Ask any woman what they’d do if a tape was leaked of them performing a sex act (either alone, or with someone else) on the internet. Ask me, if you like, for I’m a woman on a bus reading about Drake and hoping nobody is looking over my shoulder while I do so. I bet I can predict their reaction in a heartbeat: shock, horror, humiliation.
Ask any woman what her reaction is when the leaked tape isn’t even genuine – Taylor Swift, for example, who was “deepfaked” just a week ago by AI – and I can still predict in a moment what it would be: shock, horror, humiliation.
Ask any woman, even one who has successfully litigated against online abuse – Georgia Harrison, say, who has spoken openly about her experience of revenge porn at the hands of her ex-boyfriend Stephen Bear, who was jailed as a result – and she’ll tell you: shock, horror, humiliation.
Ask any woman who has an ex-partner to whom they’ve sent images of themselves, and who doesn’t know if they’re still out there, or if they’ve been deleted – and there we still have it: shock, horror, humiliation.
Now, with all that in mind, look to Drake. The rapper has become embroiled in a “leaked sex tape” storm after footage of him apparently engaging in a solo sex act was put online on the platform X (formerly known as Twitter).
Drake’s friend – Kick streamer Adin Ross, who has appeared in videos with the rapper before – sent him a voice memo about the clip. I’d probably do the same, if one of my female friends had been caught up in the same devastating situation.
Except that… in the recording shared on social media, Ross says: “We was just looking at the s***. It’s like crazy bro, like god damn.
“You’re blessed with your voice, you’re blessed with performing, you’re blessed to be you, you’re blessed to be number one and you’re also blessed to have a f***ing missile.”
Drake’s reaction, according to Ross? No shock, horror, humiliation here (at least, not in public): but eight laughing emojis, and the promise that he might just use the streamer’s voice note as his “next album intro”.
Spot the difference?
Now, it’s important to point out that we can’t possibly know what Drake really thinks of what’s been allegedly leaked, as he hasn’t responded publicly – but the difference in reaction from his “squad” makes me deeply uncomfortable. Not to mention the discussions currently happening online, with some suggesting that he shouldn’t be upset as the video was “flattering”, and others even speculating that he released the video himself for publicity.
It also makes me aware, once again, of just how differently men and women experience the world online. Drake is praised, held up as some kind of legend, his body commented on as a result – but he’s a victim, and should be treated with the sympathy and gentleness that he deserves.
If all were equal, we would have one singular collective reaction to this “leak” – yep, you guessed it: shock, horror and humiliation. The fact that when it’s a bloke people find it “funny” (and even praise him for it) speaks volumes. It’s not unlike wider differences in attitude towards men and women’s sexuality – when a man flaunts his sexuality he’s a “stud”, but when a women does it, she’s all sorts of names that I won’t even type here. But both are equally harmful positions to take.
It’s no less harmful here, and I think it’s a position that risks endangering men – and women.
In failing to take incidents like this seriously, and to recognise how deeply damaging and intrusive they are – not to mention illegal (sharing non-consensual sexual images is illegal in the UK under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, though in the US the laws differ by state and circumstance) – we risk invalidating men’s experiences of revenge porn, of their ability to consent and in speaking openly if they are traumatised by what’s happened to them.
And it has a knock-on effect on women, too: downplaying what’s happened to Drake can give the impression that women are being “dramatic” when they are violated in the same or similar (or even AI) ways. It impresses upon us that we should be “laughing off” incidents like these, that they’re not that bothersome, that it’s all a laugh, really; that it’s locker-room stuff or “banter”.
It’s not banter. And the only way to combat such grave breaches of privacy and consent is to treat Drake as a victim. Because that’s what he is. No laughing emojis about it.