The Fappening: A Cultural Marker for A Generation

October 19, 2014
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Every generation has their history-in-the-making-moment. Some will tell you where they were when JFK was shot. My generation will tell you exactly what they were doing when the first and second aeroplanes hit the World Trade Centre. Now the real Internet generation can tell their grandkids every moment of… The Fappening.

They might not teach it in history lessons in five decades time (though with the way education is going…), but all cynicism aside, The Fappening has done a lot to raise questions pertaining to data use and security, the limits of access to celebrity and the nature of private sexuality. It’s a new epoch for the digital age, and one that could have serious repercussions for a long time.

The Fappening took the media by storm. After the first slew of images were leaked across the boards of 4chan and Reddit (thanks to some rather lax security surrounding the iCloud), the media’s line between reporting the facts and lurid detail became blurred. But who can blame them? We all learn that sex sells. The media is one of the biggest commodities in the world. The two go together like… well, phone cameras and naked selfies. One of the first things drummed into you about journalism is the constant search for stories of “human interest.” For better or worse, it couldn’t get more human or interesting than this.

Jennifer Lawrence ‘Stop Fapping!’ (via:

The leaks of pictures and video of famous women in compromising positions has come in three waves. The first primarily featured Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence and featured fleshy contributions from the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Kate Upton and Rihanna. The second upped the stakes and cast the net out farther, trawling snaps and vids of Avril Lavigne, Hayden Panettiere, Vanessa Hudgens and more. The third was bad news for people such as Cara Delavigne and Anna Kendrick.

While the FBI began an immediate search for the culprit when the first batch became available, the wider public bubbled with mixed reactions. A lot of people took the opportunity to see naked famous women with a certain amount of relish. Others fussed and argued over implications for femininity, misogyny and simple moral common sense.

While the pictures have been uploaded, traded and digested with reckless abandon, it’s the collection of videos within the leaked files that pose a lot more questions. Some of them are highly sexual, but the intimacy that permeates a large number of them cannot help but embarrass, shame and invoke an uncomfortable voyeurism in the viewer. It’s a curious thing as it mixes with arousal. Humans are curious beasts. You may be morally repelled, but you still *want* to know, don’t you?

Aubrey Plaza

Take, for example, Aubrey Plaza. Her video, according to how some of the scenes have been described on blogs and boards around the world, shows her filming the bathroom mirror, as she masturbates with one foot lifted onto her hotel room sink. There are no over the top porno poses here; it’s natural, attentive and slow.

Abigail Spencer

Similar too are Abigail Spencer’s short movies. Apparently, as she pleasures herself, once standing and a second time lying on her bed, she addresses somebody personally. This clip must obviously be very much for somebody else and their eyes only. Her left index is described as flicking repeatedly over her nipples as she makes noise for her unnamed recipient.

Spencer and Plaza may be two people with successful careers and the necessary rewards, but for that they more than likely have to spend large amounts of time away from friends, family and loved ones. The red carpet and TV’s bright lights might look fantastic on our side of the screen, but when you’re in your fifth hotel of the week after an 18-hour day talking to people you don’t know, maybe you just want to let go.

Thanks to modern technology, writing your deepest feelings onto a piece of paper and sending them is no longer the way to do it. Spencer and Plaza are simply indulging in basic human urges and desires. If indeed they are sending them to lovers to enjoy, then it’s actually rather endearing.

Jessica Brown Findlay

Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay is another star whose video falls into this category. Naked in the bathroom, with a glass of something or other, she is seen to joke to the man due to receive the video not to show it to anybody on the plane as she talks about people we don’t know, places we’ve never been to and events we didn’t know happened.

Celebrity worship is no new deal but in a world of Twitter, Perez Hilton and constant information, the heat has turned up a few degrees in recent years. We are told that the beautiful people are to be admired for their so-called perfection, their bodies, their money and their possessions. Turns out a few of them like to play around, get naked, drink and talk crap to their boyfriends. Who would have guessed?

Jenny Mcarthy

For the impatient among you: yes, there are offerings of a more hardcore nature. Model Kate Upton, former Miss Universe contestant Anya Ayoung-Chee, actress Jenny Mcarthy and Jessica Brown Findlay (again, sorry Jessica…) all give what some people came here to see.

Upton is apparently seen from behind, her partner filming as they have sex. If anything the sex has been described as being made more difficult by the guy wielding the camera in the first place. But for those of you not satisfied by Upton’s countless magazine covers and glamour shoots, then yes, you do allegedly see every inch of her. It’s much like in her second video, where, so say the message boards, she masturbates on all fours facing away from the camera. For Generation Porn, it’s very much the norm. The juxtaposition between seeing a now everyday sex scene starring somebody who ‘shouldn’t’ be doing this is immense, and also a large part of the thrill of peeking in on these moments.

It’s Jenni Mcarthy and Anya Ayoung-Chee who provide the most hardcore moments however. Mcarthy is seen to be riding some lucky dude in the back of a moving car (and enjoying it too, if the Net commentariat is to be trusted), oblivious to the probable traffic zooming past. Ayoung-Chee’s contribution is supposedly a rather sturdy and well-maintained blowjob, which, some have said, looks semi-professional, making you wonder whether she may have delved into the world of porn herself, either for the fun of it or to pay a few bills.

Mary-Kate Olsen

Then of course there are the mundane and weird videos. Former child star Mary-Kate Olsen is apparently shown in her kitchen dangling spaghetti from her mouth while her dog eats from the bottom. It’s either the most niche fetish ever or another example of unnecessary intrusion. Rihanna, never known to be shy about revealing a little too much, is shown dancing lazily in a hotel room while two friends smoke what look like joints. Both videos are as exciting as they sound.

And so we come to the main crux of The Fappening. Yes, it might be titillating to see famous women do naughty things. Yes, it might be fun to see what the rich and famous do when nobody’s looking. But… what right do we have to actually do this?

Hope Solo

Well, none as it happens. The Fappening was little else than sordid opportunism that may yet destroy a number of careers. USA soccer goalie Hope Solo, whose shots were some of the most candid, may see her place as a role model for young girls and women taken away. Others too may feel the pinch if lucrative corporate deals and sponsorships are rescinded. Companies are liable to get very trigger happy if they perceive their profits may drop. Film studios may also drop stars that no longer seem to appeal to the younger demographics.

More than that though, it’s the everyday things that may sting the victims the most. When any of the starlets walk down the street, how many will look at them and think “Yep, I’ve seen it all.” How many off-colour comments and jibes will they endure for the rest of their lives?

The Fappening has been interpreted as an attack on women by men. It’s hard not to agree. You would be forgiven for thinking that those involved in the leaking and mass-proliferation of these pictures and videos are saying: “You may be rich and famous, but we can ogle you and still achieve a sense of victory.”

Emma Watson

Any sense that The Fappening was not intent on this goal was shot down when the debacle occurred. After delivering a speech to the UN outlining her hopes for gender equality and fairness, Harry Potter star Emma Watson was subject to a vicious internet campaign that teased upcoming naked photos of her. A website was set up and a countdown begun. The press and social media argued back and forth over the issue. Luckily, it was a prank. Although a cruel one, Watson’s blushes were spared.

Nick & Hulk Hogan

Here’s a big ol’ question: where are the men? Where are the reams of dick pics? Although Nick Hogan, son of pro-wrestler Hulk, has suffered the indignity, men are conspicuous by their absence in the roll call of unplanned erotica. Are we to expect another wave of snaps, this time with more men represented? Don’t hold your breath.

Of course, this leads us to further thought on the notion of privacy and begs the question: who’s next? We’ve already seen The Snappening occur. Now ‘normal’ people are being targeted. Where will it end? Will you log on one day only to find pictures of your Aunt Julie as the centrepiece in an orgy? Will the pictures you took in the heat of the moment surface without warning and put your job, home life and much more in jeopardy?

The Fappening, for its size, scope and ability to cause trouble, seems as if it was only the starter’s gun. The rest that will certainly follow is the downhill slalom. It’s going to be a rough ride.

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