Our Shameful Cultural Obsession with Leaked Nude Photographs
Posted in: OPINION
Since August 2014, the nude photos of multiple celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Meagan Good and Jill Scott, were leaked when hackers gained access to their Apple iCloud accounts. Since then, the celebrities affected have slammed the attack as an invasion of privacy and reprimanded all those who assisted in the proliferation of their photos.
Celebrities quickly took to social media to respond and mitigate the violation. Jennifer Lawrence’s response, as dictated to Vanity Fair, was one of the more notable:
“It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting... Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offence. You should cower with shame. Even people who I know and love say: ‘Oh, yeah, I looked at the pictures.’ I don’t want to get mad, but at the same time I’m thinking, I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”
It makes one ask: who would do this? And why?
Our society is obsessed with the forbidden and nude photos fall into that category. Couple this with a patriarchal society that feels that it is entitled to peer at and leer at and criticize the female form and especially that of those in the public eye, and there is no wonder why people act the way they do when such photos are released. As a society, we feel like we own the bodies of our celebrities, when in fact, their body belongs to them.
The photo spread of Kim Kardashian in Paper Magazine, which has been given the hashtag #Bootygate, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. This was not so much about having sexuality on display as it was feeding public sexual consumerism. This is not about having high, or low, self-esteem. This goes far beyond being proud of her physique. She was a tool used by Paper Magazinefor publicity and to reach a wider audience. She offered up her body for public consumption. She offered herself up as a thing to be objectified and evaluated. Because we don’t know, as a society, how to appreciate and admire any and all objects or beauty, her body has and will be picked apart. In our discussion of her, we as a society implicitly confirm that Kim Kardashian is only the sum of her parts. She is lauded by some, her husband, and critiqued by others: is her butt real? Was she photoshopped)? She adds fuel to the furnace of a culture that feels entitled to gawk at and critique the female form.
But what about those, like Jennifer Lawrence, who did not willingly offer themselves up to public scrutiny? Are they not entitled to some dignity? Should they not also be exempted from criticism? And even if they had posed nude before, like Rihanna, is there not something to be said for personal agency and power? In one instance, the person controls the photos of her body. In the other, she doesn’t. And yet, it is still her body. She rightfully should be angry. That is why I side with those who call this a sex crime, because like all sex crimes, at the very root of this issue is the violation of someone’s body and the abuse of power.
All that is left is for the celebrities to take back their agency like Meagan Good wrote on her Instagram:
“Saddened for everyone who is experiencing this… but I choose not to give the persons responsible my power.” Like Jennifer Lawrence depicted in her response, the redemptive key here is not to cower in shame but be confident, unabashed and shame the offenders into their rightful place.
Image via Paper Magazine | Written by MYC Writer Simone M. Samuels