Our society, almost without dispute, can tolerate the publishing of a man’s naked selfie, while the release of a woman’s naked selfie causes outcry. Mark Davies explored the issue earlier this week, but it deserves further scrutiny.
There is an important distinction between Brooks Newmark’s naked pictures and Jennifer Lawrence’s, and it comes down to the gaze that falls on them. Nobody is inherently is a sexual object; it is only the eye of the beholder that has the power to sexualise. A 12-year-old girl wearing shorts is not sexual; she is sexualised through the gaze of others.
Lawrence’s naked selfies are far more likely to be sexualised than Newmark’s. There may well be people who get a kick from attributing sexual meaning to his photos. But the fact mainstream news outlets have chosen to publish them (and not Lawrence’s) suggests a consensus that they are not inherently sexual. His selfies are viewed in a different light to Lawrence’s – despite both being explicit, and both having reached the public through channels neither Brooks nor Lawrence approved of.
More people will see Jennifer Lawrence as a sex object than Brooks Newmark. After all, his saggy, greying underwear isn’t particularly attractive. Newmark wanted an ego boost from an attractive woman, but instead has been left with his ego squashed by the British public because – surprise, surprise – they don’t see him as a sex object.
While the whole thing is in pretty poor taste, the English have for centuries enjoyed parading naked old men around the village to point and cackle at. A politician lured by a man pretending to be a beautiful woman? A cuckquean made of Mrs. Newmark? Throw them in the forest with a ‘green and gilded’ snake, and you’ve got Shakespeare.
Davies makes the point that no one has leapt to the defence of Newmark. But this is because, generally speaking, people do not objectify men in the explicit way Lawrence and her nubile peers are objectified. Someone viewing naked selfies of Lawrence is made to believe they have control over her body – it’s a power trip. Most people won’t see Newmark’s images as pornography.
The website Reddit offers an interesting insight into the different gazes Newmark and Lawrence receive. Search for ‘Jennifer Lawrence’, and related search terms include ‘gentlemanboners’ and ‘circlejerk’. Search for ‘Brooks Newmark’ and the topics continue to relate to politics and current affairs. Perhaps there are niche sites where Newmark’s photos garner more seedy search terms, but they remain to be found.