I don’t need to tell you, oh person of the internet, that nude photos have been leaked of several female celebrities — the most prominent of whom is probably Jennifer Lawrence, actor and person-that-everybody-likes.
It’s not an uncommon story to hear of nude photos being leaked online, and there’s always a furore. There’s a strong element of shame that comes from being exposed to the anonymity of the internet in your most vulnerable physical form. Indeed, there’s likely a perverse pleasure in being a voyeur to this vulnerability, like a greasy security guard installing cameras in changing rooms.
A natural emotion in such a situation, I imagine, is regret. Such questions as: “Why did I take those photos?”; “Why did I share those photos with X?” [Although, in the Jennifer Lawrence case, they were retrieved by hackers from Apple’s iCloud]. In fact, Ms Lawrence is probably interrogating herself as I write this, wondering where she went wrong.
Luckily for her, I am on hand to tell her EXACTLY where she went wrong.
Well, where to start? First of all, Jennifer Lawrence shouldn’t have displayed herself as an overtly sexual figure. It’s clear that when you do such things as streak through Hollywood in nothing but a towel billowing on the wind that you’re going to incite people to want more. Maybe she shouldn’t have released all of that porn of herself that implicitly reduced her body to a sex object. Who can be blamed for acting on their primal instincts if the other party has already taken the first degrading step?
Oh wait she did none of those things.
Well maybe she shouldn’t have sold her soul to the Satan of sex appeal in her movie career. Let’s be honest, The Hunger Games presents Katniss in a way that is sexualising and erotic. Silver Linings Playbook is basically one long sex-scene. Everybody knows that Jennifer Lawrence got to where she is today by flaunting her body, and she has absolutely no acting talent whatsoever.
Oh, hang on — none of that is true either. How embarrassing for me!
Well maybe she shouldn’t have taken those photos at all. Look, we live in the internet age — you can’t expect personal photos that you upload to a ‘secure’ personal server that you don’t post anywhere that you don’t want anyone to see except maybe one person — you can’t expect only one person to see it! That’s madness! Clearly if you decide to take these photos, intended for one person, then you should be willing to share them with all 7 billion people on the planet. Don’t you know we live under boob Communism?
Oh wait, that’s bullshit.
Well, maybe she shouldn’t have been a woman. Now there’s a point.
There is not a single male victim of this incident. Brad Pitt is not holding his head in his hands, and Harry Styles is not feeling guilty (at least, not for something like this). The hacker was motivated to do this, it seems, not entirely out of malice but because he [presumably] could sell on these photos to make a quick buck. And you know what that entails? That entails demand. There are enough people in the world willing to be complicit in the violation of privacy that a hacker will go to significant lengths to sate their horniness. Saddeningly, that’s not actually too surprising.
Violation plays an unsettling role in this incident. There’s something enticing about what we cannot have — the button that says “Don’t Push” or the red-painted letters of “No Entry”. And the leaking of nude images of Jennifer Lawrence, and potentially hundreds of other women, fits directly into that paradigm. The internet’s collective penis is denied the body of a certain woman, and it demands to be satisfied. The threats of rape and abuse whenever a woman appears on the internet are simply symptomatic of this deeper illness.
And it’s easy to dismiss certain cases, blaming the victim, cautioning women against the taking of such photos. Had this happened to someone like Rihanna, whose appeal is in no small part due to her attractiveness, then perhaps the victim-blaming argument might have been stronger: if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned. But the fact that these leaks have been of Jennifer Lawrence, who is a successful actor and — in the public consciousness — one of the most ‘normal’ people in Hollywood, is even more disturbing. What could she have done to prevent this situation that she hadn’t already done?
She did not bait this at all.
And, for the record, any adult has the right to do whatever they like with their bodies, including taking nude photos of themselves; and any adult has the right to share those photos with whosoever they please. Because one person has access, that does not mean that everyone has access. It is the decision of the person themselves.
Sometimes I can’t believe I even have to argue for the cause of feminism. This is one of those times.
UPDATE: Apparently there have been a couple of male victims too, but that speaks more to the enormity of the crime; this is still clearly very much a gendered issue.