This week, Kim Kardashian set herself the challenge of “breaking the internet” and millions of people around the world immediately rallied round to help by tweeting what an abominable whore/tramp/idiot she is.
Which is fair enough. You don’t have to like Kim Kardashian - or her alarmingly shiny buttocks for that matter - but if you really don’t want to see them, tweeting that she’s a whore really isn’t the way to go about it.
I won’t lie: she’s easy to criticise. One of the most annoying things about her for a lot of people is her assumed lack of talent and the kind of example she sets to young girls about what constitutes a successful woman. After all, as everyone will remind you, all she’s famous for is a sex tape.
And, well, I can’t argue with that. Her recorded romp with Ray J (who by the way sounds like a gentleman of the highest order) was irrefutably the catalyst that spawned the Kardashian empire and instilled in us a need to keep up with everything they do.
But very little is actually said about how that sex tape came to be.
Basically, she had sex with her boyfriend and they filmed it, it was leaked and sold without her permission to a porn company and they released it despite her efforts to prevent it, which they were allowed to do because they had legally acquired the rights. She started to sue Vivid Entertainment, at which point they agreed to cease circulating the video and paid her $5 million to drop her lawsuit.
End of story for Ray J and Vivid Entertainment, but not so for poor Kim K. True, Vivid could no longer directly profit from the video, but the damage was already done. It’s still out there to this day, and Kim has never been allowed to forget.
Luckily for her, instead of sitting around crying about it, Kim chose to roll up her sleeves and move on. Unfortunately, she chose to do this by becoming insanely rich and famous, and that seems to have pissed a lot of people off.
Which I guess is fair enough. Having sex with someone famous doesn’t exactly require a huge amount of skill, so the decision to embark on a career as a celebrated individual off the back of that might seem questionable to some.
the fact remains that a naked woman is enough to get people talking, and once they start talking, they’ll soon start paying.
But what people don’t think about is that maybe she just realised that this stuff is kinda, well… profitable.
Because $5 million is a lot of money for doing something very easy, and Vivid Entertainment had to get it from somewhere. And as much as you might hate to admit it, they got it from you. The general public. The consumer.
The ones who watch porn on their laptops by night and discuss the suitability of Kim as a role model by day. The ones who buy lads’ mags but still reckon “Kim Kardashian is famous for nothing”. The ones who publicly shame women who’ve had sex tapes or nude pictures leaked and then secretly Google them to see.
We all know that things like pornography and prostitution exist, and most of us know how extremely profitable they are. They’re industries in which women use literally nothing but their bodies and their sexuality to earn a living - but those women are invisible to us, so it doesn’t bother us. They made their choice: they’re free to profit from sex and quietly inhabit some unknown part of society like little STI-ridden ghosts, far away from the public conscience.
And while the women might be worthless, the industry certainly isn’t; if the illegal side is included, its estimated value is thought to be over a trillion dollars a year. People try and talk about morals and standards, but it really is a simple game of supply and demand: the fact is, we’re paying for this shit – and apparently we’re happy to as long as it stays out of our face and we can be publicly high and mighty about some fame-whore on a magazine cover.
And that’s ironic in itself, because even if you’re denouncing Kim’s latest shoot, the fact remains that a naked woman is enough to get people talking, and once they start talking, they’ll soon start paying. I cannot even imagine the kind of business opportunities Kim will be looking at after her latest stunt – for the last week, she’s arguably been one of the most talked about people on the internet, and every single hateful comment she’s received helped to get her there.
the kids aren’t learning from the sexy, naked women. They’re learning from the message that sexy, naked women are what we want to see.
What we’re failing to realise is that consumers set trends, and we’re simultaneously denouncing the sexualisation of women and then throwing our money at it. The increase of sexual imagery in the music and fashion industries is a cause for growing concern, and people often rush to criticise female musicians or high street fashion ads for being too “sexual” and setting a bad example.
But truthfully, the kids aren’t learning from the sexy, naked women. They’re learning from the message that sexy, naked women are what we want to see.
And that’s always been true – just look at the art world! It’s been pointed out that while only 5% of artists exhibited at the Met are female, over 85% of the nudes are of women. Boticelli, Alexandros of Antioch, Michelangelo… all famous for painting naked women, all widely hailed as geniuses (and yes, granted, it probably took Michelangelo a hell of a lot more time and skill to paint the Sistine Chapel than it took good old Kardash to remove her clothes and anoint herself in what I can only assume is baby oil, but the distinction between that which renders the female form either beautiful or offensive is arguably a little tenuous).
Somehow, the nudity is acceptable because it’s art - owing to some arbitrary line, we distinguish between female nudity for pure sexual gratification or that which we consider intellectually higher in some way.
The same bodes true of film – actresses still thought of favourably in the public mind are free to partake in nude scenes bordering on porn without any of the judgement we heap on Kim, simply because it’s in the name of art and we perceive them as having talent and therefore being above our vitriol.
After all, the response after Jennifer Lawrence became the victim of the iCloud hacker earlier this year was overwhelmingly one of support, and many expressed sympathy for her as the victim of a “sex crime” in a way we just weren’t able to do for poor Kim or Tulisa.
And therein lies the dichotomy. We can’t stand the idea that a woman selling her sexuality might be considered in any way socially acceptable if she hasn’t got anything else to sell - and you know what? Maybe her alarmingly proportioned butt is all Kim Kardashian has to sell, but at least it’s hers. At least she’s not profiting from naked pictures of other people, like, say, Hugh Hefner, Rupert Murdoch, Jean-Paul Gourde or Helmut Newton – people whose validity as human beings never seems to be questioned quite as much as Kim’s.
The first two are merely businessmen, the latter hailed artists – yet again reinforcing the stereotype that naked women are fine, as long as they’re merely the props and the guy with the camera or paintbrush gets the credit.
But be it art, art-house film or adult movie, we’re essentially buying the same thing. The construction might be different but the content is the same, and the message is clear: we like naked women, but we don’t like women who get naked if we reckon that’s all they can do.
Many are citing Kim’s hypocrisy in claiming that she’d never do a nude shoot again “even for Vogue” after finding that her naked image had been published in W magazine (despite assurances that they’d put graphics over her) back in 2011. After all, it’s hard to like someone who’s explicitly said that they don’t want people to think “all she’s good for is being naked” and then proceeded to spend much of their time in the public eye in a state of undress, but Kim is not the hypocrite here.
After all, if people kept simultaneously calling me the worst thing to happen to modern society whilst continuing to fund my lavish lifestyle, I’d probably keep changing my fucking mind too.