Today, the news broke that hackers had gotten ahold of nude pictures portraying actors Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Winstead, and others. There’s an active investigation going on, but it seems as though the photos may have come from cloud storage sites with poor security. The internet is all a-flutter because, I guess, naked ladies! Jennifer Lawrence confirmed many of the things I say here in a Vanity Fair interview on 10/8/14.
Let’s remember that the big news today ought to be that Jennifer Lawrence and several other high-profile women became victims of crime. And that they, like so many other women across the world, were targeted for crime because their bodies were appealing to men.
It’s kind of irrelevant whether the photographs are real or doctored. If they’re real, so what? People take nude pictures of themselves. People take nude pictures of their loved ones. People like to have sex, and some of them like to take pictures of themselves having it. If you asked a roomful of 1000 people to close their eyes and then raise their hands if they’d ever taken nude photos of themselves or someone else, I would bet you’d have at least 800 hands in the air.
Nothin’ wrong with that. I might even say there’s a lot that’s right about that, because I think seeing real people in their real bodies is a healthy antidote to the Photoshopped fakery advertising and media shove down our throats.
But again, this news story is not about nude photos of bodies. It’s about two things: our feeling of ownership over women’s bodies, and our feeling of entitlement about controlling them.
Why aren’t there any men in the list of leaked photos? Because we don’t think it’s problematic for men to be nude, and because we don’t think it’s exciting for men to be nude, and because we don’t feel entitled to tell men what to do with their bodies.
Why is the news media responding to the leaks not by castigating the thieves who broke in and stole data but, forgive me for swearing, BY FUCKING POSTING THE PICTURES? I’m looking at you, Perez Hilton, jackass. Do the media have their heads shoved so far up their asses that they can’t tell right from wrong, and that they can’t tell that throwing gasoline onto a conflagration isn’t a morally defensible choice?
No. They know that it’ll sell papers and get eyeballs onto ad impressions. And that enough of us will furtively enjoy consuming the images of naked women, without their consent, that we’ll turn our heads away rather than calling them out.
But let’s keep our eyes on the ball. Jennifer Lawrence is the targeted victim of a crime. Instead of receiving those stolen goods (which is really what we’re doing when we look at the pictures), we should be focusing on how to protect privacy and take care of victims.
We have this salacious delectation and delight in finding that celebrities are real people too—that they take nudie pics like everyone else, that they argue with their spouses like everyone else, and that they sometimes kill themselves, just like everyone else.
It feels as though we want them to deny and forgo all the aspects of their humanity as soon as they get cast for a film. And, twisted further, we want the right to consume the images of their bodies not just when they’re at work—on the screen—but when they’re in the privacy of their own lives.
We talk about how problematic ISIS’s treatment of women is, and how crude and horrible other cultures are in their treatment of women. We should spend some time looking in mirrors instead of drooling over these pictures.
This story isn’t really about nude pictures. It’s about a crime, and on a deeper level it’s about objectification of celebrities in general and female celebrities in specific. We’re accustomed to acting as though we own the right to view and enjoy their bodies, with or without their consent. This crime is just an indication of that viewpoint taken a little farther than usual.
We need to do better. Stop forwarding the pictures, and let people have a private life. Want to ogle gorgeous women’s bodies? Go watch some porn—those are women who signed up for being viewed, and they get paid for it. But getting all excited about stolen nudie pics from some celebrity’s phone?
Now that’s dirty.
(ETA 9/1/14 11:38 pm: Scott Mendelson says good things about this in Forbes. Clementine Ford also says good things in Daily Life. And then James Fell wrote this awesome thing. Genevieve Valentine wrote this completely wonderful analysis of what this is really about. Sara Benincasa articulated it well.)