Some people say the only way to stop online harassment is to stop going online. Well, we aren't going anywhere. Reclaim Your Domain is Refinery29's campaign to make the internet (and the world outside of it) a safer space for everyone — especially women.
This week, another batch of personal photos were stolen from celebrities and circulated on the internet, this time targeting actresses Emma Watson, Amanda Seyfried, and Jillian Murray. The content of the photos allegedly vary from Watson sitting in the bathtub nude, to her trying on clothing with her stylist, to her taking selfies with her friends. Watson's publicist specifically said they are not nude photos, and her camp is not commenting further. According to Buzzfeed, the photos of Seyfried and Murray show them nude and possibly engaging in sexual activity.
But, of course, it truly doesn't matter what they were doing or wearing in the photos, because nobody should have personal photos stolen and disseminated without their consent. Period. And beyond that, so what if these women have nude or nearly nude photos on their phones? That's incredibly common and unremarkable, and we need to stop judging people (especially women) for possessing these kinds of photos in the first place.
According to a survey from the internet security company McAfee, nearly 50% of people say they've used their mobile device to share or receive intimate content (and those are just the people who admitted to it), while 50% of people say they've also stored intimate content on their mobile device that could put their reputation at stake. Another survey of Cosmopolitan.com readers in 2014 found that 89% of people said they had taken nude photos of themselves at one point — and 82% said they would do it again.
And as time goes on, this practice is only becoming more common: A 2014 survey from Pew found that 9% of cell phone users said they had sent a suggestive picture or video, and 20% had received one. These numbers were significantly higher than in 2012, when 6% of cell phone users reported sending sexts and 15% reported receiving them. And when Pew singled out "single and looking" cell phone users, they found that 42% had received sexts and 23% had sent them in 2014, while a whopping 55% of online daters had received sexts and 31% had sent them (and we think it's safe to assume that all of these numbers have only continued to rise).
But even though many people are doing it, that doesn't mean everyone uses nude or suggestive photos for revenge or shares these images non-consensually. An estimated 10 million people said in 2016 they've been a victim of revenge porn. And since Pew found that only 3% of people have forwarded a sext, that number is likely just a fraction of the people who send suggestive photos (meaning, the number of people who possess them is much, much higher). Unfortunately, it seems likely that, as the number of people possessing nudes increases, so will the number of hacks and nonconsensual photo-sharing incidents — until we figure out a solution, that's the depressing reality.
That said, blaming the people who possess the photos isn't the answer, especially since everyone has different lines in terms of what they're willing to share. If you take a quick scroll on your own phone camera roll, there's a decent chance that you have at least one photo that you do not want someone else to see: outtakes from a food pic set-up you tried really hard to create; a photo of your partner sleeping in bed with your pet; a mirror pic of you in a new bathing suit — you get the picture. One person's "sexy photo" is another's profile pic, so the range of what you're comfortable capturing or sharing online is huge. And also, everyone has their own style of taking an intentionally sexy photo, because everyone finds different things sexy. Taking, possessing, or sending nude or suggestive images isn't shame-worthy or fringe behavior — it's the norm and nothing to sneer at.
People were quick to judge Watson, saying her photos were "weak," but they also criticized her feminism because she posed for a publication topless, so it seems like the world just can't give her a break. When a similar photo hack happened to Jennifer Lawrence in 2014, Watson spoke up:
Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated on social media is reading the accompanying comments that show such a lack of empathy.— Emma Watson (@EmmaWatson) September 1, 2014
Maybe we all need a reminder that what you do with your body is your call and nobody should be able to dictate what's wrong or what's right about it. Even truer, how you choose to document what makes you sexy is a personal thing, whether or not you choose to share it with the world or your partner. It becomes a legal matter when your personal photos that you explicitly did not want shared get shared, but that's a whole different story. If you've got nudes, that's totally fine — it's your body, your choice. And yes, there's a good chance many people you know have them, too.
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