Nudity is so prevalent on the Internet, I hardly even register when I happen upon some in my, of course, purely innocent travels. Most of that nudity---whether it started out as porn or Game of Thrones or some idiot's selfie---was intended for public consumption. And okay, whatever, roll your eyes and move on.
When Jennifer Lawrence's name was trending Twitter yesterday, I clicked because I think she's one of the most compelling actors working in film and I'm interested in anything she's attached to. Maybe some new flick'd been announced. Instead, it immediately became quite clear that private, nude photos had been leaked. Of course, my prurient interest was engaged, but I didn't do anything more than read the tweeted headlines and dumb comments. Then, all of a sudden, there were four photos embedded in the stream. I closed the window.
Unlike other accidental naked people, these photos have stuck with me. And not in the sense of "people cannot erase pornographic images from their brain" but in the sense of I feel equally awful today that I was part of this invasion of privacy as I did yesterday. Maybe worse.
A couple ancillary thoughts:
1. I suppose my feelings may be stronger because this is someone I like and whose work I admire. And who hasn't done nude work. I might have already forgotten had I bumped into leaked, personal nudes of Kristen Stewart.Look: This is a new, photo-drenched world we live in. Photos of anything and everything have already been taken. Me, I'm too old to take photos of anything I don't want the world to see. But my film-born view of photography is not what a photograph is anymore. I lived before the word selfie---a time when a photo of yourself that was clearly taken by yourself was laughably gauche and fit for mocking.
2. Although the don't-take-photos-you-don't-want-leaked argument is not empty, I don't like it. And not just because it's victim-blaming. Although I don't own a phone myself, most of you reading this are, by any reasonable measure, human/phone cyborgs. Phone photos aren't much different anymore than looking in the mirror or being in the room with someone. I'm too old for this to be internalized, but I'm bright enough to know it's true.
3. Something alchemic about the combination of details in this case has not only made me sick, but it's altered my behavior. I've been a lot more careful online these last two days. Even your ad with the sportsbra-clad model advertising vitamins is making me ill. I feel like everything is exploitative. Maybe it is.
But that's not the world of today nor the world of tomorrow. Seeing digitally is now as ubiquitous as seeing someone through the air. And so photos need to be as private as our bedroom, if that's what we're taking them for.
Yes, old boyfriends can make a memory stored on a phone public easier than a memory only in the hippocampus, but that's not the point. The point is, seeing and being seen are not what they were.
But peeking in on someone when they're alone with a lover is just what it's always been.
I'm glad I feel awful. It means I'm still a decent human being.
I hope you feel awful too, no matter how not surprised you may be.