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Nude Pictures, starlets, and sexism on the Internet

Jennifer Lawrence
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Over Labor Day weekend an avalanche of nude pics of various young women in the entertainment biz were dumped onto the World Wide Web – most notable were alleged photos of Oscar winner and A list star Jennifer Lawrence. Various articles have noted precautions that these women should have taken in order to keep their private moments from the clutches of hackers but one can imagine how unhelpful that advice is perceived after the nudie genii has left the bottle. This all leaves debate about the ever-changing and perplexing idea of privacy when technology always seems ten steps ahead. However it is the sexism of the whole thing that is more bothersome at the moment.

As everyone knows, once something is on the Internet it is easily removed and forgotten…and if you buy that I have a bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn I want to sell you. Depending on several factors whatever the message or image could live on in various forms long after you cease to draw breath and no threats of lawsuits will change that. Although it is a universal truth that it is amusing to laugh at the misfortune of others few people enjoy public humiliation especially on the level the Internet offers. If these photos are indeed of Jennifer Lawrence they aren’t just a violation of her intimate moments but a continued record of Lawrence in the altogether forever.

Thus far it seems that most of these photos are of young women and not of the up and coming young men in the music, acting, or modeling fields. This is noteworthy because male nudity isn’t viewed the same as female nudity. There is an inequality. A penis rarely is shown whereas female nakedness in films is common. Since the seventies it has been a rite of passage for an actress to do nudity with the excuse that it was for the integrity of a film role and though that rationalization for gratuitous nudity has tapered away some, Seth MacFarland opened the 2013 Oscar telecast by singing I Saw Your Boobs. (Bonus points were rewarded for aiming the cameras at the women as he referenced them, who, judging by their reactions, were unsuspecting.)

Marilyn Yalom wrote a wonderful book, History of the Breast, which examined the politicization and sexualization of the female breast. Even today it is much more common to view the naked female breast as something sexual rather than the means to nourish an infant. Rape culture is exercised in the feeling that women’s bodies aren’t their own. Groping women (often women the gropers do not know) in crowds or gaping at famous (or otherwise) females whose lack of clothing was not meant for public view. There is an oppressive message which reverberates through all female culture that it makes little difference if a woman is accomplished, famous, and wealthy, she can be reduced to her basic parts…and her basic parts do not really belong to her especially if she did not take a zillion precautions to make sure her iCloud account was secure.

Much will be made about these pictures and although safety in Internet privacy is always a good thing of which to be aware, one can’t help but hope that there will be an examination of the psyches of those responsible for stealing the pictures in the first place. We can presume they do not live lives in the public eye and as such how would they feel if what they deemed as private – the awkward school photo, the over wrought poem about a dead pet, their general lack of physical machismo suddenly became fodder for the rest of us?

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