Why Aren’t Boys Threatened with Their Nude Pictures?

Bella Thorne’s reputation was put on the line — all because she dared to send someone photos of her body.

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Screenshot from Bella Thorne’s instagram

It’s a story like a lot of other stories. “Woman takes pictures of her body, sends them to a special person in her life, woman is hacked, woman is blackmailed with her own body.” We’ve seen it happen a lot — the Fappening is the prime example, where over one hundred celebrities had nude pictures leaked.

This particular story has an unexpected twist. When confronted with her own topless pictures, Bella Thorne tweeted them out herself, reclaiming her agency and taking back the power for herself.

I watched from afar, glad I wasn’t famous and glad she’d had the strength to do something as powerful as that. I’m fortunate enough to never have been in that position, and I hope I never am.

“Fuck u and the power u think u have over me.” — Bella Thorne (link is NSFW).

But not everyone agreed. Whoopi Goldberg appeared on TV to say she disagreed, that it was a woman’s responsibility to not take these pictures. Goldberg says “you” here, but the implicit gender is impossible to deny. She’s talking about women. Women must be modest, women must not assume they have privacy even in their own homes. Women must take responsibility for their actions.

What Goldberg doesn’t mention are the perpetrators. There’s no talk of how these criminals need to stop hacking women, there’s no discussion of how women’s bodies are consumed illegally and against their will.

“If you’re famous, I don’t care how old you are. You don’t take nude photos of yourself.” — Whoopi Goldberg on The View

Let’s get one thing straight. This isn’t about women being “sensible” or women making wrong choices. Someone hacked into someone’s personal photos — a criminal offense — and tried to blackmail her with them — also a crime. This is not about cybersecurity. This is not about common sense. This is not about being smart in the internet age.

This is about women being shamed for their sexuality.

Bella Thorne dared to find herself attractive enough to take a sexy picture, dared to send that out to her partner, dared to think she might escape the consequences of such an action. She dared to believe she had the right to show her body to one person and no others, and expect her privacy would be respected. And she was wrong.

We are reminded all the time: women are objects, not people.

On one side, we are told to cover up, be modest, take responsibility for the actions of men. We have bodies, after all. This kind of thing must happen, and we must expect it.

Let me underline: it is not illegal to take naked pictures of yourself. It is not illegal to send them, with consent, to whomever you like. It is illegal to distribute them beyond that. To say that we should expect that is sickening.

I haven’t forgotten the Fappening.

In 2014, Internet privacy was a hot topic. People were worried — really, really concerned — that people were spying on others’ internet use without their consent. When Edward Snowden revealed widespread government surveillance, people were rightfully angry. When hackers targeted Target to rob them of the credit card information for 40 million customers, folks were angry.

People were mad that their private, personal data was being wrongfully stolen. But they were mad at the people responsible for leaking it. Target's security measures weren’t up to snuff.

Nobody shouted at me for being stupid enough to shop on Target with my credit card online, because it’s common to shop online, and we trust the people holding our sensitive details to be careful with them.

Revenge porn — the sharing of private or sexual images or videos of a person without their consent — is a crime.

And yet, those same people, the ones glorifying the right to privacy and freedom from illegal hacking, were the same ones distributing those images. The same people who are so quick to say internet privacy and anonymity is one of the primary necessities for online life are the folks who perpetrate and enjoy these crimes.

Revenge porn is taken lightly.

Women have lost their jobs because of revenge porn. Women’s entire reputations have been shaped by their naked pictures. For daring not only to have a body but to show it to some people? It’s a deed worth decrying.

The men who leak the images? They don’t tend to face legal repercussions for their actions.

“Men are largely free to bare their bodies as they choose without repercussion, unless, as is the case of Dave Franco with Allison Brie and Justin Verlander with Upton, the man happens to be in a picture with a young woman, collateral damage.” — Roxane Gay

In an ideal world, a nude picture leak wouldn’t be an issue. We all have bodies, and many people see us unclothed throughout our lives. I don’t think anyone's bodies are sinful by themselves — to quote one of my favorite Tumblr accounts, they’re just the meat suits that get us through this life.

It’s still a crime to hack someone, but there’s something which sets revenge porn and nude photo leaks apart.

It’s the visceral enjoyment of taking what women haven’t given — the sick love of objectifying the women who dare to step out of the modest lines society has drawn for them— that makes it a big deal.

The men whose penises are also on display in these leaks? They go unnoticed. The men who violate the privacy of these women, who distribute these images, who share them amongst friends with a wink and a laugh? They’re lauded as heroes.

It is a common occurrence among the women who have an internet presence to receive unsolicited, unwanted pictures of male genitalia. Over half of all millennial women, myself included, have seen an unflattering image of a dude’s junk. It’s a crime to be a flasher — and yet men feel not only justified but as though it’s their right to send unsolicited pictures of their genitalia.

Simultaneously, women are shamed for daring to send naked pictures to loved ones. Bella Thorne was vilified for taking back her own agency and posting them herself. Blac Chyna’s ex, Rob Kardashian, posted her naked pictures without her consent, as revenge for being dumped. They were threatened with their own bodies — as if having a body is shameful in and of itself.

Women’s bodies are commodified. Men’s bodies are unwillingly thrust upon us. Again, I can only be thankful for my relative anonymity in the world that means I’ll likely never face something like this. I can only bravely admire the women who take the power back into their own hands, from taking explicit photos of themselves, to begin with, to circumventing blackmailers by posting their own bodies to the internet.

Something has to change. It is not our fault when someone violates our privacy, just as it is not our fault when someone breaks into our home or steals our credit card information. Women, take all the pictures you want. Flaunt your body and keep the photos to yourself or send them on, with consent. Revel in your sexuality and take whatever pleasure you can get.

MSc by Research. Psychology nerd. She/her. zuliewrites.com

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