Consider this today’s deep thought from Agence France-Presse, in which the overreach appears to have peaked in the celebrity hacking scandal du jour. The question comes from a particular line of rebuttal to a blame-the-victim approach that emerged almost at the same time as the photos, but this misses the point even more than the arguments that provoked it:

Already hounded by paparazzi on their doorsteps, celebrities face a new battle to protect their privacy from hackers willing to splash their most intimate, behind-closed-doors photos online.

After the massive release of naked photos of stars including Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, some experts said it should be treated as a sex crime, rather that just an Internet or privacy breach. …

For Polonetsky, “this is a sex crime more than a leak” — a view expressed by a number of celebrities themselves on Twitter following the weekend hack.

“Remember, when you look at these pictures you are violating these women again and again… The person who stole these pictures and leaked them is not a hacker: they’re a sex offender,” said “Girls” creator Lena Dunham.

Er, no. Sex crimes and sex offenses deal with actions that are explicitly about sex or sexual images in which the accused participated in the illegal action. Had the person involved stalked the celebrity and took pictures while acting as a Peeping Tom, for instance, then the act of peeping and taking the pictures would be a sex crime. If the pictures involved underaged victims, for which possession and/or distribution are sex crimes, then that would be the charge. In this case, though, neither the images depicted nor the circumstances of the photography qualify as sex crimes. Naked pictures of adult celebrities who consented to the photography don’t qualify for that category of crime, whether taken by others or themselves.

What we have left is theft, not a sex offense. That hardly lets the criminal off the hook, however. In an earlier celebrity-hack case involving private images of nudity, the perpetrator got a decade in prison for stealing the pictures, and could have ended up with a 121-year sentence. Nor should that let those who exploit the spoils of the crime for their own entertainment off the ethics hook. Those who publicize and pursue these stolen images on line have a moral culpability, as Jim Geraghty writes, that goes beyond the question of legality:

If you knew Kate Upton personally… you wouldn’t look at the pictures that were copied from her private account, showing her nude, right? The pictures hacked off her phone are a violation of her privacy, and while you may not be a criminal for looking at them – although some people want it to be a crime – looking at someone else’s private photographs that were not meant for your eyes is not a nice thing to do.

Oh, you might be tempted… but you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t, because Kate Upton is your friend in this imaginary scenario, and that would be a terrible thing to do to a friend. Also, the world really doesn’t have a shortage of pictures of Kate Upton almost nude – say, the July 2012 cover of GQ — and she didn’t have any problem with anyone looking at any of those.

Here’s why you should avoid looking at those hacked Kate Upton pictures: Someday, you may meet Kate Upton! Sure, it’s not particularly likely, but it’s possible. If you do meet her, and she brings up how awful it was back in September 2014 when her personal pictures were hacked and spread all over the Internet, wouldn’t you want to say, with a clean conscience, “yes, that was awful, I can’t believe someone would do that to you” and not have a nervous twitch indicating that you looked at them?

Really, gentlemen, hasn’t Kate given us enough happiness? Doesn’t she deserve this little bit of decency on our part?

I’d say yes, whether I have any expectations of meeting Kate Upton or not, or any of the other celebrities who had their pictures stolen. (I don’t.) It should embarrass people who seek out these photos because these people are victims — of theft, not of a sex crime — and the distribution of their stolen merchandise does add to their victimization, whether they are aware of each instance or not. That’s not a legal argument, but a moral one, and has to do with one’s interior life rather than the odds of meeting supermodels and A-list celebrities. Had those pictures come from pictorials intended for publication, that question becomes a little different — at least in terms of participating in victimization — which is Jim’s larger point.

This comes back around to Dunham’s argument, with which I partially agree. It’s not a sex crime, but it is a crime to steal other people’s property and information. We can debate the relative merits of the naked selfie, as I write in my column today at The Week, but indulging in that fad doesn’t make the victims liable for theft of those images, which were private property and intended to remain that way. Conservatives should understand this better than most:

[E]ven back then the more caddish Polaroid owners would share these pictures widely, even after assuring their paramours of strict secrecy. Young women were warned not to trust boyfriends who claimed to take these pictures just to have a keepsake of their love, and not to let those images slip out of their own possession. Those who didn’t take that advice were considered at least somewhat responsible for whatever embarrassment followed.

However, today’s hacking scandal — which involved the online publication of nude photos of numerous Hollywood stars — is different in important ways. The impulse to unclothe in front of the camera is still the same, and the motivations are probably similar. But the issue with the release of those photographs presents a night-and-day contrast to the non-digital age.

These photos were not shared by caddish ex-boyfriends. Nor were they like the “revenge porn” videos that some jurisdictions have tried to address over the last year. These celebrity pictures were stolen from private accounts, not shared by a contributor to the act. …

A crime against private property and privacy should matter more than any offense over nudity and exhibitionism — perhaps especially to conservatives. It’s possible to criticize both, but it gets the priorities backward to focus on a younger generation’s predilection for taking nude pictures over the actions of hackers and the failure of cloud services to protect private material.

Conservatives generally reject blame-shifting when it comes to crime and punishment; “blaming society” gets special scorn on the right. We insist on assigning guilt and responsibility for crimes on individual actors, not groups or demographics. Why should that change when real actors become the victims?

Sonny Bunch put it well:

Yes, it is dumb in this day and age to take nude photos of yourself and store them in the cloud. But also: Yes, it is gross that people are hacking into private photo banks with the purpose of disseminating their contents for titillation and profit. And, finally: Yes, it is skeevy that you’re taking so much pleasure in this. There is nothing contradictory about statement one and statements two and three. Just because something exists, it doesn’t mean you have a right to viddy it. And saying “Ugh, you shouldn’t be so stupid as to take those photos!” doesn’t resolve you of moral responsibility for looking at them. …

I suppose this is just the continuation of a long and storied effort to dehumanize celebrities. “Oh, you want to be famous? Well then you can’t complain when the tabloids write up your exploits. Oh, you want to be famous? Well then you can’t complain when paparazzi stake out your home and get in your face when you’re out with your family. Oh, you want to be famous? Well then you can’t complain when some skeez hacks your iCloud and disseminates your nude body all over the Internet.” At least there’s a First Amendment rationale for the first two “can’t complains.” I fail to see any justification for the nastiness we saw go down yesterday.

Neither can I. Regardless of who the victims are, shouldn’t we arrange our outrage and criticism to prioritize those who steal other people’s property and distribute it for their own purposes? Those of us who believe in private property, especially?