By now you’ve probably heard about the Kim Kardashian flag that was waved by an audience member during Kanye West’s Glastonbury set. The flag, featuring a blowjob scene from Kim’s leaked sex tape, caused quite a reaction on Twitter. The tweets fell broadly into two opposing camps: One, that this was a vile and misogynist act; or two, that Kim, who made her name by revealing her body is a fair target.
It is true to say that Kardashian has traded on her body, looks and sexual appeal – and parlayed that into a sizeable fortune. It is also true to say that the sex tape helped cement her celebrity status. But none of that means she deserves to be mocked and shamed twelve years after the fact for giving her then-boyfriend a blowjob.
You could argue that Kardashian made the sex tape chasing fame; however given that the tape was made in 2003 but only made public in 2007, it seems unlikely. She did sign a distribution deal with porn giants Vivid Entertainment for $5 million, but by that stage the tape was already available on the internet. Not many people would walk away from a huge payout, particularly when it would have been impossible to scrub the online evidence.
Kim Kardashian is not the first woman to gain fame because of a sex tape or sex scandal — and she probably won’t be the last. There’s two possible responses to finding yourself in the middle of a scandal storm: capitalise on it, like Kardashian and Paris Hilton have done; or disappear to live the quiet life, as Monica Lewinsky unsuccessfully tried to do.
The first seems to be the most successful strategy. Kardashian and Hilton remained in the public eye, and at this stage they known for more than just their sex tapes. Lewinsky tried to avoid the press for nearly two decades, and so she remained, in most people’s eyes, the young intern in the blue dress who blew the Commander-in-Chief. Since nobody would let Lewinsky forget it, she decided to take matter into her own hands and is now and advocate for preventing bullying and online shaming.
I’m not a fan of Kardashian, and as talented as Kanye is, his extreme self-regard is a little hard to take. His Glastonbury gig was controversial from the outset. Over 130,000 people signed a petition to have him removed from the bill. No doubt plenty of attendees were unhappy that he was the star attraction, but so what? It’s a festival — there are lots of other things to do.
But no matter how I feel about reality television stars and self-important rappers I still recognise bullying and slut shaming when I see it. There are plenty of sexualised images of Kardashian available. Using any one of these would have been fine as Kardashian had consented to having them taken and published. Using an image from a leaked sex tape, something that Kardashian has repeatedly said that she is embarrassed about, was an attempt to heckle Kanye by slut-shaming Kim. It was a cheap shot.
Kim Kardashian gave her boyfriend a blowjob — big deal. The flag’s creator went to the effort of finding Kim’s sex tape, taking a screenshot of a blowjob, cleaning up the image for large format printing, paid to have it printed as a flag, packed it along with their tent, beer and socks, carried it from their car to the campsite, and waved it around. That’s a whole lot of effort for a misogynistic joke. I think it is pretty damn obvious who is the idiot here.