Unless you've set some hippie, Neo-Luddite goal for yourself where you have eschewed all forms of technology and social media in the last few weeks, then you know about the celebrity hacking scandal that saw the private nude photos of over a hundred celebrities - all female - stolen from Apple's iCloud and posted to the internet for all the world to see.
Now, I'm not going to comment much on the situation in terms of what's already been said. I'm not going to name the names of the women affected, because they've already been named enough in the past few days. I'm not going to talk about how the anonymous, deep web group now claiming responsibility for the hack, saying it was "the result of several months of long and hard work by all involved," is the lowest form of pathetic. I'm not going to discuss how bizarre and backward it was that many people blamed the celebrities themselves for having nude photos on their phones in the first place, instead of putting the onus on the ones who committed the crime. And I'm definitely not going to talk about the fact the media needs to stop saying the pictures were "leaked" in a "scandal" because it connotes something entertaining and salacious rather than the gross, criminal breach of privacy it was.
Okay, I won't talk about them much.
Instead, I want to focus on a few tweets from xoJane author Sarah Woolley that made me think.
The thing is, Sarah is absolutely spot-on with those two messages. Women and girls absolutely are made to feel humiliated when anything regarding unexpected sexuality occurs. Hence most women trying to keep this aspect of themselves under wraps so as to not "get caught."
But why? Seriously...why? Why is taking a nude selfie in the privacy of one's own home still considered a bad thing, a thing to be ashamed of (at least if you're a woman)?
There are those of you who just read that and scoffed, thinking smugly to yourselves, "Only classless women do that. I/my wife/girlfriend/sister would never do that." And honestly, I can only laugh at this and restrain the urge to pat you on your heads like I would a kitten: Are you really so naive?
The reality is half of America sends nude pics.
And that's not me just making up a stat: That's the result of a study done by the Pew Research Center on how people use social media and technology to interact with one another (via The Verge). Some of the numbers:
- 44% of young adults ages 18-24 have reported sending or receiving a sext
- 42% of cell phone owners who identify as "single and looking" send and receive sexts
- Fully 55% of cell phone owners who date online have received a suggestive picture
If that's not enough, another study by Purdue University found that a whopping 80% of college students (average age of 21) had sent or received a sext, and 46% had sent a nude selfie. And yet another study by security firm McAfee revealed that 54% of adults have sent and received sexually explicit messages on their phones with 70% of people in the 18-24 age range reporting the same.
Let's real talk for a minute. Can we do that? Let's do that.
If you're reading this and claiming you've never taken a nude picture, you're very likely lying. If you're in a committed relationship and you're still claiming you've never done it, there's an even greater chance you're lying. And if you really haven't ever taken a nude picture, you're in the minority.
So, if we as a society are so comfortable with our bodies, then why aren't we comfortable with our bodies? Wait. Let me amend that: Why aren't we comfortable with women's bodies?
What two people do with each other behind closed doors is no one's business beyond those two people, celebrity or not. Celebrities are, for the most part, just like normal people in their day-to-day lives. That means a celeb might want to spice up her marriage by sending her husband an unexpected topless photo. Or a famous couple in a long-distance relationship due to simultaneous movie shoots might decide to sext each other to keep the spark alive while they're apart. Or a wife who happens to be in a blockbuster movie takes a sexy nude photo for her husband to remember her pre-baby body - or her post-baby one as a mother. Or you know, maybe she just wanted to capture one of the rare moments she looked in the mirror and actually liked what she saw instead of loathing her naked body. It's a moment of confidence and acceptance that happens all too infrequently for most women. Maybe it was all of those things. Or none of those things. Or something else entirely. Regardless, it doesn't matter why.
There's no way to explain why any of the above are things a woman should feel ashamed for doing, because they're not things for which someone should be crucified. Ever. Even if those very private photos that she took for one person alone end up making it in front of millions of other eyes. Simply put, a celebrity's private choice is not grounds for a stranger's public judgment.
Observing the studies up above and how most of us live our lives (seriously, don't front), we're no longer a Puritan society - but too many people still act like we are when someone's sexuality is unexpectedly sent up for public consumption. As the old Ludacris lyric goes, society wants "a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed"...but then slut-shamed these women when the things they had planned on confining to their beds were stolen from them and put on the street against their will.
There's another adage: "Sex sells." It was a baffling thing to have witnessed the aftermath of the hacking crime and realize that the same people who crucified the celebrities for taking nude photos are many of the same people who regularly watch porn, or drive past billboards depicting scantily-clad models rubbing themselves all over their favorite beer and think nothing of it, or watched Nicki Minaj's performance at this year's VMAs and didn't even bat an eyelash.
Why is it that it's so much more shocking to far too many people when a celebrity's naked body is revealed in the context of that celeb privately controlling to whom and how she chooses to show her nudity than when it's done for money, an advertisement, a topless photo shoot with Terry Richardson or Victoria's Secret? Can anyone answer that question for me?
The bottom line is, there's nothing wrong with a woman's sexuality, or a woman being sexual. Nothing at all. It shouldn't be shocking to learn that female celebrities (hell, females, period) embrace nudity and their own sexuality. It should be a complete non-issue to the point it's not even relevant to this situation, ultimately. And the sooner knuckle-dragging victim-blamers get that through their heads, the faster this sad, disgusting event can move from being seen as a scandal to being understood as a crime.