A week ago, a mysterious hacker released dozens of private pictures of various celebrities—some nude, some simply selfies taken for their own personal benefit. For one, to call this person a “hacker” is like calling an animal poacher a gun enthusiast. Hacking is simply the tool this person used to cause others immense pain, but that takes away from the crime they committed —a sex crime. Distributing nude pictures without the consent of their subject is a clear violation of consent and is illegal. In fact, some of the pictures, like those of McKayla Maroney, were taken when she was underage and fall under the umbrella of distributing child pornography.
Aside from the fact that it’s clearly illegal, it begs the question: When will society and the media realize they don’t have ownership over a woman’s body? The media sends incredibly conflicting messages through its treatment of female celebrities.
For example, consider the way the media treats women’s sexuality. No matter how serious the content of the film is, a naked woman in a movie will always warrant a giggle. One recent example of this was a skit Seth Macfarlane performed during the 2013 Oscars. In his skit, entitled “We Saw Your Boobs,” he listed movies and the actresses who had appeared naked in them. However, the context of these movies is never discussed. In fact, four of the examples in the song, including a scene featuring Charlize Theron in “Monster,” were actually rape scenes. He mentions seeing Scarlett Johansson’s on his phone, referring to her naked pictures that were released without her consent and weren’t even relevant to the Oscars. In this song he mentioned Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence, amongst many others. The problem is that these are all Oscar winning actresses who have been in serious films and have serious bodies of work.
The fact of the matter is that no matter how many awards a famous Hollywood actress wins or how much humanitarian work she does, her work can still be reduced and objectified in a song for the amusement of others. Even female politicians and CEOs are criticized for their wardrobes and their appearances. These are serious women who should not be asked what their workout routine is when their true concern is the economic future of the United States.
Examples of women taking power over their naked bodies are often criticized in the media. Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, on Dunham’s TV show “Girls,” often appears naked in her sex scenes and has been criticized for the “ugly” and “gross” nudity of her character. However, Hannah is only naked when it helps drive a point home about her character. When she’s naked around her female friends, it demonstrates their intimate friendship. When she’s having sex, the nudity is actually to show discomfort in those sexual situations. However, a beautiful, naked prostitute hanging off a male character as a prop on “Game of Thrones” is seen as essential to the show. Did I mention she’ll probably not speak but be brutally murdered?
Movies with a frank depiction of a man performing oral sex on a woman is often given an NC-17 rating. 2010’s “Blue Valentine” was given an NC-17 despite having very little violence. Its only other sex scene was a candid shot of the actress. It was only after star Ryan Gosling pointed out “There’s plenty of oral sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it’s a man receiving it from a woman— and they’re R-rated.” The Motion Picture Association of America is willing to give an R-rating to movies with females being murdered and raped, but any semblance of female control over sexuality is labelled as pornogrpahy and slapped with an NC-17 rating, making it almost impossible for the movie to be shown in larger theaters.
Women are given two stories by the media. On one hand, the false worship of female bodies is everywhere. Posing naked or nearly naked for Maxim or Playboy is something many women aspire to. On the other hand, when women take pictures for their significant others or simply to feel good about themselves, the response is the slut-shaming “You shouldn’t have taken them if you didn’t want anyone to see them.” How are people supposed to react when the media and people as a whole are begging for pictures but then turn around to vilify women for finally showing people their bodies?
Even a woman who takes a release of a sex tape in stride is vilified. People forget that Kim Kardashian’s sex tape with Ray-J was released without her consent and was probably incredibly embarrassing for her. She turned that notoriety into an opportunity for her family. She now has stores, a designer label, endorsements, a hugely successful iPhone game and a very popular TV show. Kim Kardashian turned this invasion of her privacy into a media empire and is still a punchline for jokes. Her husband Kanye West has been criticized for marrying her despite seeming to not care himself, even bragging about it in some of his raps. The media sexualizes women but does not allow them to be sexual.
There are people who are simply curious, another symptom of feeling entitled to someone else’s body. Look at any naked woman—your favorite celebrity will look vaguely like that. Consider your curiosity sated and stay out of other people’s phones.