On Monday the 8th of September I return to college, (sort of, excluding odd days here and there), for the first time since leaving in June, to commence my second year of studying. And I’m excited about this; I’m looking forward to beginning a new term, obsessively sniffing that new-leather smell of my recently purchased academic planner, getting back in touch with my lovely group of friends, and generally settling back into the cycle of education.
But I’m also, for one reason in particular, really not looking forward to returning to college, and it has nothing to do with the nocturnal sleeping pattern I appeared to have acquired over this summer, or the fact that – having eaten my entire weight (doubled) in various takeaways throughout the past six weeks – I’ve managed to go up a dress size.
What I’m not looking forward to at college is the inevitable discussion that will arise between my peers about the recently leaked photographs of numerous female celebrities. Jennifer Lawrence is the celebrity that the media seems to have latched onto, but a whole host of other women have also had their intimate photos, (illegally, given the way in which they were acquired), posted online. Of course, this has predictably led to a massive amount of reactions from each and every individual with a social media account, all of which will unavoidably be irrelevantly brought up in lesson. They range from:
- The typical ‘banter lad’ response, “She’s so fitttttt. I’d do her.”, which later evolves into, “God, she should view it as a compliment!”, when reminded that none of the victims of this crime actually asked for his opinion. This response is inspired by the same sort of mindset of those that originally posted the images – the self-entitled, ‘women have no right to say no to me and I can do whatever I want to them’, Elliot Rogers mindset.
- The ‘confused body positivity’ response, “There’s nothing wrong with the naked body; we’re all such prudes these days, and they’re all such beautiful girls!”, which though potentially having their hearts in the right place, spectacularly fail to miss the point – consent.
- And on the opposite end of the spectrum to the latter, the ‘she doesn’t deserve a sex life’ response, “What did she expect?!?!!!????!!! DON’T WANT THEM UP, DON’T TAKE THEM LOVE!”, the same sort of response that saw a magazine designed for ‘tween’ females deciding that Ariana Grande could no longer be a ‘good girl’ because of the leaked photos. (Because as we all know, any girl who’s ever been caught in a compromising position is clearly a she-devil devoid of all morals.)
- The ‘rational, sympathetic human being’ response: “What an awful thing to occur. These people should be persecuted for the crime they have committed, and Apple need to be held accountable for their responsibility within what’s happened. I feel so bad for all of the women who have been exploited through this and can’t imagine why anyone would think it’s okay to look for the pictures.” This is a response which generally follows a lot of exasperated sighs and head shaking at the previous three responses, and sadly seems to be a minority. This will also be the response that I will be contributing to the discussion when it predictably arises.
What’s somewhat frustrating is that I know that in the majority of cases, I won’t be asked my opinion on what’s happened. It’ll probably be the case that instead, having sat trying to bite my tongue for around a minute whilst a plethora of samey, #1 responses are thrown around ahead of me in the lunch line, something will be said that will push me over the limit. I’ve already encountered one example of this, the teeth-grindingly annoying ‘Her body’s not even that great. I don’t get what the fuss is about’. It’ll probably be something like that, which will force me into a position where out of frustration that some people are so ignorant, a generated odd sort of protectiveness over all of the victims, (because that’s what they are – victims – more on that later), and just sheer anguish over the lack of consideration afforded to my gender in situations like this generally, I will say something to them. Probably just a reminder that as this particular group of teenagers have no permission to be even looking at the images, they’ve certainly no permission to be judging them, and as such they shouldn’t be doing so, but I can practically hear the laugher that will come as a response now.
Because that’s what this is to most people. A joke. Some women who’ve not only been reduced to objects of sexual desire, but also objects of amusement. They don’t think about the repercussions of what’s happened, and the fact that because of some reeking-of-male-entitlement guy who’s probably just loving sitting back and watching all of this unfold, all of these women have had a devastating setback in their careers and their lives. They instead, think about creating the next stupid pun or gag to humiliate and degrade them further, with The Sun, (ever my least favourite newspaper), somehow thinking that the headline ‘iMad’ was appropriately sensitive. And what’s sad is that while some wannabe frat boys are sat laughing about it over breakfast, giving a vulnerable woman’s breasts nicknames, and rating her out of ten, that same vulnerable woman is having to deal not only with the god-awfulness of the situation that she’s in but also the sheer amount of victim-blaming that is flying around.
This is generally the first thing that #3 responders will begin to talk about, but it’s almost a given that #1 responders will also descend into this engaged with. They’ll say that in today’s modern age people need to learn to be tech-savvy, need to learn that new technology isn’t always safe, and that as such the best thing to do is to just not take pictures. Furthering on from this, they’ll attribute the blame of what’s happened to the victims of the crime, as opposed to Apple for their lack of security for customers, those who encouraged the original poster within the sickeningly titled ‘the fappening’ thread, the culture that even now is trying to defend this sort of behaviour, and you know, the actual perpetrators. It’s the same sort of reasoning behind the ‘what was she wearing?’, ‘had she been drinking?’, ‘had she had sex before?’ 20Q fired at rape victims. And that’s not right. The only thing that matters in any of these two situations is consent. Did the victims agree? And no, they didn’t.
What’s more, this doesn’t stop here. Not only do we exist in a society that has perpetrator-sympathetic values regarding this instance, but also one that has perpetrator-sympathetic values when the tables are turned. We live in a society that means a friend of mine has had to block roughly 2 people a month for the past nine months on the photo exchanging/communication app ‘snap chat’, because they thought it was perfectly okay, even without her consent, to send pictures of their genitalia to her. That’s what they’d been taught. And yet my friend remains almost silence about the incident, knowing that if she was to speak up about it, she would undoubtedly be met with the same tired #3 responders shrieking that what did she expect?!
That right there is the clincher of the problem. Rather than being taught to expect that our privacy, and our ability to say yes or no, is a right, we are taught that it’s a privilege. A privilege that can be taken away depending on our gender, our clothing choices, our status within society, (Because you would not believe the amount of people that think that it doesn’t count as an invasion of privacy if they’re a celebrity), our past relationships, and how creepily determined some lonely technophiles on the internet are.
And that reality right there, and the numerous discussions that will all boil down to that reality, is why I’m dreading the return to college.
With thanks to Charlotte Wragg.