The world woke up today to the news that hundreds of celebrities have had their accounts hacked, their photo albums mined, and their stolen images plastered up on the internet for everyone to see.
Jennifer Lawrence has received the full force of this invasion, her private pictures shared gleefully on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook. Users behave as if this is some sort of long-awaited gift; ‘nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence’ crowed one guy on Twitter, attaching the images, ‘all my prayers have been answered!’ Other tweets go with the general tone of “I’m masturbating over these pictures lol.” While others call them ‘Disappointing.’
The images being shared are overwhelmingly of women. Of course they are. Over on the cesspit of hypocrisy that is Reddit, those who protested so vehemently against the threat posed by the NSA delight in this invasion of privacy. Hands off my emails, dude, but gimme a sec while I check out images of a naked women downloaded and shared against her will. The same is true for the rest of the internet: Facebook’s dodgy privacy terms and a CCTV nation drive people into a frenzy. But where is that concern for privacy when it comes to women’s bodies?
What this reminds us is that, in the eyes of the world, a woman’s body is decidedly not her own. It’s not about respect and morality, it’s the overwhelming belief that the female body, famous or not, is fair game for everyone with eyes and an internet connection. Yes the images are out there, but what makes you think you should go looking for them, just because you can?
The internet is awash with consensual images and videos of women’s naked bodies. There are even entire websites dedicated to it. It’s called pornography, check it out, it’s great. But the key to these stolen images are that they’re “exciting” precisely because they’re nonconsensual. By looking at those pictures, the viewer exercises a power over the woman, disables her ability to say no. Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but this sounds an awful lot like rape culture.
The overwhelming impact is that women are again punished and humiliated for daring to be sexual. Those pictures you took with a trusted partner for your mutual enjoyment? Yoink. They’re ours now, you should have known better. Women and girls are now being urged to remember that when they take nude pictures to send to a partner, they must never include their faces. That way they can’t prove it’s you, see? If you include your face, you’re not taking necessary precautions, silly.
Practical advice though it is, it seems to miss the point. I’ve sent naked pictures to partners. Some of them include my face. And that’s fine. The majority of people reading this will have done the same. Don’t chastise a woman for including her sexy face in her sexy pics.
But as for those who think such photos should be fair game for the public eye? Think very very carefully about what you’re doing. Before you look and comment on those pictures, just for a second imagine you live in a world where a woman and her body aren’t there for your own personal consumption and satisfaction. Denying Jennifer Lawrence a say over who sees her own body is immoral, misogynistic and disgusting. But it is also incredibly, unforgivably, graspingly selfish.