It's a news story tabloid wet dreams are made of: An anonymous hacker has tapped into the private accounts of A-list stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst and Ariana Grande, and started releasing photos of them in the nude. As a woman, I am on principle (obviously) outraged by this privacy-invading example of female objectification. In truth, though, I surreptitiously tried to check out the naughty pics myself.
And to be honest, this conflicted desire isn't that unusual. As a straight woman, I've also scouted out the Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian sex tapes online, and leered at previously leaked pics of Scarlett Johansson. Yet the idea of looking at nude photos of, say, Brad Pitt or George Clooney feels both creepy and just-plain silly.
Why oh why is this? Here are some theories on my own troubling tendencies--and those, no doubt, of many women like me.
Why Women Sexually Objectify Other Women
Female-on-female sexual objectification is more pervasive than you might think. One study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, for instance, found that both men and women tend to view males as whole entities, and women as a collection of body parts. Said one of the study's researchers:
Men might be doing it because they're interested in potential mates, while women may do it as more of a comparison with themselves. But they're both doing it.
In other words, women who look at J Law's nude photos may do so in order to compare their own bodies to hers. It's not so much about sexually wanting her (though that may be true, too) as it is about wanting to sexually be her. Yet the impulse to turn her into a sexual object is fundamentally the same.
In the case of these leaked photos, competitive desire is heightened by the subjects' celebrity status. Women like Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence are revered for their sexiness and beauty; as a society we are conditioned to worship them, but as individual women we often want to tear them down.
When ogling these photos, how much of it is based on a desire to marvel at their beautiful bodies... and how much of it is done to revel in the fact that they, too, have flaws sans Photoshop? If we can somehow see them as less perfect, less idealized, we can in turn overcome insidious feelings of physical inadequecy.
Female competition -- be it with celebrities or peons like ourselves -- remains incredibly powerful, and more often than not, destructive.
Sadly, no facet of this response is something to be proud of. In fact, as women, it feels especially important that we bolster one another against the forces of objectification. I am troubled by my desire to click and leer. And I know it's time to stop.
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