It’s difficult for many people to empathise with Kim Kardashian, so prolific is her personal life. So lets just imagine for a minute that an unnamed male musician is performing a concert at a major festival. A festival goer in the crowd then holds up a large image which shows the musician’s wife performing oral sex on a previous boyfriend. Let’s imagine that this image is a still from a sex tape that was publicly released without the woman’s prior consent. To add further detail, lets also say that the woman in question is four months pregnant. Would you find such a situation to be amusing?
Some of the twisted social media reactions to this incident have been nothing short of disturbing. Kim Kardashian is often depicted in a highly sexualised manner by the media and has been for a long time. In many ways, her leaked sex tape has defined her media identity to the point that she is seen as more or less fair game. Oceans of tabloid ink have been given to detailing her famous curves and to spilling crude jokes about the width of her ample buttocks. Her sexuality has become somewhat of a meme.
To attempt shame a woman, any woman, for enjoying sexual intercourse is profoundly misogynist. However, I believe that many people are very selective about who they class as a victim and who they see as somehow “asking for it”. Think back for example to the topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge which were published without her knowledge or consent. Journalist’s were quite rightly horrified by this sordid invasion of privacy and dozens of high brow opinion pieces have been written on the matter. When nude pictures of Hunger Games Actress Jennifer Lawrence were uploaded to the internet fans rallied behind her. For women such as Kim Kardashian however, who are defined by their ability to shock and to share personal aspects of their life there is not nearly as much sympathy.
It is true that Kim Kardashian has previously released sexualised, revealing images of herself. This isn’t relevant and does not excuse a person attempting to humiliate a woman using non consensual imagery. You don’t have to like Kim Kardashian to feel angered by this incident. You don’t have to be an admirer of her oeuvre of work. This isn’t a debate over the legitimacy of reality TV as an art form. Nor is this a debate as to whether Kim Kardashian has the talent to warrant her huge amounts of fame and wealth. This boils down to a very simple question indeed which is; do you believe that images of a woman performing a sexual act should be broadcast in public without her consent?