Last week, it would have been hard to miss the internet frenzy surrounding the release of pictures of Justin Bieber that left little to the imagination. The naked photographs, taken of Bieber in his holiday apartment in Bora Bora were first published by the New York Daily News, but quickly popped up on countless media outlets. Click-bait headlines claiming ‘exclusive pictures’ led to millions viewing the photos and giggling about them on Twitter. Buzzfeed posted a list of the best reactions and jokes about the incident, and a Defamer article even speculated about the relative size of his penis.
It is easy to laugh at the pictures – especially since they are of Justin Bieber, who has been a popular punching bag on social media and sites like Sickipedia for the last decade. But we cannot allow for double standards. It does not matter who you are – privacy is privacy, and in this instance, Bieber’s privacy has been violated while we have looked on, laughing.
Last year, an iCloud hack saw nude photos from many celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence and Kirstin Dunst, leaked to 4Chan. This was widely met with public outrage, and certainly no media outlets published the photographs. Indeed, Jennifer Lawrence’s publicist stated that anyone posting the images would be prosecuted, and Google was threatened with legal action for refusing to remove them.
Sadly, this level of outrage has not been repeated in the case of Justin Bieber. Looking at the blurred photographs, taken with a long lens paparazzi camera, feels almost uncomfortable.
This is a very clear intrusion into Bieber’s private life. Just by standing naked outside, he is not inviting this kind of attention. Compare this to when a French magazine published a topless of photograph of Kate Middleton on holiday. This was seen as a completely tasteless, and all British media refused to pay for or publish the images.
Is it because Bieber is male that the rules appear to have changed? Or is it because he is a celebrity? Clearly, in taking the pictures, the photographer knew that there would be a market for them.
While we cannot absolve the photographer of blame – indeed, the company responsible have denied that this is a privacy issue – we also need to challenge the celebrity culture which we are all a part of, which creates an appetite for such images. Being in the public eye does not entitle the public to rights over your body; if this had been a picture of a civilian, we would expect some kind of retribution.
So Bieber too, is entitled to ownership of his own body, and how it is presented to the public. He recently posted a photo on his instagram account which showed his naked body from behind, but subsequently deleted the picture, writing that a friend’s daughter had seen it and was embarrassed, “To anyone I may have offended I’m so sorry. It was completely pure hearted as a joke but didn’t take in account there are littles following me.” If Bieber is concerned with naked images that he has posted himself, what gives us the right to post them of him?
It is pleasing to note that since the pictures were posted, there has been a lot of criticism of them, raising concerns about issues such as privacy and consent. Though the strangest, and perhaps most disturbing, response goes to Justin Bieber’s father, who weighed in on the event on Twitter, writing, in a since deleted tweet, “What do you feed that thing #prouddaddy.”
Image Credit: iloveJB123