This past weekend, photos of beautiful female celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Kate Upton were stolen and posted online. These private photos showed celebrity women in their altogether and rapidly spread throughout social media as people, most of us completely enslaved to our lusts, gave ourselves over to impropriety and lack of discipline. We humans are really good at that.
Nude Pics and Online Banking: Same or Different?
Some of the discussion in response to the theft of photos was about the wisdom of taking and posting nude pictures to “the cloud” — data storage networks that are obviously not nearly as secure as users may have hoped.
That resulted in this argument offered by the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo:
I’ve never heard anyone respond to financial hacking by saying, Just don’t use online banking. That’s what you get for using credit cards.
Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) September 1, 2014
On the one hand, fine point. On the other, a horribly weak analogy. We could have a lengthy discussion of why this analogy fails because of the dignity of the human person and how images of women’s naked bodies can’t be reduced to commodities we trade, as financially valuable as we might consider these stolen pictures. But there’s also just this super-obvious point:
I use credit cards online but wouldn't if they didn't have loss protection. I've had $2k stolen from my checking. Got it back from the bank.
CharlesMŁC ن (@CharlesMLC) September 2, 2014
And here’s the question, then. What’s the loss protection on images of your naked body? I’ve also had online credit card problems. I once lost $300 at an ATM in Mexico. Took me a few months to get the money back. But I got the money back. Other than the time, I was made whole. How does one “get back” the photos of your naked body? Our online culture has many upsides, but the speed with which private photos can be spread around the world is not one of them.
Here’s a really sad Google search (girl+commits+suicide+naked) that gets updated with alarming frequency. Nobody should be moved to despair over such breaches of privacy, and the reasons for despair are a tangled mixture of old-as-the-hills mean-spiritedness and perversions of ideals of intimacy. But this speaks to how such violations don’t just harm famous women but many others of us as well. To compare this to online banking breaches is to not come close to recognizing the harm done.
Blaming the Victim vs. Protecting the Victim
Here’s another argument, made by Sam Stein of the Huffington Post:
for all those celebrities out there worried that their naked pics will be hacked and leaked, here’s a tip: don’t take naked pics
Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) September 1, 2014
He was quickly taken to the woodshed by the Twitter mob:
Never own a camera. Never go online. Never allow yourself to be photographed. Never get naked. Never become a famous woman.
delrayser (@delrayser) September 1, 2014
um, cautioning people about posting naked pics is not the same as excusing the hacker.
Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) September 1, 2014
It’s all fascinating. The problem with the theft of private, nude photos is really on the “theft” part rather than the nature of the photos, obviously. But the idea that we are seriously suggesting we’re going to teach men not to steal naked pictures of hot women is — what’s the word — hopeful? I mean, it’s almost quaint that in our sex-obsessed and sexualityism-soaked culture with no coherent morality, we’d even think of such a thing as an option, as true as it remains that this is precisely where responsibility lies.
Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner noted another interesting angle to what’s going on here:
One can simultaneously note that the thieves are the wrong ones and also discuss ways to avoid having — quite literally — naked pics of yourself out there for all the world to see. Or we used to be able to have those discussions. Those times are over in our more “tolerant” era.
Rape Culture and Nail Polish
Last week many people were upset about another version of this conundrum. Some North Carolina students claimed they’d developed a nail varnish that enabled women to detect if they’d been poisoned with date rape drugs. Feminists responded thusly:
Rape prevention nail polish sounds like a great idea but I’m not sure how you’re going to get men to wear it
Andrea Grimes (@andreagrimes) August 26, 2014
how about women don't have to wear a special nail polish and dunk their fingers in every cocktail to not get raped
Lindy West (@thelindywest) August 26, 2014
Elizabeth Nolan Brown had a good round-up of such reactions — which came from mainstream feminists — over at Reason’s Hit & Run in her piece “When ‘Preventing Rape Promotes Rape’, You’re Doing Feminism Wrong.” She wrote, “teaching men not to rape and helping women avoid rape aren’t mutually exclusive options.”
I’m honestly not sure how much “blaming the victim” was a real thing and how much was hyped up by modern feminists, but we’ve gone so far in the other direction that calls for common sense behavior (e.g. “don’t get falling down drunk at a frat house“) are responded to with abject horror. And that’s not helpful to women either.
Feminism Is Trying To Update Chivalry
A female author and scholar I greatly admire once suggested that I look at feminism on campus less as “women’s liberation” and more as “most obvious means of female protection on campus.” I think many conservative and moderate folks with healthy understandings of sexual distinctions look at Slut Walks and Take Back the Nights and Vagina Monologues and Don’t-Tell-Me-Not-To-Pass-Out-Drunk Brigades and just grimace or shake their heads at the radical nature of it all.
But reconsider them — along with the rather doctrinaire refusal to consider if women can play a role in avoiding their own victimization — as feminists attempting to create a sort of modern version of chivalry.
Chivalry was of course much more than about how men were to treat women. It was a rigorous code for knights that dealt with their relationships with all sorts of different people. We tend to have a negative view of chivalric codes as patriarchal and archaic, for good reason. (They’re patriarchal and archaic.) But the focus on behavior under these codes were how a certain class of men were to treat everyone who was weaker. And that’s a problem that’s not going away.
I know we’re all supposed to be yelling at each other all the time these days, but I wonder if there isn’t more opportunity for agreement on treatment of women than most of our rhetoric suggests. We all like to proclaim women as powerful and completely equivalent to men in every way. But reality keeps breaking in and forcing us to acknowledge that in many ways, men and women are different in deeply meaningful ways. Many of those ways are of course fantastic. But it’s also true that some men exploit women’s weaknesses and need to be held to better standards.
I mean, maybe there’s no reasoning with people who put up tweets such as this:
And maybe that’s most of the feminist left these days. I don’t know.
But I think that many people who freak out over suggestions that women avoid putting nude pics on the cloud or wear rape-prevention polish or maybe not dress at junior high school like your older sis dresses to go to a cocktail party are actually people who are trying to say reasonable things. They’re acknowledging that male and female sexuality actually does need to be respected for its differences and that the average man is stronger than the average female, and as a result of all this, we need men to behave better for our civil society to keep functioning.