real life

"I may not be a celebrity but I know exactly what it feels like to have a nude photo leaked."

This morning I woke to the news that actresses Emma Watson and Mischa Barton had some of their most intimate, private moments leaked online.

For Watson, 26, private photos taken while she was getting changed for a fitting have been stolen, and promulgated across the dark web. In Barton’s case, an ex-boyfriend has threatened to sell “revenge pornography” to the highest, sleaziest bidder. It’s a nightmare the 31-year-old describes as “my absolute worst fear”.

Whenever these celebrity nude photo scandals arise, we seem to be split into two equally vocal groups: the ones who say leaking nude material is an act of sexism, and those who don’t really understand the big deal; it’s just tits and an ass, right? Get over it.

While I am no international celebrity (I drive a shitty Holden Barina that’s sans two hubcaps and have a wardrobe full of Cotton On), I do on some level relate to how both women are feeling today.

When I was 20, and had a lovely constellation of acne across my cheeks, I received these Facebook messages from a male friend:

In a group chat, no less.

I still remember how panicked I felt the moment that message, sent in a group chat, illuminated on my iPhone.

"Ps Michelle I've seen your tits not soz."

It was March 2015, and I was frantically racking my brain as to how the EXACT thing my parents/teachers/sisters/friends/world/universe had warned me about since the moment I hit puberty had actually happened to me.


I had never sent "nudes" to guys for this exact reason. I had been careful. I had been resistant to advances on Snapchat. And yet, here I was, facing the reality that my very, very platonic mate had seen my bare breasts without my permission or knowledge.

Well, actually, it turns out a number of men had seen my bare breasts without my permission of knowledge. Some of them were mates. Most of them weren't.

How did this all happen? Well, lucky me! 2015 was the era of 'SnapSave', the creepy app that exclusively creepy people downloaded to - you guessed it - save every photo you sent on Snapchat to a secret file on their phone.

The photo in question was actually a three-second-long Snapchat I had sent only to my closest girlfriends two months earlier while I was getting dressed. It was January, and I wanted them to see my particularly sunburnt boobs. With a really grainy filter to boot.


So why did I innocently think this was okay? Well, because it was my girlfriends, for one. The possibility that my amateur topless selfie would ever exist beyond those seconds was negligible, I thought. Second? I WAS SHOWING THEM MY SUNBURN.

I pressed 'send', and instantaneously moved on to more pressing matters like aloe vera cream. By the time March rolled around, I'd forgotten I'd ever taken it.

How that photo moved from one person's "SnapSave" folder to dozens of others' phones still remains a mystery to me. The friend told me her phone was hacked, and the photo was stolen. Other people had different stories to tell.

What I do know, is how I felt in that moment my male friend messaged me, and how I felt for the weeks and months after.

Powerless. Completely, utterly, totally powerless of my own image and body.


It's quite bizarre to know your naked body is out there, being looked at by strangers, without your consent. I would go to 21st birthday parties and confront guys from 'that circle', demanding they tell me if they'd seen it. Out of desperation, I'd stand over their shoulders as they scrolled through their phones' stored images, to make sure they were telling me the truth.

As I confronted a good friend, who reluctantly admitted he'd sent the image around to a handful of people, tears of frustration welled up in my eyes.

The prospect of that photo being sent to my family, or my boss, was very real and I was incapable of stopping it. Despite all of the things that make me me - my thoughts, my personality, my weaknesses and strengths - I was effectively reduced to nothing more than a grainy filter and a pair of tits.

Eventually, once the fear and anger subsided, I decided my solution was easy, and cut the people involved out of my life for good.

But for Emma Watson and Mischa Barton, there is no easy way out. They are not living some suburban drama, but global news stories.

Having a nude material leaked is traumatic enough, without the world scrambling to take a peek. And for that, I feel so deeply for them.

Have you had a nude photo leaked?