THE BLOG
08/24/2015 02:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Lenny Kravitz's Dick Fell Out, And Women Everywhere Are Being Terrible About It

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As you probably already know, Lenny Kravitz recently experienced a pretty extreme wardrobe malfunction. The 51-year-old rocker was wearing leather pants while performing in Stockholm, and during a particularly impassioned squat with his guitar, his pants ripped, resulting in his entire groin region being exposed. Yes, the whole block and tackle fell out, and people photographed it.

As excited as I was to hear that there were photos of one of the sexiest men alive baring all, I was also conflicted. Did I want to see a photo of Lenny Kravitz's dick? Certainly. Did I want to see a photo of Lenny Kravitz's dick when it was exposed without his consent? Definitely not.

There are a lot of tricky factors to this case. As many have noted, it's somewhat similar to the time Apple's iCloud service was hacked and hundreds of celebrities (mostly women) had their private nude photos splashed all over the internet, including Jennifer Lawrence and Gabrielle Union. It's also similar to crotch-level paparazzi photos that caught Lindsay Lohan and Anne Hathaway sans panties. Many argue that Kravitz's case is different because he was on stage, and when you're on stage you recognize that there will be people snapping photos.

But I think the biggest distinction between these cases is that this non-consensual photo is of a man. And somewhere, deep inside, most people don't think that men deserve privacy or the right to give consent.

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For any person willing to look at this photo of Lenny Kravitz's genitals, an important question must be pondered: If a woman's leather pants ripped on stage and her entire vulva were exposed, would you click through to see? Would you share the photos, stories, and godforsaken GIFs gleefully on your Facebook page? My guess is that most women and men who call themselves feminists or pro-feminist would not want to participate in that. So why aren't we more upset about this?

First, let's put aside the question of your desire for Lenny Kravitz. As I said above, I wouldn't mind catching sight of some full-frontal Kravitz myself. I also wouldn't mind seeing Gabrielle Union or Jennifer Lawrence nude, but I never clicked through on those, either. As we teach kids in sex ed (or as we should be teaching them), our interactions with others should never be about what just one person wants, no matter how badly they want it. This is a fundamental tenet of what makes an interaction consensual or forced.

And while being on a stage and in public may make the photos legal, our choices about what is ethical cannot be founded solely upon what's legal. After all, in many states, non-consensual up-skirt photos taken in public are legal, and I can guarantee you that most of the women I know who shared Lenny Kravitz's wardrobe malfunction would not feel comfortable looking at up-skirt photos taken of women in public places.

It's not surprising that his gender makes people think he doesn't deserve the same rights to give sexual consent. After all, our society still seems to believe that men being raped is funny, particularly when the rape is committed by a woman, as evidenced by movies like Superhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbYr4nNucAA, where Ellen Page rapes Rainn Wilson despite many protests of "no" and even "ouch." In one scene of the show The Mindy Project, Mindy waits until Dr. Leotard (James Franco) is passed out drunk to try to make out with him, because she knows he can't protest. All of this is done for laughs.

When male students are raped by female teachers, there is often a lot of back-slapping and praise for the young man, rather than concern for his well-being. Bill Maher even told boys who are raped by women that they should "man up" and stop complaining about being victims of statutory rape in a disturbing rant on his show, Real Time with Bill Maher.

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Compounding our sense that Lenny Kravitz somehow doesn't deserve the right to give consent is the fact that he is a biracial black man, something a few deplorable writers have made disturbingly clear in the subtext of their commentary about his exposure. In an irresponsible (not to mention profoundly juvenile) essay on VH1's blog, Taylor Ferber notes that Kravitz's penis made her feel like she'd been "lied to" all her life. She says, "maybe I expected such massive sex appeal to be backed by equally massive girth."

What the ever-loving fuck is that? A guy's genitals are exposed by accident, and you write a post shaming him for his dick size?

Black people's bodies being dehumanized, commodified, and fetishized is nothing new, and I'm far from the first person to note that the obsession many white women have with black men's penises is disturbing and objectifying.

It's hard not to see the white women giddily sharing and commenting on these photos as participating in a centuries-old tradition of using and abusing black bodies for our own cheap thrills, especially when writers like Ferber make it so hard to ignore that, as a culture, we have a hyper-sexualized set of expectations for black men that is deeply rooted in the oppression and even enslavement of black people. Not just in regards to the girth Ferber seems to think Kravitz is missing, but in regards to her expectation that the mere sight of Kravitz's flaccid genitalia would hold some sort of supernatural power to excite her.

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It's important to note that it isn't women's desire for Lenny Kravitz that's problematic. In fact, witnessing so many women openly lusting after a man's genitalia counters the binary narrative that men are aroused by visual stimuli and women are aroused by emotional connection. For generations, women's sexuality and desire have been considered secondary to men's, as if we are somehow less horny or physical than guys. This is patently false, and it's a myth created to control women's sexuality and keep us as the gatekeepers of men's behavior. Our desire is good, and expressing it is powerful and maybe even revolutionary. But we cannot allow our lust to inspire us to take part in the systems of oppression we should be fighting against.

Regardless of why we are willing to participate in this double standard, we all need to take a step back and demand from ourselves and our communities a serious gut-check when it comes to how we view consent, and who deserves the right to give it. If we, as feminist women, want to create a world wherein non-consensual photos of our bodies are shunned rather than highly-valued, we need to be sure we aren't participating in systems that devalue any body, regardless of gender or race. If we want to create a new world where one person's desire never outweighs another's right to say "yes," we need to start by refusing to consume non-consensual images, even of people we think are hot.

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This story by Joanna Schroeder first appeared at ravishly.com, an alternative news+culture women's website.

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