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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    No need to apologize for consensual sexuality

    A woman walks down the street and hears a catcall from somewhere over her shoulder. A girl tells her boyfriend “no,” but he continues anyway. A celebrity takes erotic photographs in the privacy of her own home; they are stolen, splashed across the Internet and branded a scandal.

    What do these situations have in common? They all demonstrate the rape culture ideologies permeating our society — specifically the idea that the male gaze has a right to the female body. Leaked photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities in private, vulnerable and especially erotic positions is not a scandal, and it should not be treated as such. This invasion of privacy is an act of sexual violence. It is also another example of America’s comfort with sexualizing women against their will.

    The production of nude erotic photography is a potentially empowering act. It can symbolize the ability for someone — specifically a woman — to be in charge of their sexuality, to have ownership of their own body. Taking a nude photograph for one’s partner or even oneself is not wrong and is not scandalous.

    However, because it is an act of self-sexualization, of sexual liberation, empowerment, self-autonomy, the American media and the public at large are uncomfortable with the idea of women participating in this act. Pictures of nude female celebrities leaked onto the Internet are pronounced a scandal, while Chris Brown’s full-frontal nude photograph is deemed a “self-portrait” by MTV.

    Some Internet subcultures (I’m looking at you, 4chan) have even deemed the violation of these women’s privacy “The Fappening,” a crude reference to the masturbatory potential these stolen photos provide.

    The double standard brought to life by the media’s reaction to the female nude versus the male nude reveals the problem at the heart of the controversy: America is only comfortable with a woman’s sexuality when it is against that woman’s will. Instead of embracing nude photographs as an opportunity for women to be in charge of their bodies in the privacy of their own personal lives, we, as a culture, have chosen to exploit them.

    Laura Gronewold, vice chair of the Commission on the Status of Women at the UA, spoke to this aspect.

    “The recent hacking of celebrity photos and its widely publicized aftermath speaks to the continued objectification of women’s bodies in American popular culture, as well as the problematic charge too many individuals find in violating women’s consent,” Gronewold said. “The male gaze is as powerful as ever, as is the entitled belief that the bodies of women, especially public figures like female celebrities, are the property of the public, not the individual woman.”

    So what’s the solution? Though the problem lies in American rape culture as a whole, there are some concrete adjustments we can make starting today. We must stop referring to violations of privacy as scandals. The celebrities whose photographs were stolen should not issue apologies and should not be forced to confirm or deny the authenticity of the photographs. If a situation like this arises again, even one of smaller magnitude, the media must resist the temptation to buy into the double standard of treating female nude photos differently than male nude photos.

    All of us should be able to take provocative, erotic photography of ourselves in the privacy of our own home without the fear of being scandalized.

    We must quit apologizing for consensual sexuality. We must condemn acts that violate consent.

    —Paul Thomson is senior studying BFA Acting and Africana studies. Follow him @BePaulite

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