On Wednesday, an unnamed man decided to subject his former lover, R&B singer and Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood star Teairra Marí, to a specific brand of humiliation by releasing sexually explicit photos of her online.
The images spread fast across various social media platforms — resulting in Teairra Marí becoming a trending topic on Twitter. People of decency rightfully scolded the individual responsible. Some witnessed the controversy and decided to be complicit in it by resharing the previously private images. Immature folks mocked Teairra Marí for daring to engage in pleasure.
Eventually, the Detroit singer and former “Princess of the Roc” addressed the matter. “Recently, my social media was compromised by someone who I felt was deserving of my love and trust,” she wrote on Twitter. “I recognize the need to be more cautious and discerning. My hope is for women to remain strong and dignified when they find themselves having to address hateful and juvenile acts by former lovers who find it difficult to act in an adult manner.”
She concluded her statement by noting, “Revenge porn is a crime in California and I will be in pursuit of justice.”
The graphic nature of the pictures is what has sparked the spectacle, but ultimately, we should all be more fixated on the intention behind their release: to humiliate and degrade her. It speaks to a pattern we’ve seen that has impacted other celebrities in recent years: Rob Kardashian spitefully releasing images of his ex-fiance and mother of his child, Blac Chyna, or someone sharing topless photos and videos of Cardi B from her stripper days. Blac Chyna was notoriously angry and explored taking legal action whereas Cardi B took to Twitter to offer an effective “So what?”
Other women, like the rapper turned talk show host Eve, expressed hurt. Back in 2005, a sex tape with her and former boyfriend, producer Stevie J, made its way to the internet. Though Stevie J claimed he didn’t know how the tape found its way online, he did make the following cringe-inducing boast to MTV in 2012: “I’m a pioneer, I’m the pioneer, young pioneer. I made a tape and gave it to her and she took it on the road, on tour with her, and the rest was history.”
Yeah, by 2005, Eve was a multi-platinum-selling rapper and star of a UPN sitcom. And she managed to score a fashion line, despite it having hiccups. That’s why in a subsequent interview with MTV News, Eve countered his foolishness by noting, “When that happened, sex tapes weren’t ‘hot’ like that, and I got the FBI involved. So that’s not something I wanted to happen,” she said. “I respect my mother and my family, and that’s not something I am OK with. And it hurt my heart that anyone who was in my circle — whether it be him [Stevie] or anybody else — it hurt my heart that that went out there. That wasn’t my thing.”
Notice the double standard in all these instances. It takes two people to have sex, but only the women in these situations find themselves to be the subject of ridicule. It’s never the men because men aren’t punished for being sexual. As much as society oversexualizes women, it collectively somehow faults women for being human, for being sexual.
In the case of Teairra Marí, Eve, Cardi B, Blac Chyna and as it is with every woman put in this circumstance, the intention is to humiliate and degrade them. It speaks to not only a sophomoric attitude about sex, but a particular brand of misogyny — namely the notion that women are not allowed to enjoy sex without being punished for it. But as awful as the men who leak these tapes are, we have to also assess how we collectively react to their shameful actions — namely making certain that we in no way assist them.
So while I usually can appreciate a blunt-as-all-hell head, I don’t want to see quips about “internet dome” in headlines centered on crimes. Dozens of states have revenge porn laws, and arguably, posting sexual images and videos of another person without their consent is an act of violence. Likewise, it’s not cool to make jokes about Teairra Marí or any woman put in this predicament, nor should people share the images. To do so is to help the perpetrator net their goal and further contribute to a dangerous double standard we should all be above by now.
In these instances, we are talking about the breakings of trust, the goal to demean and debase, and the removal of a woman’s autonomy over her body — how it’s seen, how it’s consumed and by whom.
For those who have watched Teairra Mari over the years, we know she has suffered as a result of being a young girl entering an industry that chews young girls up and spits them out. No matter her issues, though, she deserves respect. She is a beautiful, talented singer and charismatic television personality. More importantly, she is a woman who ought to be given the right to do whatever she pleases without fear of unwarranted exposure and pathetic, small attempts at trying to make her feel bad for seeking pleasure.