If you’ve been online today you’ve probably read the statement Jennifer Lawrence made about the nude photos of her, which were hacked and published online in late August. In case you haven’t, I’ve included part of her response below:
“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this… It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”
Along with Lawrence’s response to the “scandal”, Vanity Fair featured this photo of her on the cover.
The juxtaposition of the Vanity Fair photos against her statement about her own private photos has already sparked some debate. In Meghan Garber’s article for The Atlantic, for example, she claims that in the Vanity Fair piece Lawrence appears to be saying “Do not look at my breasts!” but also “Oh, hey, here are my breasts” through her choice of photo.
Personally, I’m also a little bit frustrated that Lawrence’s incredibly poignant statement seems undermined by the photographs it has been paired with, but I’m also thankful that those photographs prevent us from reducing this issue to something less than what it is.
If you have read any of my past posts on female nudity and the way women are presented in media, you will know that the reason I am frustrated by Lawrence’s Vanity Fair photos is because they seem to reinforce the dominance of the “male gaze” in our media.
On the other hand, the contrast of Lawrence’s Vanity Fair pictures next to her statement about the hacked photos creates a perfect example for what consent really means.
It also challenges our unconscious expectations for how a victim of a sex crime should conduct themselves
The Vanity Fair article presents Jennifer Lawrence as a sexual being. For many, this seems confusing. Why is she willing to be seen sexualized in one instance, but not in another?
While these photos are not what we expect from someone who has been victimized, they actually help to challenge the way we view victims. It reminds us that victims are not merely an object to defend or avenge. They are regular human beings who have experienced a violation of their personal boundaries.
That is the very root of consent. Everybody has a right to create their own boundaries. Nobody should have to earn their right to privacy and safety. Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t need to present herself in a certain way in order for us to believe that she deserves her own privacy. The argument behind consent insists that those kind of boundaries should be a human right.
That is why Jennifer Lawrence could have posed entirely nude on the cover of Vanity Fair and her statement would still have been entirely true:
“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime.”
I also don’t like implied nude photos publicized on magazine racks etc but I thought that it made a key argument in this case. She’s not ashamed of taking the photos, it’s not about her value being based on secret skin. She is angry (and rightfully so) about the brutal invasion of privacy and the sense of violation based on the dismissal of her consent. I thought it was pretty powerful to take the argument off of “oooh dirty pictures” grounds and place the crux of the issue on the right to decide about your own body.
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