Rob Kardashian Slut-Shamed Blac Chyna — and the Internet's Response Is Part of the Problem

While Blac Chyna is being tried in the court of public opinion, Rob Kardashian has committed a crime under California law. It is NEVER ok to share pictures or videos of your partner without their consent. No one deserves to be abused in such a way. In the era of social media and technological communication, revenge porn has become the new, modern tactic of controlling and abusive partners.

How we respond to stories like this one defines how survivors and perpetrators are treated. If we treat this as a joke while reaffirming slut shaming stereotypes we ensure that perpetrators will feel validated in their pursuit to abuse and blackmail their partner. Because abusers can always validate their abuse, it's up to us to set them straight, and protect and support survivors.

(Leon Bennett)

In this op-ed, Emily Lindin — the founder of the UnSlut Project— takes a critical look at the response to Rob Kardashian's slut shaming of Black Chyna, and why feeding into his narrative is so toxic.

On Wednesday morning, Rob Kardashian attempted to publicly humiliate the mother of his child, Blac Chyna, on Instagram by posting explicit photos of hers that weren’t his to share and accusing her of cheating on him. He used the particularly despicable tactic of “revenge porn,” the unfortunate term that encompasses sharing explicit images of someone online with the intent to harm them. After his account was shut down early in the afternoon for violating rules, he moved his harassment over to Twitter. The attack highlights various stereotypes that are often used to discredit women, especially black women, and the Internet immediately jumped at the chance to demonstrate precisely why this kind of character assassination is so dangerous.

Rob’s original Instagram post, which could potentially land him in jail under California law, is a characteristically unhinged tirade filled with textbook "slut-shaming." He refers to Blac Chyna as "someone everyone f*cks including me.... She’s everybody’s and it’s been that way." Her response was a Snapchat post that revealed that this is apparently not the only type of abuse he has leveled against her. She captioned the post: "Rob u did all this but u beat me up and try act it never happen !!!!! U put hand on me I swear on god !!!!! On my kids but I’m supposed to be quiet because you’re a Kardashian." The post has since been removed; she also Snapchatted a series of messages to Rob asking that he leave her alone.

But if you read tabloid headlines, it would seem that interrogating allegations of domestic violence and violence against black women’s bodies in general is not as compelling as content that's focused on unpacking the outrageous counteraccusations of an alleged abuser. Headlines like "Rob Kardashian Exposes Blac Chyna — Leaks Nude Photos and Messages!" and "Rob Kardashian Claims T.I. Had a Threesome with Blac Chyna" reveal a disturbing tendency to adhere to the "slut- shaming" narrative, thereby feeding into exactly what Rob wanted when he began posting Chyna’s private photos.

What’s more, many social media users are happily buying into the "slut-shaming" approach. Snoop Dogg posted a response video on Instagram and Twitter that has been shared thousands of times with affirming comments. It's framed as scolding Rob for his online behavior, but it actually reinforces his characterization of Chyna. "He knew what he was getting into when he got her.... She is what she is; she was what she was,” the rapper claims, as if Rob’s real fault was that he should have “known better.” That’s not the case at all, and the only thing Rob should have known better was that posting revenge porn is never OK, no matter the circumstances.

Another aspect of Rob's rant that has been spun against Blac Chyna is his claim that he "paid for her body surgery" after she gave birth to their daughter. This detail should be insignificant — after all, many women decide to undergo elective surgery at different points in their lives, and it’s thankfully becoming less taboo to do so as the years pass. However, the way he includes it alongside accusations of her infidelity has sinister implications. It's as if, since he paid for the surgery, he believes he somehow owns her body — which, of course, he does not.

He wrote on Instagram: "Everyone wonders how Chyna lost all that weight after the baby and she lies to everyone but no I’m such a great Husband that on our anniversary I paid 100K to do this surgery to get all everything fixed as much as they could." It’s hard to imagine a more blatant lack of self-awareness than Rob’s description of himself as a “great husband.” Putting aside the context in which he is making that claim — while posting intimate photos online without her consent — he’s demonstrating an upsetting societal view of women’s postpartum bodies as needing to be "fixed” at all. Horrifyingly but unsurprisingly, the Daily Maildecided the best way to address this issue was to share Rob’s home video of Chyna being "wheeled away for surgery after her pregnancy to allegedly loose [sic] her weight quickly."

This specific type of body-shaming is about more than a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own appearance. It matters that this supposed surgery happened immediately after Chyna gave birth to her daughter. Rob really drives this point home when, in addition to tapping into the common stereotype of a sexually promiscuous black woman who takes advantage of a man for financial gain, he adds the layer of accusing Chyna of being an unfit mother and "a crazy person." Online reactions reinforce idea that once a woman becomes a mother, she is no longer allowed to see herself as a sexual being — a belief that women like Chyna’s friend Amber Rose have long worked to dispel. What’s more, a number of the responsesseem to put the fault on Chyna for being sexual to begin with, which reinforces the horrible double standard that men are allowed and even encouraged to be sexual while women are frustratingly perceived as either Madonnas or whores.

In his meltdown, Rob makes multiple references to what he sees as Blac Chyna’s "disrespect" toward him. He is apparently unable to see the irony in complaining about not earning the respect of the same person whose nude photos he shared online without consent — and he’s not alone, either. Thankfully, others have been recognizing the injustice against Chyna and are coming to her defense:

Do not share revenge porn.
Do not share revenge porn.
Do not share revenge porn.
Do not share revenge porn.

The Kardashians are many things but didn't think they were slut shamers. Cheating isn't cool, but revenge porn is sexual assault.

Revenge porn is a crime. If you're tweeting about how much you love Rob Kardashian/Blac Chyna drama, then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Even if you find it hard to care about the ups and downs of Rob and Chyna’s personal life, it matters how we process public attempts to use a woman’s sexuality against her. When the response to this kind of abusive, misogynist behavior is to pile on and gleefully repeat such obviously sexist and racist assumptions, it’s reflective of a larger problem. We don’t have to give slut-shamers a platform or reinforce their stories, whether by offering play-by-plays of the drama without calling out abusive behavior for what it is or by simply trying to make a “joke” on Twitter (and there are many). And while it’s important that Rob’s Instagram was suspended, the damage had already been done. What we can do now is ensure that we take the conversation in the right direction and hold abusers — and those who enable them — accountable.