The Naked Truth: Were Whoopi Goldberg’s Opinions on the Risks of Nude Photos Victim Blaming or Common Sense?

Whoopi Goldberg on May 28, 2019, in New York City.
Whoopi Goldberg on May 28, 2019, in New York City.
Photo: Dia Dipasupil (Getty Images)

Kids, we need to talk. Namely, we need to talk about a modern phenomenon with some very well-documented consequences: sharing nude photos.

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Rihanna, Leslie Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Olivia Munn and many more have all been victimized by their intimate photos being leaked, and last week, 21-year-old actress, singer and author Bella Thorne became the latest celeb to be blackmailed with threats after a hacker gained access to her phone. As is typically the case, Thorne’s photos were initially intended to be shared with one individual, but to thwart her blackmailers (who purportedly also plan to peddle photos of other celebs), she chose to publish her nudes herself, with the caption: “Here’s my boobies.”

As reported by Glamour, on Saturday, Thorne also tweeted:

Yesterday as you all know, my shit was hacked. For the last 24 hours, I have been threatened with my own nudes. I feel gross, I feel watched, I feel someone has taken something from me that I only wanted one special person to see ... he won’t stop with me or them, he will just keep going.

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Thorne’s approach caused many to remark on her bravery. But at least one entertainment icon dared to mention the one way the entire situation could’ve been avoided. When the panel of ABC’s The View discussed the issue on Monday, Whoopi Goldberg—never known for mincing words—made plain her thoughts on the issue:

“If you’re famous—I don’t care how old you are—you don’t take nude pictures of yourself,” Goldberg declared, as co-host Sunny Hostin attempted a more sympathetic approach, pointing out Thorne’s youth.

“Once you take that picture it goes into the cloud and it’s available to any hacker who wants it,” Goldberg continued. “And if you don’t know that in 2019 that this is an issue ... I’m sorry, your age does not—you don’t get to do that.”

Thorne did not take kindly to Goldberg’s opinion on the issue, responding via a series of Instagram stories in which she accused Goldberg of victim blaming, among other things.

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“I’m not going to lie,” Thorne said through tears. “I want to say I feel pretty disgusting. I feel pretty disgusting, Whoopi, now that everyone’s seen my shit, and I just want to say that watching this interview made me feel really bad about myself, and I hope you’re happy. I really do, I hope you’re so fucking happy, because I can only imagine all the kids who have their shit released and then they commit suicide. You know, you’re so crazy for thinking such terrible things on such an awful situation.

“You know, I don’t really wanna go on The View anymore, because I don’t really want to be beaten down by a bunch of older women for my body and my sexuality,” Thorne continued. “I don’t really feel like that, because I don’t want you guys talking about your views to young girls because I would not want my daughter to learn that and I would never say that to her. I’m done.”

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But no, she wasn’t done just yet.

“Shame on you, Whoopi. Shame on you for putting that public opinion just out there like that for every young girl to think that they’re disgusting for even taking a photo like that. Shame on you,” Thorne said. “Saying if you take a sexy photo, then it basically deserves to get leaked like don’t be surprised at all and don’t feel sorry for yourself.”

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Thorne then went on to surmise that Goldberg was slut-shaming her, asking whether she’d also “deserve it” if she went out drinking and got raped, “because those two things are pretty fucking similar, to me.” As of press time, Whoopi had yet to respond. We’re guessing this is likely for the best.

Look, we’re not here to debate the merits or morality of sending nudes. They can be very, very fun—or, so we’ve heard. They’re also effectively the love letters of our immediate gratification, porn and dating app-obsessed era, and they’re not going anywhere. Neither is Thorne to blame for being violated and extorted; extortionists suck, as does a patriarchal system that places a high premium on the control and debasement of women—and regularly uses their sexuality to do so, whether via leaked nudes or repealing abortion rights.

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Thorne is a victim, and rightfully angry at being exploited in this manner. But is her rage effectively directed here? Was Goldberg personally shaming Thorne—or calling young girls who take similar photos “disgusting” (because we didn’t hear her say that on The View)—or was she simply stating facts when she said that as a well-known person, “you cannot be surprised that someone has hacked you?”

(Because if mo’ money means mo’ problems, more visibility might logically lead to ... more visibility.)

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But this isn’t just a rich people problem, as any number of revenge porn incidents indicate. Kids, we live in an age where your friends and family can geo-track you and the internet keeps detailed information on your shopping habits, political views, and even drinking habits. While we’d love to live in a world where everyone can express their sexuality freely with the full expectation of privacy and control over any images they might produce, we’re also making movements in full awareness that that’s simply not the way modern technology works.

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You don’t have to be an “older woman” to acknowledge this fact, nor is doing so beating down a younger woman for her body and sexuality. It’s simply the risk of living in an all-access society.

Because if there’s one thing we all know for sure, it’s that modern sex requires protection—of all kinds. While that may not be reason enough to abandon the inevitable voyeuristic thrill of a well-shot nude, if you’re going to partake, is it at least fair to suggest that you protect yourself? (And yes, there are methods.)

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Because otherwise, there’s always a chance you’re being watched. That’s not judgment. That’s just facts.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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DISCUSSION

blackmage2030
BlackMage2030

I think a significant portion of the issue is fame - were Rihanna, Scarlett Johannsen, Jennifer Lawrence, and now Bella Thorne private people living their best lives without a cadre of agents, publicists, and other minders of their “brand” would they get more empathy? Yes.

[Let me be clear: NO ONE should have their shit forced out there if they don’t want it made public. People should be able to trust each other and respect boundaries, no matter who you are or what you look like. Folks who pedal in revenge porn and hack into vulnerable people’s domains to hunt for boob pics and other things are horrors]

At certain point when a person goes from kind-of-known to A General Deal measures need to be amped to keep their private lives private - particularly as overexposure and no respect for them as humans has killed a lot of great talent, directly and indirectly. For Bella Thorne, as she speaks of slut-shaming and victim blaming she is ignoring that there is a *privilege* of resources available to her that are not there for the myriad of teens and young adults she was advocating for while lambasting Whoopi: can an average teen invest in a security team that can keep them physically and digitally safe going forward? Can a young adult overpower their hacker through releasing their nudes themselves in an age where employers Google applicants easily and there are folks going to court over the jobs they lost due to raunchy pasts they weren’t ashamed of but will be paying court fees to defend? Can either one call on Vanity Fair, Cosmo, or Vogue and do a tasteful semi-nude to give the middle finger to a society that sees boobs as sex objects? No. Yes it is wrong to have your life violated, but it’s wrong to ignore how there are more incentives and measures available to a celebrity than the average person to take more care of the private/public bubble. Moreso in a sick world of invasive papparazzi that get paid per picture and pervs that do shit like ‘of-age’ countdown clocks for child actresses.