Sexual freedom and fallacies
By Marisa Wherry
Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Brown, Dylan Sprouse, Rihanna, Scarlett Johansson, Vanessa Hudgens, Pete Wentz, Snooki, Prince Harry, Blake Lively. Other than fame and fortune, what’s the one thing these celebrities have in common? Nude photos. Not naked pictures taken for a magazine cover, or naked scenes from movies (although plenty of those exist, too). All of these celebrities have had their personal, nude pictures leaked all over the internet. Often when celeb photos are leaked, it’s because hackers got into the person’s iCloud account or bitter/bored ex-girlfriends and boyfriends decided to have a little fun. Celebrity reactions range from indifference to outrage. Chris Brown shrugged it off, while Pete Wentz was considerably angrier over the exposure of his photos.
When speaking with the Guardian, Wentz said, “I think that any time you go into someone else’s private area, and you take something from that, it’s theft. I don’t know how you define it as far as what kind of crime it is, but it seems like there should be certain human decency that we share. You have to understand that celebrities are still human beings. You still have to treat people with the barest human decency. You don’t have to love somebody, you don’t even have to like somebody, but hacking into their phone and taking pictures of theirs is just ridiculous.”
Jennifer Lawrence had a similar reaction to her nude photos being placed on a website called “The Fappening,” which targeted many other female celebrities, including Ariana Grande and Kate Upton. Lawrence did not call the invasion of privacy a theft, as Wentz had, but a sex crime.
The Hunger Games star did a Vanity Fair spread in November of 2014, in which she posed for partially nude photos and discussed her private pictures blasting around the internet. When her nudes became the most popular topic on the internet, she said she didn’t know how to react. She began writing a statement for the public, “but every single thing that I tried to write made me cry or get angry. I started to write an apology, but I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for. I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.” And why should she, or anyone, have to write a public apology for something that was supposed to remain private? Personal expression of a person’s own body should be considered normal in today’s society, and the privacy involved in sexual freedom should be respected.
Lawrence brings up an interesting point: She was in a long distance relationship and sent the nudes to her boyfriend, a seemingly harmless action. Leaked photos are often meant for one’s boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, or husband; an understandable practice, since celebs often travel for their work. But what about celebrities that haven’t been monogamous to one person when they sent or took nudes? Should they receive less sympathy and more criticism than someone privately sharing photos with a boyfriend or girlfriend? Hardly, because they still sent the pictures to someone in confidence.
Another question that was often raised after Jennifer Lawrence’s victimization was: What’s the difference between celebrities exposing themselves for magazine or film shoots and taking personal photos that later go viral? Privately taking pictures entitles anyone, not just celebrities, to complete secrecy. Pictures taken for magazines involve an intense amount of planning: the outfit, the amount of exposed skin, and, most importantly, the celebrities feeling in control of the photo. Even if someone isn’t apart from their loved one, they still may take a couple of quick nudes just because they feel like it. It’s a private form of self-expression and should be valued as so. Celebrities are not the only people who take nudes—they just run a much greater risk than the average person of having their photos exposed to mass amounts of people.
What about those who have never snapped a naked selfie? Do they reserve the right to hold judgment over celebrities who have willingly or unwillingly shown off their bodies to the masses? Humans are naturally drawn to sex and things revolving around sex, like nudity, and why should we try to discourage that? Oftentimes, people who criticize famous nude celebs are the ones who spend time looking at them. So who are the real hypocrites: those who gawk at celebs’ bodies and then label them slutty or promiscuous, or celebrities who are angry because they want, and are denied, some semblance of privacy?
Female celebrities are often slut-shamed for posing nude, while male celebs enjoy more sexual freedom without the negative repercussions from the media and the public. Keith Urban has posed nude for Playgirl magazine, along with Kevin Bacon, Michael J. Fox, Chevy Chase, and Mark Wahlberg. People don’t call Keith Urban a slut, but just google any of the girls who posed for Playboy with the word “slut” and you’ll get pages of results on women like Kim Kardashian, Drew Barrymore, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Cindy Crawford, and Pamela Anderson.
Undressing for the cameras doesn’t mean that celebrities have frequent casual sex with many people. Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima, who has been working for VS since 2000, remained a virgin until 27 years old on her wedding day. The amount of clothing a person chooses to wear doesn’t define their sexual history. Furthermore, remaining a virgin or choosing to participate in casual sex doesn’t change a person’s personality or moral compass. So even if Adriana Lima did have sex before her wedding day, who cares? She should remain just as respected, regardless of choosing to participate in sex or remaining a virgin.
Pre-existing notions ingrained in American society dictate judgment of feminine and masculine sexuality and nudity. Celebrities receive massive amounts of attention when their nudes are released or when they pose for magazines. Women are targeted with cruel labels when their bodies are exposed. Society needs to step back from their computer screens where countless people’s bodies are wrongfully exposed, to look away from Twitter where people fling the words “slut” and “whore” at women like Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus. When a screen exists between someone’s words and the person affected, this disconnect negates all responsibility that the twitter user or blogger should feel, producing insensitive reactions to celebrity nudity or perceived promiscuity.
Those surrounded by paparazzi know that their actions and exposure will gain attention and criticism, and they live every day with the knowledge that some will support them and others will tear them apart. They know that they will receive good and bad reviews, but it’s a different matter when celebrities are criticized for revealing images that they posed for, especially if those pictures were meant to be private.
As Pete Wentz said, we need to remember that celebrities are human beings. Just like anyone else, they don’t want to be called whores for showing body parts that they are comfortable with, and they don’t want their personal pictures exposed to billions of people. American society needs to stop acting like Vanessa Hudgen’s breasts were the first nipples they saw, and they also need to stop feeding into the hype around celebs’ unfairly exposed naked pictures. If Blake Lively wanted everyone to see her unclothed body, she could have posed for any number of magazine spreads. A thoughtless internet search of her nudes defies her wishes, diminishes her control over her own body, and further normalizes unwanted sexual attention. The web has placed nudity in the public sphere, which would be okay only if the naked people in these pictures were willingly celebrating their bodies and their sexuality, publicly for all to see.
Don’t feel guilty about picking up a copy of Vanity Fair’s spread featuring Jennifer Lawrence, but do feel guilty for googling her nudes. I doubt she would ever flip through your leaked naked pictures while on the set of Mockingjay.