

In an upcoming Vanity Fair cover story, Lawrence opened up for the first time about what she brands “a sex crime,” telling contributing editor Sam Kashner: “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting...The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. 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.”

She recalled being “so afraid” for how the privacy breach would affect her career, the pain she felt when she had to break the news to her father (“When I have to make that phone call to my dad and tell him what’s happened…I don’t care how much money I get for The Hunger Games”), and how she contemplated writing an apology. But “every single thing that I tried to write made me cry or get angry,” she said. “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 [with Nicholas Hoult]. It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.”

While the photos and videos were first leaked on 4chan and Anon-1B, they were widely spread via message boards and hosting sites like Imgur, Tumblr, and—in particular—Reddit. The latter online community/social networking service hosted dozens of subreddits where users shared the stolen “Fappening” photos, with new subreddits popping up faster than administrators could ban them. In a strange twist, Reddit is owned by the media conglomerate Advance Publications, which also owns Condé Nast, which owns Vanity Fair. So the same media company hosted links to the Lawrence photos and the response.

One of the most trafficked subreddits that hosted links to the stolen J.Law photos and videos (along with those targeting others) is r/fappeningdiscussion, which remains active. There, anonymous users who helped perpetuate the spread of photos by sharing and requesting links started a new topic specifically on Lawrence’s response.

“Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offense,” said Lawrence. “You should cower with shame.”

Indeed, many of the posters are, it seems, feeling ashamed about their actions.

User iiig wrote: “I would agree on every point; it was a crime, it was a sexual violation, and it was a disgusting thing to do. You can quibble about the phrase ‘sex crime’ if you want—maybe you think that suggests something more active or physical, like sexual assault—but it does describe a range of crimes, many of which are more ‘passive,’ like sexual harassment and invasion of privacy.”

The user continued: “Note the verbiage: perpetuating, not perpetrating. She’s not equating looking at the pictures to a crime, she’s just saying, correctly, that by viewing, sharing, spreading, and generally reveling in the pictures we are perpetuating the crime. You would have to be profoundly intellectually dishonest to claim that’s not true. I mean, most people on here are literally openly hoping for the leaks to continue and expand in scope and scale. Obviously we’re perpetuating it.”

One user engaged in classic victim-blaming, claiming, “these actresses sexualize their body so [the leaks] sparked my interest,” to which user FryingPansexual replied: “You realize you sound bang on like every rape apologist ever there…let’s not fucking pretend this shit is morally beyond reproach. We’re being assholes here and I’m fine with that. It’s just creepy to pretend otherwise.”

Another compared Lawrence’s plight to the leaking of various celebrity sex tapes, asking, “but how come no one gave a shit when Hulk Hogan’s sex tape was leaked?” to which user Agagalneer, one of Lawrence’s most vigilant defenders on the board, responded: “I think people did give a shit, but it was less of an issue because one of the people in the tape was the person who did the leaking. And context is very important. Hulk Hogan wasn’t called a whore because he had sex with someone on tape. That sex tape and whatever strange, strange people watched it didn’t perpetuate a cultural narrative that denigrates women.”

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Many of the posters tried to absolve themselves of any blame by pointing the finger at Apple, whose iCloud storage system was breached—presumably via a “brute force” attack, or cracking passwords by entering thousands and thousands of key combinations. Because the iCloud allows for an unlimited number of guesses at one’s password and security questions, and because much of the personal information that would qualify as a password is fairly public given Lawrence’s A-list stature, hackers can basically have at it ‘til they stumble on the right one.

One user wrote: “Really? If I trust a bank to hold my money, I want them to do everything possible to keep that money safe. If someone robs the bank then that means not enough precaution was took to stop that robbery. PERIOD. Why do you view this differently when talking about Apple?”

In the Vanity Fair piece, Lawrence defended her celebrity status and said that that did not entitle people to her body.

“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this,” she said. “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.”

That bit hit home for user Haquistadore, who issued a lengthy takedown of both him or herself and all the fellow “Fappening” admirers:

“She’s right, which I’ve been saying all along. The fact is, people act like scumbags. We all do, sometimes, even the best of us. The problem is in pretending that we aren’t doing something wrong…In this case, it’s the Internet equivalent of stumbling across a hot drunk girl passed out in an empty bedroom. The correct procedure in that case is obvious: you cover her with a blanket and leave her alone. The scumbag, wrong thing to do is cop a feel or rape her. People who justify their feverish obsession of the Fappening by saying these celebrities ‘asked for it’ are no better than the criminal scumbag who’d rape the drunk girl and then argue that she obviously shouldn’t have gotten so drunk.”The user concluded: “At least own who you are. You’re a pervert who did a bad thing. Owe up to it; I have.”