Jennifer Lawrence is hot, right? She’s hot and she’s famous and she speaks her mind, and she’s not afraid to flip off the camera if the person behind it is out of line. Guys like that kind of stuff. Girls like that kind of stuff. But even though people like her so much, maybe even because people like her so much, people violated her by looking at and sharing photos of her naked body released without her consent. And in the wake of the assault that took place in the Celebrity Big Brother house this month, it is clear that there a still a lot of disturbing issues concerning sexual consent in the media.
For those of you who’ve spent the last few months living under a rock, someone hacked the phones of more than a hundred celebrities and released their private photos online through 4chan, an internet forum site. Hundreds of celebrity nudes went viral, including J-Law’s, and the internet dubbed it ‘the fappening’.
Earlier this month, Big Brother viewers saw first-hand what happened to model Chloe Goodman when she tried to help fellow housemate Jeremy Jackson while he was hung-over and throwing up in the bathroom. When they wound up alone in the room, and away from the cameras, he tried to undress her, and exposed her breast without her consent. While the assault wasn’t captured on camera, viewers could clearly hear her say “Seriously Jeremy, that’s not ok,” before she left the room in tears. Jeremy has since been removed from the house as a penalty for his actions, and, according to the BBC, he has also been given a police caution for common assault.
But hey, what’s the problem here? I mean, if the celebrity victims of hacking didn’t want their pictures to be seen, they shouldn’t have taken them right? They were willing and eager when they took the pictures, so why do they care who sees them now? And people like Chloe Goodman don’t pose for page three if they care about their privacy, right?
WRONG. None of these statements are even slightly ok, but unfortunately, not everyone agrees. So let’s talk about the C-word.
Consent is not, nor has it ever been, something to be taken lightly. Calling the phone hacking incident ‘the fappening’ trivialises it when in fact the issue far from trivial. J-Law herself said in an interview with Vanity Fair that the hacking was “not a scandal. It (was) a sex crime.” She added that “Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offence. You should cower with shame.” And she’s right.
Her body, or any other body for that matter, isn’t public property just because she makes her living in the public eye. And the same goes for Chloe Goodman. She consented to have her picture taken for page three, and that is perfectly fine. That was her choice and she was in control. But what is not fine, and what she certainly did not consent to was to having her breast exposed by a man she barely knows. That is what makes the incident entirely different from posing for page three. That is what makes the incident assault.
And women are not the only ones who aren’t having their sexual consent taken seriously. Indeed, male victims are often expected to see issues involving the violation of their consent as a joke, or as merely unimportant. Former ‘Doctor Who’ actor Matt Smith was among the men also targeted by the anonymous phone hacker last year, and yet, in comparison to other victims, the press barely touched on it, as if the violation of his privacy was a non-issue.
Even in fictional television, all too often the concept of male sexual consent is made into a joke. A prime example of this can be seen in an episode of the massively successful T.V. drama ‘House’, in which the character Chase finds that a doctored nude photo of him has been shared online, along-side his phone number, without his consent. He spends the entire episode trying to track down which of his recent sexual partners is ‘pranking’ him. When he finally does find the culprit, they have a flirtatious conversation where she playfully tells him off for being shallow and promiscuous, and then he asks her out on a date. Because apparently men are supposed to think that people who violate their right to their naked body are just feisty and sexy.
Sexual consent is vital, but there is a real danger that many people are clearly not taking it seriously. It is the people who don’t take consent seriously, who think that it is acceptable to publish private photos or videos, or even in some cases, phone numbers and addresses, on ‘revenge porn’ websites without the consent of both parties. This is the kind of thinking that leads to people believing that they are entitled to take whatever or whoever they want without asking. This is the kind of thinking that needs to stop.