Newsflash: Women's Bodies Belong To Women

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rexusa_1895233dnPhoto: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Last week, an anonymous 4chan user boasted that, if paid sufficient money and Bitcoin, he would supply nude photos of dozens of female celebrities. On Sunday, it was clear his price had been met; he (or they?) posted a list of 101 women whose nudes had been acquired through various nefarious means, then released many of said photos to the public. You may have heard about this happening.

What lies behind this marketplace for illicit, illegal, invasive photos? Basically, it seems that some men forget, ignore, or are never taught in the first place that there are real living creatures inside women's pretty exteriors. It's odd that hackers — so vocal about NSA spying and other invasions of privacy — have no problem with this form of stealing personal information. Does their right to see boobs, by any means necessary, outweigh a woman's ownership of her own body, her own lived experience, and yes, her right to take and share photos with her partner or lover without risking them "going viral?"

Those who share or view a woman's — or anyone's — nude photo against her will, whether she's a celebrity or someone's ex-girlfriend, do so because they believe themselves to be a stockholder in that body. They believe they have a controlling interest in it. What the woman wants is irrelevant; her anger and shame and sadness might even add savor in some cases. And, it's not just sociopaths who act like women's bodies are unoccupied public land — it's anyone who considers this a "leak" and not a theft, who considers the photos to be something to look at, not evidence of a crime.

I understand the desire to see Jennifer Lawrence naked, I really do. It has not escaped my notice that her body is very beautiful. But, here's the other thing about Jennifer Lawrence's body: It has Jennifer Lawrence living inside it. Jennifer Lawrence controls and propels it and makes it say funny things to Jack Nicholson at awards shows. Jennifer Lawrence is in charge of feeding it and working it out and making it cry on cue and deciding when and where and for whom it takes its clothes off.

Women, as it turns out, are not hermit crabs. Our bodies are not pretty shells strewn on the beach; they are permanently occupied by us. And, it's become manifestly obvious that many men either don't understand this or simply don't care. Without a creature inside it, a shell becomes currency, a token of value. These celebrity nudes have extra value in the world of illicit and revenge porn, because obtaining them means a hacker has skills. What's missing in that equation is any acknowledgement of the humanity behind the pixels.

Nevertheless, there is some comfort to be taken here. I've found it heartening that the women whose pictures were stolen haven't apologized or acted like they did anything wrong. In the past, a stolen and publicized nude photo or sex tape was something you were penalized for, something you had to live down, if you even could. Vanessa Williams was stripped of her Miss America crown in 1983 when Penthouse published her nudes. When naked photos of Disney starlet Vanessa Hudgens hit the Internet in 2007, she — not the person who released them — apologized; Disney declined to fire her, but said "we hope she's learned a valuable lesson." The fact that women are now responding to a similar situation with outrage and demands for legal action, rather than shame, represents a huge shift. That the FBI is actually looking for the thief shows almost unthinkable progress. Let's hope there's a sense of justice, not outrage, when they get exposed.