THE DEFENSE RESTS
The Kim Kardashian Myth That Won't Die
She is body- and slut-shamed left and right—even while pregnant during the VMAs. But the reality is that Kim Kardashian was never a ‘ho,’ and has always deserved your respect.
With the glaring exception of Nicki Minaj, who injected a much-needed dose of Jamaica, Queens realness into the affair by calling out Miley Cyrus for her years-long impersonation of Anne Hathaway in Havoc, and the gloriously ad-libbed exploits of Kanye West, the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards was a mirthless spectacle. It was so damn boring that Gawker, ever the vigilant “investigatory journalists,” went all True Detective on a backstage video of Taylor Swift clearly blowing her nose into a handkerchief on the way-off chance that it was blow.
When you observed Twitter’s reaction to the ceremony, however, the mood went from sad to downright disturbing, as thousands of poorly-raised ingrates teed off on Kim Kardashian’s appearance. With her slicked-back hair and Balmain lace-up dress, Kardashian, who is 5½ months pregnant, looked radiant, yet became the butt of fat jokes online, taking the form of childish memes—with even Buzzfeed getting in on the worst party ever with their cheap listicle, “13 Things Kim Kardashian’s Outfit looked Like At The 2015 VMAs.”
Setting aside the general awfulness of body-shaming a pregnant woman, let alone one battling the potentially life-threatening condition placenta accreta, that this outpouring of online vitriol was directed at Kardashian seemed a byproduct of many people’s overall disdain for her.The previous week, 2 Live Crew founder Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell spoke out against Kardashian, positing her as the epitome of the misogynistic hip-hop mantra, “you can’t turn a ho into a housewife.”
“It used to be a difference, before Kanye West, rappers wasn’t wifin’ all these hos,” Uncle Luke said during a WatchLOUD interview, adding, “We wasn’t marrying girls or wifing girls for the Internet to blow up.”
Why do Uncle Luke—who by the way has six kids with five different women, and once interviewed Jay Z next to tour bus groupies having sex—and others feel this way about Kardashian? This is a woman, after all, who’s never been arrested or spoken ill of anyone publicly (which is kind of a miracle these days), has promoted body positivity for women, helped bring visibility to the LGBTQ community via Caitlyn Jenner, spoken out against racism and for gun control, and has tirelessly supported recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
The answer, it seems, is that a good portion of the general public are Kreationists who’ve bought into the following Kardashian origin story: She began as an assistant to Paris Hilton, observed her path to fame, went ahead and mirrored it by releasing her own sex tape to the public, et voila.
In other words, it all comes down to the sex tape. There are several things wrong with this. First, it’s wrong to consider any woman who works in porn a “ho,” period. Everyone watches porn—hell, Donald Trump once copped to watching Paris Hilton’s sex tape with his wife, Melania, and he’s been a family friend of Paris’s since she was 12—and Kardashian’s is the best-selling sex tape ever, which means a lot of people got off on it. Second is the racial component. While Taylor Swift can date any number of corn-fed white guys and be labeled merely a serial dater, the fact that Kim’s dated mostly black men has drawn her extra criticism from the more narrow-minded among us. Third, there seems to be a gendered component to the criticism, for why do people view Kim Kardashian as a “slut” when other male celebrity sex tape stars like Rob Lowe (two girls, statutory no less) or Colin Farrell have gotten away scot-free?
The reason is that people think Kardashian released the tape herself in order to get famous.Let’s backtrack a bit. Back in 2000, a then-19-year-old Kardashian married Damon Thomas, a prominent music producer. They divorced in 2003, and court documents later obtained by Star magazine alleged that she was the victim of a cycle of domestic violence at the hands of Thomas, who subjected her to many beatings, controlled her every move, and even forced her to get liposuction because he wanted her to be “perfect.” Around the time of their split, Kardashian’s father passed away from cancer, and she began seeing the R&B singer Ray J. That year, the same one she split from her alleged abuser and lost her father, she filmed that notorious sex tape with Ray J.
Flash forward to February 2007. That sex tape is purchased by Vivid Entertainment and released. In October, the reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians premieres on E!, and the rest is history.
Both Kardashian and Ray J claim to have no idea who leaked the tape, with the latter telling ET that there was “a lot of yelling and screaming” between them when it did “because I didn’t know where it was coming from, she didn’t know until we found out, and then we just had to deal with it from there since everybody’s seen it and it’s on every website.”
Her stepfather, then Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn), seemed to place the onus on Ray J, saying, “[Kim] got sold out. It was one of the more difficult things that you can go through.”
While there’s no actual proof of who sold the tape to Vivid—the company has long claimed it was a “third party”—Kardashian immediately filed suit against Vivid to block the distribution of the tape. But by then, as Ray J attested, everyone had already seen it. This wasn’t 2003, the year Hilton’s tape was released; this was 2007, and free online streaming porn sites had just become all the rage, with YouPorn debuting in August 2006 and RedTube in early 2007. With the tape having already gone viral, Kardashian chose to settle with Vivid for $5 million.Meanwhile, the terms of Ray J’s settlement—the man who shot the tape, by the way—are unknown. But late last year, TMZ reported that the increasingly irrelevant Ray J has continued to get very, very rich off the tape, raking in $90,000 every three months from its sales. After Kardashian’s infamous #BreakTheInternet Paper magazine cover was unveiled, the site reported that Ray J stood to make $50,000 that week in sex tape sales.
And, though we don’t know if Ray J is the one who leaked the tape, we do know that he won’t shut up about it. He’s trolled her on Twitter, released a music video featuring a Kim look-alike called “Never Shoulda Did That” that mentions the sex tape, and, in the wake of Kardashian’s marriage to Kanye West, cooked up the diss track “I Hit It First” about Kardashian, featuring a pixelated image of her on the single’s cover and lines like, “And if you were to come back to me, girl, we’ll make another movie… I put her on, I put her on, I put that girl on.”
In an interview with Oprah back in 2012, Kardashian shut down the rumor that she’d released the tape herself, and was mortified about “humiliating the family.”
“You know, I think that’s how I was definitely introduced to the world,” she said of the tape. “It was a negative way, so I felt like I really had to work 10 times harder to get people to see the real me.”