How Rihanna beat the trolls

Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with reports that a raft of female celebrities had been “hacked”, their private photos leaked online to the delight of pitiful horny boys everywhere. Jennifer Lawrence rightfully called it a “flagrant violation of privacy”, and actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead took to Twitter to point how damn pathetic it was:

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Not only was the hacking in poor taste, it was a crime. A man was sentence to 10 years in prison in 2012 for hacking Scarlett Johanssen and Mila Kunis and posting their photos online. No doubt the person responsible for the latest “leak” will eat his just desserts soon too.

But while this was all going on, I was listening to a radio announcer mention that it looked like photos from more celebrities were to come, including Rihanna. Rihanna is no stranger to having her very private life spilled onto the internet: photos of her bloodied face, beaten by boyfriend Chris Brown, were splashed everywhere in 2012. Provocative private photos were “leaked” some months later.

It occurred to me that somewhere in her career, Rihanna had set herself apart from many of the other female celebrities who were victim to this latest episode of hacking. I realised that, aside from the very real abuse of privacy that occurred, her sexual exposure probably wouldn’t upset Rihanna all that much. Somehow, she has won the war against the trolls.

Exhibit A: she wore this to an awards show a few months ago:

I think I need a cold shower...
I think I need a cold shower…

There she is. In all her spectacular glory. Every inch of her on stunning display.

The hacking and leaking of naked photos (just like other forms of sexual violence) is about power. It is about humiliation and shaming of women’s bodies, reminding us that we need to be sexy, but not sexual; if you’re a “whore”, you’re not worth anything. But when a woman like Rihanna owns her sexuality, she shirks the traditional roles and retains her own power. The trolls can’t hurt her – her naked body is nothing the world hasn’t seen before.

The use of shame and humiliation is nothing new to sexual predators, but the internet allows new and very public ways to use women’s own bodies against them. And rape culture is alive and well: we’ve all seen comments on our Facebook and Twitter feeds in the last couple of days, something like “well, if she’s a celebrity, shouldn’t she know better than to take naked photos of herself?” You know what I hear when you say that? “If she didn’t want to get raped, she shouldn’t have drunk so much…”.

Women have the right to be sexual (and, god forbid, NAKED) privately or publicly for that matter, without the fear that it will come back to hurt them.

Sorry trolls, Rihanna is having none of your bullshit!