Tulisa Contostavlos, the 23-year-old judge on the UK version of the X Factor, hit the headlines recently. Or rather part of her did. Along with part of her ex-boyfriend. A video consisting of six minutes of these parts of them…interacting…was recently released online and removed following her lawyers’ injuction.
So far, so what. Pamela Stephenson, Paris Hilton, blurry shots of Madonna – sex tapes of ‘stars’ are hardly new. Way back in the 1940s (practically the middle ages to the likes of Tulisa) nude snaps of Marilyn Monroe, Burt Lancaster and Yul Brynner did the rounds of scandal sheets (don’t believe me about Lancaster and Brynner?– check out these very explicit photos). Proto-slebs have been getting their kit off in the name of paying the rent for decades. The internet didn’t invent it.
Instead of wearing sackcloth and ashes, or at the very least confining herself to a nunnery for a couple of years, Tulisa’s move was to release a counter-video. In this she holds up snaps of her ex-boyfriend, Justin Edwards (owner of the penis which stars in the original), and makes a statement along the lines that she isn’t going to take this sitting down and that it’s a sad world when an intimate moment with someone you trust is displayed to the entire world for profit.
This strikes a a blow for feminism apparently. Women all over the world have a new role model. We now realize that when we are stupid enough to give a guy a blow job and not ask why he is holding his Blackberry right next to our head, the correct reaction when he then distributes the footage to all his friends so they can snigger about it, is not shame, but outrage. And legal action. For Tulisa ‘not taking it sitting down’ means taking Edwards to court and suing him for £100,000 (about $160,000).
Some see this as Tulisa’s personal version of the slutwalk. ‘So what if I have sex?’ ‘So what if I dress slutty?’ ‘Take your double standard and stick it,’ seems to be the the message.
There’s certainly a double standard at work. It’s fine for Edwards to show his penis to the world – not fine for Tulisa to be seen putting it in her mouth. And yes, I agree that we need to address that. But is her reaction empowering for women?
This is where we have to be careful. If you get caught doing something stupid – and plenty of girls caught up in the throes of ‘I love you’ agree to do stuff they shouldn’t – it’s better to be brazen than ashamed. But it’s even better not to do it in the first place. If we make Tulisa a role model, we might be covertly telling her fans that if they end up starring in someone’s idea of amateur porn, it will all turn out all right. The fact is, it won’t. They won’t be able to take their ex to court. They can make counter-videos, but no one will watch them. They can get mad, but they won’t be able to get even.
The best message Tulisa can give her fans is this: “pick your boyfriends carefully.” And also, “remember to ask him why he’s holding his Blackberry right next to your head.”