Historical & Current Events dictionary

The Fappening

or #thefappening

What does The Fappening mean?

The Fappening refers to an event that began on August 31, 2014 when an iCloud hack resulted in nude photos of dozens of celebrities to be released online.

Where does The Fappening come from?

The Fappening

The term The Fappening likely comes from a portmanteau of fap and happening. Fap is a slang word that refers to masturbation, especially involving a penis. In this context, the implication is that this is very likely what people on the internet do when they get a hold of naked pictures.

On August 31, 2014, the images were released on 4chan and also circulated on Reddit. The event exposed how little security celebrities had on their personal online accounts and how easily hackers were able to gain access to them. In particular, hackers were able to take advantage of iCloud’s allowance for infinite password guesses. Among those affected were Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst, Kate Upton, Avril Lavigne, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, and more. All in all, more than 100 celebrities were impacted and over 400 images were leaked to 4chan and Reddit.

A likely source of the term is the now banned subreddit, /r/TheFappening, which was created the same day the leaks occurred. It was there that images were widely distributed and discussed. The subreddit was banned almost a week later, as were related topics.

The alleged perpetrator of the leak was a man named Ryan Collins, who was in his 30s at the time. He apparently sent phishing emails to celebrities to seize their usernames and passwords. He then downloaded images to his personal accounts, though it’s not certain that he was the one to leak the images.

A big point of controversy in the event was that it was a major breach of privacy and that many people felt people inappropriately entitled to viewing these images. After all, many of these women had appeared nude in media before. Those who wanted to continue looking at the images argued that the women weren’t victims and that they shouldn’t have taken the pictures in the first place.

This sort of victim blaming has been widely condemned. It’s important to keep in mind that these private images were made public without the celebrities’ consent. Regardless of their fame, these people did still have a right to their private lives. In the November 2014 issue of Vanity Fair, Jennifer Lawrence said: “It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,

Examples of The Fappening

“But the fappening was EVERYWHERE, and anyone who pointed out not just the shittiness but the moral failure and active violation in contributing to the theft and distribution of someone's private and sensitive photos was downvoted to hell.”
PipPipCheerio Reddit (December 5, 2014)
“Sincerely mourning something called the Fappening is incontrovertible proof that something has gone terribly wrong in your life.”
Caveats & Quandaries @caveatsnsuch Twitter (April 11, 2017)
“Now we have Fappening 2.0, a new trove of stolen photos posted to 4chan, Reddit and anywhere else you'd expect to find hacked naked images being shared.”
Roisin Kiberd, “Why the ‘Fappening’ Keeps Happening,” VICE (April 12, 2017)

Who uses The Fappening?

Now, people use the term to refer to the original event. If similar events happen, people might also refer to it in a similar fashion, such as The Fappening 2.0. Recently, this terminology has been used to refer to another, later wave of images that have been released. Terms like The Fappening 2.0 might also serve as a comparison point. People can reference events and say that they’re like or unlike The Fappening in some way.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of The Fappening like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of The Fappening that will help our users expand their word mastery.