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Ask Google why Kim Kardashian is famous and you'll draw up three recurring answers: the hit reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, her turbulent relationship with rapper Kanye West and, of course, the notorious 2007 sex tape she starred in with then boyfriend, Ray J.
In the 15 years since its release, Kim has stayed forever linked to the infamous tape, Kim Kardashian, Superstar, and it's often joked about - however incorrectly - as the reason for her fame. And while you might hope that we've all collectively moved on over the past decade and a half, it seems Kim's sex tape is back to being the topic of conversation once again. But why are we still talking about it in 2022?
The return of the sex tape chat is thanks (in part) to the Kardashian-Jenner family's new Disney+ reality show, The Kardashians. Episode one, titled 'Burn Them All To The F***ing Ground', sees Kim dealing with another threatened sex tape leak, with footage allegedly obtained by Ray J's former manager. Desperately trying to put a stop to the situation, after discovering the rumour on her son Saint's Roblox account, we see Kim crying down the phone to her lawyers. Then, later, the tape crops up again as she contemplates including a joke about the situation in her Saturday Night Live monologue.
What's interesting is that, for viewers and the Kardashians alike, it feels as if we've seen this all before. There's a striking parallel - as even sister Khloé Kardashian points out - between the sex tape being mentioned in the early days of original reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians (which launched back in 2007), and now in episode one of the family's new TV venture.
Consoling Kim in The Kardashians, Khloé tells her, "Didn't we deal with this the first season of Keeping Up? This is a good omen, you guys ... talking about your sex tape in the first season. I feel like we're back to day one!"
While she might be joking, Koko has a point. Although Kim, her family and career have progressed over the past 15 years, with her image and celebrity status changing unrecognisably since 2007 (preparing for SNL, she recalls a time when she couldn't even get invited to fashion shows), it feels like the sex tape is the one thing that's continued to follow Kim around. Regardless of what else she's achieved, the tape has undisputedly stayed a part of Kim's personal brand. Shouldn't we all just let it lie? Or should she (and we) continue to embrace it?
It seems Kim herself doesn't even know. The Kardashians episode two sees her working on her SNL monologue with actor and comedian Amy Schumer, debating whether to put a joke about her sex tape into the script. On the one hand, Kim wants to counteract the people threatening to leak the tape, reclaiming power over the situation through her jokes. On the other, Amy tells her to leave the sex tape out of her SNL moment, saying, "this piece of art ... will live on," suggesting any mention of the tape would only bring it back to the forefront of everyone's minds. Forever.
Over the years, Kim has continually stood by the fact that she didn't do anything wrong, and shouldn't be made to feel bad about the tape. Back in the early days of KUWTK, one clip showed Kourtney asking Kim in a practice 'interview', "Why did you make a sex tape?" "Because I was horny and I felt like it," Kim replies. The moment is now iconic among the show's fanbase, and the message - casually defending herself against slut-shaming - is one that resonated with many.
Now, almost two decades later, Kim's having to reiterate the point. "For 20 years, this has been held over my head, of this mistake - or is it a mistake? It was my boyfriend, you know, of years. We go on a trip, we film a video. It's embarrassing for that to be out there, but it's not the most scandalous thing and I'm not going to be made to feel that way. I'm just human," she says.
It might be a quiet response to slut-shaming (and, yes, from one of the most privileged women in the world), but Kim's message, rejecting suggestions that she should feel ashamed, is still powerful - especially in a wider conversation around revenge porn and anti-victim-blaming.
And yet, while there's something so powerful about Kim owning the situation, she should also be able to put it behind her if she wants to. To reclaim her narrative and have control over the tape in whatever way she chooses, rather than it being held over her head like a threat. Whether that means through a joke or a candid to-camera diary entry, it should be her tape, on her terms.
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