Leaked images shame female sexuality

Unless you’ve spent the last week in a nuclear bunker, you will be aware that several celebrities have had sensitive and private images stolen and leaked online. Despite the fact that Snapchat clearly only ever added a black and white filter to help us all take more flattering nudes, people have reacted with cataclysmic shock to the idea that Jennifer Lawrence does it too.

The hysteria that has engulfed every imaginable online forum since Lawrence’s nudes were leaked is deeply troubling for two reasons. Firstly, it involves the downright sexual violation of a young woman in the public eye. Secondly, it reinforces the notion that female sexuality is shameful.

The images prompted a stream of misogynistic, victim-blaming vitriol spewing from columnists at a number of noteworthy national publications – all of whom seemed to have overlooked the fact that the sharing of these images was completely illegal. The photos were taken on a private device and shared in a private context. The outrage and frenzy should not be directed at Lawrence, but at the individual who stole these images and distributed them for the world to see.

Those who have rushed to criticise the star for the images have neglected to acknowledge that the non-consensual sharing of explicit images is a form of sexual harassment. With ‘revenge porn’ rising higher on the agendas of lawmakers and enforcers, it is clear to see that in a digital age, crimes like this are a growing concern. The lack of consent given by Lawrence regarding the distribution of these images makes it a troubling and heinous sexual violation, carried out in the most public way imaginable.

Perhaps the most disconcerting argument to be made this week was that Jennifer Lawrence is to blame because she took the photos in the first place. Apparently if a woman is careless enough to enjoy her own sexuality, she is to be scolded for her foolishness. Why not go a step further and tar and feather her in the middle of the village square?

The assertion that Jennifer Lawrence is somehow to blame for the proliferation of these images is tantamount to claiming a woman can somehow be at fault for sexual assault. It’s victim blaming, and all it does is unjustly place the burden of blame squarely on the shoulders of the woman.

The scandal surrounding these leaked images reflects some utterly draconian attitudes towards female sexuality more broadly. We live in a society where sex is aggressively used as a marketing tool. However, despite the prevalence of female nudity on billboards and in magazines, it never resembles active female sexuality, in which power is in the hands of the woman. Society is comfortable with female nudity if objectification can be used to sell cars, but not when it resembles active sexuality.

This seems to be why Jennifer Lawrence’s nudes shocked people, as they provided a bold example of a woman fully enjoying her own sensuality. The notion prevails that female sexuality is shameful and something for which women should be chastised. Society does all it can to scorn promiscuous women and brandish them with negative labels, whilst young men are applauded for their multiple sexual exploits.

From a young age, women are taught to hide their desires and make themselves appear virginal. We teach young women that their greatest asset is their purity, serving only to perpetuate the archaic notion that once it is lost, a woman becomes ‘damaged goods’. This can be clearly seen from the claims that Lawrence’s career will be ruined the leaked images. With an Academy Award and two Golden Globes to her name, this is obviously ludicrous.

A woman should never be chastised or scorned for enjoying her own sexuality, and attempts to criticise Lawrence for this are little more than paltry attempts to further suppress female sexuality. Whilst purity may be overrated, praise for Jennifer Lawrence is entirely justified. Her silent response to this gross violation of her privacy simply confirms that she possesses infinite class and talent, nudes or not.

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