Yesterday, we told you about YACHT, a Los Angeles-based band and romantic duo who said a sex tape of theirs had been stolen by someone who was planning to circulate it widely. It was a hoax, and they tried months ago to get our company in on it. This is fucking gross.
Here is some of the text of an email received by one of my colleagues at Gawker Media on April 6. I wish I’d known about it yesterday but that’s not always how the world or my office works:
For the upcoming music video for our song, “I Wanna Fuck You Til I’m Dead,” we’re faking a sex tape leak.
In the days leading up to the video’s release, we’re going to pretend we were hacked, share and delete confessional social media posts on the subject of our privacy, then try to “get out in front of it” and sell the sex tape, fake a server crash, etc.
The email was written by Claire L. Evans, one of Yacht’s frontpeople, along with her boyfriend Jona Bechtolt. She has also contributed to our sister site io9, because media is an incestuous ratfuck. (Members of our staff also know these two socially.)
I will be frank: this story didn’t sit right with me yesterday. From our internal work chatroom:
That wasn’t quite right, of course, because there was no actual sex tape: when I tried to download it, I just got an error message, and so did lots of other people. The only folks claiming to have seen it, as we noted in an update yesterday, were Yacht’s famous friends. (I’m going to stop capitalizing their band name now because it’s tiresome and because I find them tiresome).
But most folks probably didn’t try to download it at all, because Yacht said the video was leaked without their consent. Most people are not craven and/or horny enough to watch a video whose participants are begging you not to view it. Most people don’t suck. Most people aren’t Yacht.
The thing about revenge porn—the real kind, not the desperate fake kind cooked up to attract extra attention to your mediocre art band—is that it ruins lives. A teenage girl named Audrie Pott died by suicide in 2012 after she was sexually assaulted at a party; pictures of the assault were then posted online. Canadian teen Rehtaeh Parsons also died by suicide under similar circumstances: her family says she was raped at a party, and photos of the incident were widely circulated at her school. Activists have fought for years to secure some shred of legal recourse for victims of revenge porn.
What Yacht did is troll people’s innate sense of horror, disgust and compassion when confronted with a terribly violating crime. They’re probably trying to make a point about media sensationalism, about online outlets, especially, being willing to cover salacious stories without fact-checking them. Done in a less disgusting and rank way, that would be fair. It would be impish, mischievous good fun.
This is not that. This is one of the grossest publicity stunts I’ve ever seen. I hope it gets Yacht the attention they’re courting and that they deserve, in spades.
I emailed Evans for comment—an email that, frankly, made no attempt to hide how irate I am right now—and will update should I hear back.
Update, 1:00 p.m.:
Over at Noisey, Dan Ozzi points out that Yacht’s PR company Motormouthmedia wants to make it real clear they had no part in this:
Update, 3:35 p.m.:
Yacht has issued a statement on this whole affair and it is something.
Here’s a block quote in case that tweet goes away or the statement is edited to be less snitty:
We created a story that was quickly revealed as fiction by the internet. We expected interest, skepticism, and laughter. We didn’t anticipate the outpouring of genuine support, due partially to the credulity with which this story was so extensively and immediately reported.
We did make a “sex tape,” and we want you to watch it. We released it as a slowly-unveiling conspiracy, inspired in equal part by The X-Files, Nathan for You, and The KLF. It’s a project that allowed us to play with science fiction, the attention economy, clickbait journalism, and celebrity sex tapes all at once.
If you tried to purchase the video here, your card was never charged. This was not designed to make money or sell records, but to explore the intersection of privacy, media, and celebrity. We enjoy and have spent a decade creating multi-faceted projects that unfold over time, using the most current tools at our disposal.
There is one dark note we want to address. We never make light of victims of any form of sexual abuse. Frankly, it’s disturbing to us that press outlets could make the incredibly irresponsible leap from “celebrity sex tape,” which is the cultural trope this project explicitly references, to “revenge porn,” which is unfunny, disgusting, morally repugnant, and completely unrelated. Even within the fictional narrative we created, there was no violence or exploitation. It was always about agency and proactive empowerment.
We couldn’t have asked for better fans, and we realize we’ll need to try much harder to fool you. We will continue to work very hard to produce work that engages and responds to you.
Claire & Jona
Our mistake, then, for not seeing your incredibly clever play on cultural tropes for what it was, and just thinking you fucking suck. Sorry.
Bechtolt and Evans. Screenshot via YouTube/Jessica Sain-Baird