The celebrity sex tape craze: Is it finally dead?

How Teen Mom's Farrah Abraham may have finally killed this problematically persistent trend

Farrah Abraham
(Image credit: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for GBK)

In 1997, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee unwittingly transformed celebrity pop culture when they filmed themselves having sex on a boat.

Of course, they didn't expect that the tape would be stolen and distributed as Pamela and Tommy Lee: Hardcore and Uncensored. But undeniably, "the modern, mass-market celebrity sex tape" was born, writes Maureen O'Connor at New York. Since then, the celebrity sex tape has flourished, with contributions from public figures as far-ranging as former vice presidential nominee John Edwards and McSteamy Eric Dane and wife Rebecca Gayheart. For some celebrities, like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, sex tapes managed to enhance and arguably even launch their careers in the spotlight.

But over the last week, Teen Mom Farrah Abraham may have finally killed the star-making power of the celebrity sex tape.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

After a confusing week of denials and retractions, Abraham, 21, finally admitted to making a professionally filmed sex tape with porn star and The Canyons actor James Deen. The two were photographed walking together hand-in-hand outside of porn distributor Vivid Entertainment's headquarters. Deen, 27, straight-up said they purposefully shot a professionally-made pornographic film together. Abraham hemmed and hawed a bit, saying, "I wanted my own personal video made and photos taken for myself. When I am older I will have the best year to look back on." Then she added that she'd sell it for $2 million. Then she tried to block Vivid from distributing the video.

Regardless of the back and forth, "there can be no doubt now that the ambitious 21-year-old was plotting to follow the lead of fellow reality starlets Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, who shot to fame following their own sex tape scandals," says Cassie Carpenter at the Daily Mail. And in doing so, Abraham has effectively killed the celebrity sex tape craze, says Choire Sicha at The Awl. Once upon a time "it was all about the shock and scandal and delight" of leaked footage of celebrities who had intended, or at least seemed, to keep this material private. But with Abraham's latest contribution, "we've finally flipped from covert ops to overt ops." Now that it has become so abundantly clear that a sex tape is a path to fame, not shame, we have celebrities on the decline not only leaking but making pornography for the purpose of seeming like a sex tape. "And so we have come full circle."

Indeed, "the value of the sex tape has diminished," O'Connor says, "while the betrayal associated with selling one has gone up."

Perhaps, though, the bigger issue is why people seem to care so much about the difference between a "sex tape" and "porn." Why is it considered so much worse that a woman who made her fame off of an unplanned teenage pregnancy is attempting to extend it (and, for that matter, support her child) through another sex act? Is her intent really so important?

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us