Naked Selfies and Our Desires

In 2007, Kim Kardashian, a virtual unknown outside of the Hollywood party scene, had a private video in sexual congress with a rather shoddy rap artist and soon to be reality TV star stolen from her. Within a year, she was a household name. She is the epitome of the “famous for being pretty” archetype. After countless re-brandings, unsuccessful (in that they broke up)/successful (in that it got her on front pages of tabloids) marriages, and probable plastic surgeries, Kim now possesses a stable celebrity career with several product lines, TV shows, as well as the number one app for mobile phones. Yet, look at where she started. She was naked, represented as a living monument to mammary glands coupled with buttocks seemingly shaped by Fernando Botero.

In 1995, a homemade video of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s honeymoon circulated through the VHS players of high school boys across the country. It was a prized possession of adolescents and not easy to find. That was before the Internet. That was before cell phones. That was before selfies, or even naked selfies. That was also before reality TV. Anderson was famous for wearing a high cut bathing suit; Lee was famous for drumming in the infamously hard-partying rock band Motley Crue.

Now, in 2014, multiple female celebrities’ cell phones were tapped and their private images spread online as fast as curious fingers could click. A fury erupted eliciting a call for the hacking to be labeled as sexual assault and the privacy of naked selfies needing to be respected.

Some blamed the Cloud as an imperfect storage facility with unlimited password attempts; some blamed the victims; some blamed the perpetrators; others blamed the desire to see beautiful women shamed.

The blame doesn’t lie on anyone. Anytime you have taken a naked selfie, a small part of you knows someone who shouldn’t, might (and will) see this. It is the allure of the naked selfie. Why do people always ask, “What was the craziest place you ever had sex?” Many times the answer is in a public place where the chance to get caught was much higher. Something in our nature likes to do what is naughty.

Is anyone surprised by this leak? We’re constantly being told; sex sells, and then shocked by the fact that people sell sex. Why is Miley Cyrus twerking? Why did Katy Perry wear a low cut shirt on Sesame Street? Why is Sports Illustrated’s highest selling issue every year the swimsuit edition? Some say that women are objectified, viewed as “meat”, or used for their body. That feeling comes from shame. Shame that to see a woman and feel desire is wrong. Shame that a woman could be proud of her body. Women are beautiful beyond the figure, but you can’t take a picture of intellect or creativity. Teaching nudity as something personal is reasonable; teaching nudity as something disgraceful is ignorant and destructive.

Let’s be clear, the recently leaked photos, and also the multitude of sex videos of female AND male celebrities takes away their autonomy. That is wrong. That loss of autonomy is why rape, assault and sexual slavery are wrong. People should be allowed to make their own choices. No one forced Kate Upton to take naked photos on her cell phone. She has appeared topless on many magazine covers, albeit with her nipples covered, but this time, !gasp! her nipples appeared completely visible. She worked hard to keep those nipples a secret, and now they’re exposed.

Nipples are the great shame of American culture. In 1993, Janet Jackson showed her naked torso on a Rolling Stone cover covered only by the hands of an invisible man (her then boyfriend) with minimal outrage. In 2004, her nipple appeared during halftime of the Super Bowl, and the NFL now runs a delay to avoid any future nip slips.

The prudish behavior of nipples notwithstanding, the question arises, does privacy exist anymore? TMZ, People, InTouch et al. understand that celebrity worship coupled with their massive sex appeal sells. Should paparazzi have the right to intrude on celebrity vacations, weddings, or shopping trips? Where does privacy begin? Is it any less obtrusive to have pictures taken with a zoom lens while wearing only a bikini bottom on a private beach? Is it the nudity or intrusion that is most distressing?

The Internet has created a home for revenge porn. Angry lovers, furious at being dumped, post videos or pictures of their former partners. Teenagers share the sexted pictures of their girlfriends or boyfriends to embarrass or blackmail the other.

The biggest issue here isn’t that naked pictures were stolen. People have been stealing private nudity for years as evidenced above. The bizarre consequence from this terribly intrusive event is that hacking is real. Computers and smartphones provide such a tangible benefit to our lives, that when we see the negative corollaries, we shudder in incredulity. When did people become so untrustworthy? When did women become such a commodity? When did celebrities become currency? We know the answer lies deep within us, within our baser desires. The search for what we cannot have, whatever it may be.

The desire to see celebrities as completely human, when matched with the capacity to make money, fueled by power over the powerful, creates a strong curiosity. And where there is curiosity, there is demand. Where there is demand, someone will find the supply.

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