Since when did watching sex tapes become unsisterly?

This morning, The Observer’s Barbara Ellen has lambasted Britain’s Got Talent judges Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon for watching Tulisa Contostavlos’ sex tape. Well, sex tape might be putting it a little strongly – the six minute video in question shows the N-Dubz singer performing oral sex on her then boyfriend, Justin Edwardes, and was taken several years ago. After being released in March, the majority of the public and celebrity sphere rushed to Tulisa’s defence, and she recorded a defiant response of her own saying that she was devastated an intimate moment filmed with someone she loved had been leaked online.

But what I don’t understand is why Ellen believes it is unsisterly that Holden and Dixon have watched the video. By watching it, nothing worse occurred than had already taken place; no money was being made from it being viewed, and as all of the red tops described it in blow by blow (couldn’t resist) detail anyway, actually seeing it surely makes little difference at all.

Let me clarify – Tulisa hasn’t done anything wrong by partaking in that video and, if her ex-boyfriend is to be believed, it was her idea to film it. Of course, that does not excuse the fact it has been illegally shared, and the emotional torment she has gone through as a result is unimaginable. But ultimately, it is pretty much common knowledge that sex tapes can, and do, get regularly leaked, and anyone who decides to film one cannot be immune from this. This is not to say it is right that such things happen, but a degree of caution must always be exercised in such situations.

So why has Holden’s admission become a vehicle for character assassination? Why do people see fit to label her ‘truly awful as a woman’ because she had a look at something that was readily available? If reading a report on a hurricane and subsequently watching a video of it bears little difference, I don’t see how watching the clip of Tulisa after having read about it can be so much worse. The majority of people wanted to watch it purely because they had read so much about it, and because they were bloody curious. If you want to point the finger at anyone, then, do it at the tabloid media, who gave the story so much coverage that not watching it seemed like the wrong thing to do. Of course, we can all exercise our own moral judgement about whether or not to watch the video, but I really fail to see how watching something that had been summarised in depth makes them anti-feminists. Gossips, yes, but proponents of misogynistic bullying? I don’t think so, somehow.

There has, of course, been little ink spilled over the numerous men that have watched the video. Indeed, if guys watch a celebrity sex tape, that’s completely fine because they’re just being guys, but if women do it, they are guilty of ‘shallow bitchery at another woman’s expense.’ How on earth does that add up? And why are people so protective over Tulisa? I didn’t see legions of women rushing to Paris Hilton’s defence when her sex tape was released, so I fail to see how that doesn’t qualify as a cause for female concern when this particular case does. Of course, the situations are not identical, but Ellen’s disgust at ‘this young girl unwittingly being set up’ seems to be excessive – particularly as Edwardes alleges the film was her idea and filmed on her phone.

Ellen also makes several tenuous links about difficulties Holden and Dixon have faced in the past, with the former suffering a miscarriage and the latter at the centre of a female ageism row, stating that this hardship should make them super compassionate towards other women. But I really cannot comprehend how these two events based on the biological make up of those concerned can be compared with Tulisa, who voluntarily decided to film an act between her and her boyfriend. The tape being leaked may not be her fault, but she is certainly culpable in a way that Holden losing a baby is not, and thus to criticise Holden’s lack of ‘female support’ for Tulisa when she has received so much seems, in truth, a little vulgar.

Tulisa is undeniably a victim in the leaking of the tape, but Holden and Dixon are not pantomime baddies simply for watching what was readily available to them. They haven’t condemned her actions or featured it on their websites – they have simply let their curiosity get the better of them. Ellen asks, ‘when will high profile women learn that if they don’t stick up for each other, then no-one else will?’, entirely missing the point that people need to take a stand for what is right, irrespective of gender. Holden and Dixon may have acted like silly schoolgirls sniggering about what the class rebel did behind the bike sheds, but to label them watching the tape as ‘cruelty’ is just preposterous.


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