Since I’ve got back from the Middle East, I’ve been struggling a bit over what to say about the current slew of female celebrities getting their kit off, Because They Can, in various publications. I rather enjoyed being in a culture where both men and women cover up out of respect for each other, and started to think a lot about why we are so hellbent in the west on getting so much of our flesh out in public.

I’ve already said what I think about ‘The Fappening’, and 4Chan’s privacy violation against female celebrities, in my blog post In Support of J-Law. Everyone has the right to take nude pictures of themselves and a right to keep them private. But in the last fortnight, we’ve had two women (weirdly both of them with the initials KK), both at massively opposing ends of the bodily spectrum, determined to bare all in the name of womanhood and freedom of self-expression.


Firstly Keira Knightley appeared in Interview magazine, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier, in a series of images in which her body remains unmanipulated by the media. No photoshop, no cleavage enhancement, just as she is. Then Kim Kardashian appeared in Paper magazine, in a series of oiled-up nekkid shots that were intended to ‘break the internet’. Which they almost did, especially with the ensuing parody versions.

I happen to think that both of these women are remarkably beautiful in remarkably opposing ways. I think it’s a shame that Kim has clearly decided to enhance her best-known feature with surgery, but as someone with a pair of womanly hips and a small waist, I feel like this is a world where I can finally get them out with pride. And then Keira – seemingly no work done there, but she is campaigning against the ‘digital surgery’ that often makes her more acceptably womanly on film posters or in fashion features. One woman is flaunting her curves in extreme public displays, the other campaigning against the faking of curves whenever she is put on public display.

Interesting, isn’t it?

It’s also made me think about Lena Dunham, and her ‘I’ve got my body out and I don’t care if you don’t approve of it’ scenes in the TV series Girls. Her physically and digitally unenhanced body, seen in a number of nude scenes in the show, has attracted a raft of criticism from men and women alike, but that’s her point. Why should she look like Kim or Keira when she is really Lena? And who is dictating these rules?

In many ways I applaud all of these women for putting it out there – Kim looks gloriously (and uncharacteristically) happy in her images; Keira is poutingly defiant, and Lena acts care-free and unconscious of society’s disapproving gaze. Well done, you, I think, but then wondering why the hell they had to go that far to make their points. I’ve often laughed with guy-friends about their tick-box lists of female celebrity tits and ass – how the urge to see every hot woman naked in order to ‘tick them off the list’ became a thing that they did, consciously or unconsciously. It’s the infantile thing that Seth Macfarlane’s ill-advised Oscars song, We Saw Your Boobs, seemed to sum up perfectly, to the horror of the women in the audience.

Did these women bare all just to finally get the guys, and the media, off their backs? Once they’ve bared everything, does it mean they’ll be hounded less by the 4chans of this world, who’ve already moved on to the next starlet? What is it about the forced uncovering of women that makes female celebrities decide to do it themselves, so that they can control the outcome? Is it empowering or is it the ultimate sacrificial gift to the media that is hounding them already?

I realise I’m asking lots of questions here and not really answering them. I do think that there is great power in remaining clothed, in holding something back from the world (but only when that holding back is unenforced). I’m clearly part of a zeitgeist for women who are ‘baring all’ in terms of their experience (including Lena Dunham) but is that really the best thing to do? I have already said that part of the reason I am putting it all out there is because no one will be able to use anything against me in the future. There are no secrets for them to pounce on. Isn’t that what Kim, Keira and Lena are doing? All of us are owning our bodies and our lives but in the process we are letting everyone else have a piece of them too. It appears to be the domain of the modern woman. I’m all for having a voice that is heard, but are we saying too much?

It’s interesting that in the same period as the double KK bare-all, Nick Jonas, the erstwhile virginal member of the pop group the Jonas Brothers, did a Wahlberg-alike photoshoot for Flaunt magazine in his pants. The story registered as a medium-sized blip on the radar of various gay and women’s interest websites, and yeah, I had a look. He’s hot. But he’s one guy in a sea of a bajillion women doing this sort of shoot every day, for lads’ mags, for Page 3, for the latest ‘it’ magazine that promises them not to enhance their boobs and make nudity ‘arty’. We’ve moved on from Jonas already. Who cares if a guy takes his top off?

For women, holding back and wearing more might be the ultimate empowering thing to do with just a glimpse of a bared shoulder or ankle, but would you do that if you knew that your private bare-all photos made for your partner were likely to be posted online the very next day, rendering your peekaboo clothed pictures ridiculous? If you knew that the latest celeb magazine was going to show a range of high-definition images of you in a bikini on your holiday on its front page, and a close-up of your face without makeup, would you grin and bear it or rush out a series of naked, no makeup shots taken by a top photographer for a cool magazine?

I think I’d want to own my own images if I knew that these were the rules of the game, so I can’t blame the two KKs for doing what they’re doing. Kim K knows that her greatest social currency is her body and she is setting the bar higher and higher for how much she’ll show us, and how far she’ll go to enhance it. Many will say that they’re not interested in her antics, but I bet they have a good look before dismissing them.

As I write this piece, Gemma Collins, ‘star’ of reality TV show The Only Way is Essex, leaves the I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here jungle to a tidal wave of fat-shaming tweets. When the ‘bikini shower scene’ becomes a woman’s main social currency on TV, and she’s pitted against ex-model and lads’ mag favourite Melanie Sykes, I’d be out of there too.


In Support of J-Law

On Sunday I wrote a blog post about sharing on social media, in which I talked about how people will always use that bit of information that you’re fiercely guarding to try to bring you down.

And oh boy, was last night’s celebrity ‘nude’ picture hacking a brilliant example of that. A whole host of female celebrities had their private, cloud-based, naked images published on some crappy online image forum, 4chan.

Jennifer Lawrence seems to have suffered the most from the privacy violation, with her pictures trending on Twitter, until Twitter eventually did the right thing and blocked accounts who were sharing them.

But 4chan didn’t stop there, they tried to get other women to join J-Law in ‘solidarity’ and post naked pictures of ourselves under the hashtag #leakforJLaw.

We didn’t.

You’re fuckwits, 4chan.

There have been some brilliant articles written today about the wrongness of all of this, the best in my view coming from Scott Mendelson, in which he says that the emphasis should always be placed on the criminality of these privacy invaders, and not place the responsibility of self-protection and crime-prevention on women. I recommend you read it right now:


What I’m talking about in this post is the absence of any leaked male imagery. All the celebrities are female. Where are the celebrity cockshots, huh? We know guys love sending them, even if we don’t ask for them, and some even use them as their profile picture on online dating sites (makes a change from standing next to a tiger). So why haven’t they appeared here?

Someone made the point to me today that there is hardly ever a face in a cockshot, which wouldn’t help a hacker know his victim. But even more probably, they know all too well that we’d just laugh at the pictures and declare the guy ‘a bit of a knob’ and move on.

Take US politician Anthony Weiner (wow, did he live up to his name). Not only did he ‘accidentally’ send a picture via his public Twitter account to a woman who wasn’t his wife, but continued to send them to her and other women under the pseudonym of Carlos Danger, even after he was publicly humiliated. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Ok, his career was stuffed when he resigned last year but it is very clear that he had ‘self-harmed’ by going public by his own hand, so to speak. No third-party leakage there (sorry).

Take James Franco – he frequently posts late-night semi-naked selfies on Instagram – they’re self-leaked, and he has publicly stated that, “…it’s what newspapers want — hell, it’s what everyone wants: attention. Attention is power.”

You might think it is Jamesie, but the sort of attention Jennifer Lawrence is getting is not what everyone wants. It is designed to disempower her and all the women it is violating. They are not in control of it. (And by the way, you may have chosen to post your naked self online, but the attention you’re getting is laughter, mate.)

Chris Brown. In 2011 he ‘leaks’ a naked selfie he took in a bathroom ‘for a woman’. It just happened to coincide with his new album release. Funny that. Totally in control of his own image. And yet again, this is naked-selfie control that is not afforded to women.

Mendelson’s article talks about the Disney reaction to Vanessa Hudgens’ leaked nudes ‘scandal’ in 2007, in which they treated her like a “sinful child” and released this statement: “Vanessa has apologized for what was obviously a lapse in judgment. We hope she’s learned a valuable lesson.”

Well I think the lesson we’ve all learned is that women have to apologise for letting themselves be publicly sexually humiliated by men. Oops we left our sexuality right there where you can see it – sorry, we’ll find a better place to hide it. Why should we feel ashamed that we took pictures of ourselves for our lovers? Is female sexuality such a powerful thing that it has to be stamped on whenever it surfaces?

As Mendelson says, it is not the taking of the nude pictures that is in any way scandalous, it is the stealing of them. That is the crime. There have been a number of occasions in the last few years where I have had ‘creepshot’ pictures taken of me: stealthy images taken by smartphone on public transport or out on the street.

Sometimes it is brazen, with a phone thrust in front of me, other times it is quietly done, a quick click on the tube as I realise a phone is facing my legs. Each time it happened I felt angry about the stealing of my image for some kind of perverse enjoyment later. Maybe I’d end up on a website where they’d rate my legs or face out of ten, and follow it up with a torrent of horrible comments. I daren’t think about it.

That’s why I hated that ‘Women Who Eat on Tubes’ Facebook group that surfaced last year – the thought that our images were being stolen, posted and laughed at by braying frat boys with one hand on their tiny dicks. (I might set up a retaliation group: Braying Frat Boys on the Tube with Tiny Dicks.)

And don’t get me started on the relentless pursuit of nudes from guys on online dating sites. Are you on Whatsapp or Snapchat? they say, as a prelude to the inevitable request for pictures. Tiresome, guys, tiresome. Why do you have to own so many images of us? (Well obviously I know why, but why not just use porn like everyone else?).

Tonight, I hope that Jennifer Lawrence is surrounded by her friends, family and a shit-hot group of lawyers. I hope she’s remembering that she hasn’t behaved like a Weiner or a Franco and that a crime has been committed against her.

But most of all, I hope she’s looking at her BAFTA, her Oscar and Golden Globe awards and thinking, “fuck you, 4chan, I’m not going anywhere.”