A particularly gross genre of Internet erotica has sprung up around alluring self-pictures of underage girls found on social media sites. But did you know there are actual people with real lives in those pictures? Meet Miami teen Angie Varona, whose life was turned upside down when she became an online sex symbol.
I first learned about Angie Varona a few days ago, while researching a post about the "Jailbait" section of the popular message board Reddit. Jailbait is a hub for pervs who get off on pictures of 13-year-old girls in bikinis, often covertly snatched from their social networking profiles—actually, it's probably the hub, as it's the first result when you Google "Jailbait."
Reddit is home to a whole network of proud pervs, and through Jailbait I came across another board dedicated to creeping on someone named Angie Verona. The board's description reads: "You know who she is." I did not know who she was, so I clicked through and found page after page of pictures of Angie: Invariably smiling and pretty, Angie posed with friends in some pictures that wouldn't look out of place in a Facebook album, and alone in others that seemed meant only for a boyfriend.
Some Googling showed 17-year-old Angie Varona is Internet famous. Three years ago, when she was 14, Angie took some photos for her boyfriend and stored them in a private Photobucket account. The account was hacked and the photos leaked. Pictures of 14-year-old Angie posing provocatively in a bikini and lingerie were thrown all over the internet, showing up on message boards like Reddit and 4chan, and posted on porn sites. She and her father notified the FBI and tried to scrub the pics.
"I spent the whole summer trying to take down all the pictures, but it was virtually impossible to track down who hacked me," she told thestatus.org recently. "I felt like crap knowing my life was going down the drain."
Angie and her sexy pics became a meme: There are now 356,000 Google results for "Angie Varona." The largest of about a dozen Angie Varona fan pages on Facebook has been liked by more than 20,000 people. And Angie's pictures became fixtures on amateur porn sites—the first time she learned of her new fame was when her friend informed her that she was starring in a porn ad. Unsurprisingly, she received rape threats and attracted stalkers.
Things didn't get better from there. When they got bored of the pictures from the initial hack, Angie says her "fans" had to have more.
"They're not even getting my pictures from Photobucket anymore," Varona told The Status. "They're getting them through my Facebooks. I can't even have my real name. I've had like six Facebooks now." (Attention, parents: Be sure to teach your kid about Facebook's privacy settings.)
This April, a few blogs got the idea that it was Angie's 18th birthday and celebrated in the creepiest way possible: "Angie Varona is 18 now. Somewhere Pedobear is crying," wrote the Chive. TheDirty (NSFW) advised: "Angie, take as many pictures as you can of your camel toe and body now because in three more saesons you will be 18 pounds heavier. I guarantee it." It wasn't even Angie's birthday; she was still 17 as of July.
Today, Angie continues to be haunted by the countless numbers of pictures, often passed around in huge .zip files of a hundred or more. Rumors that she was a porn star forced her to drop out of high school, and she's home-schooled now, she said in her first video interview about the ordeal a couple months ago. (See above.)
Angie basically had a teen sexting scandal that blew up over the entire internet. As in any sexting scandal, it's easy to blame the victim for taking those pictures. The fact that she taunted a bodybuilding forum that was drooling over her pictures probably didn't help things, either.
But every teen with a Facebook account has pictures like Angie's. What's fucked up is this trafficking of pictures of random underage girls that falls just this side of child porn, with no regard for the real life that might be ruined in the process. What's fucked up is the double-edged sword of Internet attention: Young girls who try to be famous are cut down in a rage of vicious comments and death threats. And young girls like Angie Varona who aren't trying to be famous? That's just a turn on, whether they like it or not.