#DiscoveringWrestling #013 – The Problem with the Paige Leaks

Fuck it! I’ve been trying to figure out a way to be clever or fanciful about how I write this entry, but I just can’t do it. I’m going to be direct and lay it all out there.

So, let’s get some simple facts out of the way. On Friday, March 17th, someone stole, and released to the general public, private photo and video files from devices owned by WWE performer Paige. These files were of a sexual nature and also contained footage of other people, namely Xavier Woods of the popular WWE team The New Day, and former WWE employee Brad Maddox.

It struck me as inhumane that, knowing these files were stolen, people were so voraciously consuming and redistributing them. Maybe I have been lucky in choosing the groups I hang out in and the people I follow, for I had never seen this much misogyny and lack of basic human decency in the Pro-Wrestling fans I had spent my time engaging with or becoming friends with. When I attempted to engage with these people about the wrongdoings they were making themselves a part of, I ran up against the same old arguments I had seen elsewhere, and everywhere, whenever an issue even remotely similar to this one came up. What follows is a series of arguments that people used to try to justify their repugnant behaviour, and why they are wrong.

“People are terrible, get over it.”

Uhm, no.

If this is the depth of your argument then your actions are transparent. All you are doing is trying to soften how you feel about your own behaviour and involvement with the situation. This is simply an admission of guilt coated in dismissal. It has no value.

“If she didn’t want them to be seen then why did she record the video/take the picture?”

Of course she wanted them to be seen, by herself, and the individuals participating in the making of these videos, and whomsoever they fucking CHOOSE to share it with. Just because it exists does not mean you are granted special entitlement to see it. Is every photo you have ever taken, every word you’ve ever written, meant for consumption by the general public? If you can honestly answer yes, I still don’t believe you, and it still doesn’t justify your over-reaching sense of entitlement, or your inability to consider whether or not this is ethically acceptable.

“She shouldn’t have had these on a device connected to the internet” and “She should have deleted them”

Yeah, we could all do with better internet and privacy security. If she had put these on an external hard drive not routinely connected to the internet, or had deleted the files, this would not have happened. That’s certainly true. Indeed, maybe people with any level of fame or public visibility should be more diligent about securing their private photos, videos, and communications. Simply as a precaution due to their perceived increased risk. Nevertheless, this line of argument entirely ignores the fact that these private files were hacked off of a device and distributed without her consent. She didn’t accidentally sync her files to some file sharing website and regret it. The level of security she employed has literally no bearing on whether or not it was right for her files to be distributed online, or for her to be harassed, or for you to masturbate to her private moments. All this argument does is show that those using it are trying to, as always seems to be the case, shift blame onto the woman who was bold enough to film herself enjoying sex for her personal amusement or fulfillment.

“Lawl, we just like her titties and ass, what’s your problem snowflake faggot”

Being sexually attracted to a person and wanting to see them naked is wonderful, across all the spectrums of sexuality there are. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see someone naked, or having sexual thoughts about a person. Yes, even a person you have never met. Paige is a beautiful woman, and I can understand why you would want to see her naked, and if she had chosen, willingly and of her own volition, to release these photos and videos then your argument would be valid and I, in fact, would be in the wrong for telling you anything that contravened your ability to, right to, or enjoyment of looking at these images. However, as has been made abundantly clear, Paige did not choose to release these and, as far as I have been able to determine, nor did Brad Maddox nor Xavier Woods. In essence you have willingly violated the privacy and rights of three individuals. You have taken advantage of this to gratify yourself, and, yes, you should be ashamed.

“Her career is over!” and “The WWE have to fire her now!”

Notice, first and foremost, that the people saying these things never level such accusations at the male talent still employed by the E. Paige’s career is over, the WWE have to fire her, but Xavier Woods should face no repercussions. Approximately 99% of the people arguing this point are simply applying misogynistic double standards towards sexual activity and enjoyment of varied sexual acts. Paige is a “freak” for engaging in these sex acts, and is a blemish on the WWE for it, but Xavier is a hero because he got to have sex with someone you’ve wanted to. It’s ridiculous levels of bullshit. They were all consenting adults engaging in activities together which they mutually decided to film. Their level of depravity and heroicness are equal, and their right to privacy in their acts is also equal.

The only argument I have heard for the WWE having to fire Paige that wasn’t explicitly based on this wellspring of misogyny and double standards was centered around the fact that, in one of the videos, the NXT Women’s Championship belt is ejaculated upon. The argument hinges upon the fact that there is WWE branding being treated in a way that the publicly traded corporation could not condone nor be seen to approve of, even by inaction or omission. As the company now portrays itself as a PG product, and the McMahon family is expressly republican, with Linda McMahon involved to some degree in the present governance of the United States, this puts them in a potentially volatile position where their hand may be forced to act against Paige, whether or not they would have otherwise. Family values, save the children, all that nonsense. Nevertheless, this stance is predicated upon the notion that people should find sex acts shameful and disgusting, and that some ejaculate getting onto something decreases its value permanently.

Thus far, everything I have covered is familiar to pretty much every woman who has ever had photos that were meant for private, select audiences distributed widely by assholes on the internet. This kind of misogyny needs to be stamped out and is certainly not exclusive to the Pro-Wrestling fandom, online or off. This is truly a societal, wide reaching problem. What has happened with Paige here is simply an expression of this insidious, familiar societal blight in the fandom I write about the most.

So, let’s take a moment to talk about the actions that were exclusively in the domain of the Pro-Wrestling fan.

There iss the cynical and self-gratifying attitude of fans who decided to try to get the WWE to have Brad Maddox be the General Manager of RAW after Mick Foley’s departure. No one gave a fuck about Brad Maddox coming back to the WWE until this leak happened. Maddox was, for the most part, a forgotten and unimportant former element of WWE television, but now the online community have turned him, partially jokingly and partially seriously, into this sexual champion whom they want to see back on their TV simply because he had sex with Paige. They want the WWE to hire back the man who ejaculated on the NXT Women’s Championship to be hired back while also saying that Paige is a disgrace. The hypocrisy is explosively and violently apparent. For his part, Maddox has ghosted himself.

Why is it that, as fans of the art form and, supposedly, of those who work their asses off to make the art we enjoy, so many feel the need to make the people who have been wronged suffer for our amusement? A sex tape is not an armbar, and these people have real lives that are affected by how we treat them. It disappoints me that in an era when the major players in the Pro-Wrestling world are just starting to get women’s wrestling to work without predicating every story line on a misogynistic trope, the fans erupt with irreverent glee over a situation wherein needless and cruelly victimizing a woman is the centerpiece. I’m disappointed.

I wish I had some grand strategy on how to go about making the general attitude of society change. It almost feels disrespectful to the situation’s severity for me to not propose a solution. Maybe calling it out enough will help, I don’t know. All I do know is that it is wrong in so many ways and it needs to be changed, in Wrestling and in Society as a whole. We should be striving to be more open, caring, decent human beings. I won’t presume to lead the charge here, a lot of women are far more important to this fight than I will ever be, but I can call bullshit when I see it.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Please leave a comment here. As this subject has been sensitive in nature, and I am well aware of my flaws in perception and understanding as someone who has never been the target of misogyny, I would particularly love to engage in open dialogue about what the Pro-Wrestling fandom, in particular, and people in general can do to really move us forward and beyond this terrible trait of ours.

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