Man views private pictures of naked lady, feels bad
Back when there were only around 100,000 tweets on the subject I clicked through to see the hacked and leaked nude photos of the actress Jennifer Lawrence. My initial twinge of guilt has since been transformed by the pages of commentary into a weary feeling of depression over thoughts of theft, objectification and sexism in the 21st century.
It would be simpler to grasp if a thief had instead broken into someone’s home and taken some racy 4”x6”s, but the digital world makes theft much trickier to understand. As with online film piracy, the act of theft is committed by a few, the stolen property distributed by a few more and property consumed by many more after that. Each link in the chain provides another point at which to defer responsibility –‘I didn’t steal it, I only re-uploaded it’ or ‘I didn’t upload it, I only shared the link’. The internet, as with many modern entities, is a system so big and complex that there are many gaps into which accountability can disappear.
The photos were likely leaked to raise an asking price for a larger cache of photos that the thieves are sitting on. It is sad that we understand all too easily the commodification of women’s bodies and the small leap of logic towards concluding that ‘of course some cynical fuck would monetise that kind of material’. Many of us look, it is in our nature. Both sexes. Following a J-Law Twitter trend illustrated the following broad gender reactions:
Women: ‘Oh my god, Jennifer Lawrence looks so hot. I wish I looked that good.’
Men: ‘Oh my god, Jennifer Lawrence looks so hot. I’m going to rub one out.’
Regardless of why, we still looked. And as the paparazzi who supply publications like Closer or the Mail Online might tell us, it is difficult to sell what there isn’t a market for.
Aside from the obvious sexism in mainly female celebrities being targeted, what has been awful to witness is the predictable backlash to the condemnation and discussion of this photo ‘leak’. The actress Mary E Winstead has gone on a social media break following the circling of her Twitter account by trolls hurling the vilest misogynistic abuse. It is a depressingly familiar mechanism, a thoughtless and ‘harmless’ behaviour not too many steps removed from the leering, name-calling, grabbing and other delights women put up with on a regular basis. It is tiring to hear that is the way things continue to be. But to paraphrase Jon Stewart (who was talking about racism): sexism is there; it exists. You’re tired of hearing about it?… Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.
There is nothing new here, but this whole event is a water cooler moment around which there is the opportunity to have a conversation about bigger issues. In the rush to find fault it is remarkable how much has focused on those not actually complicit in the act. Going after Apple’s cloud or telling women to behave, or to not behave, a certain way otherwise they are ‘asking for it’ is like trying to cure a disease by flattening a city population with an iceberg. I don’t know what the answer is, but the most effective response surely must contain some increments of personal action and responsibility. That means taking responsibility for what we allow into our lives, online or otherwise. It means calling out that behaviour which we know deep down is unacceptable. It might sometimes be inconvenient or uncomfortable, but we can choose to nominate ourselves to dump that particular bucket of ice upon our individual heads for some greater good.
It is difficult being a grown up in the internet age, and god knows how you are supposed to prepare a girl or a boy to navigate this world. Perhaps we are making some progress; at least we’re talking about it. Maybe what to take from all this is:
1) Be nice.
2) Don’t steal.
Pretty basic stuff, right?
My apologies to Jennifer Lawrence. And to Mary E Winstead, I looked at your pictures too. I feel bad.