As you probably already know (and I'm guessing many of you saw), several weeks ago a handful of Hollywood actresses watched in horror as intimate photos that had been stolen from their computers were released into the wilderness of the Internet.
More recently, after actress Emma Watson gave a beautiful speech about feminism, it was rumored that hackers would release nude photos of her in retaliation. This turned out to be a hoax, but the move still speaks to the terror that accompanies leaks and threats of these kind.
Now it seems Hollywood's leading men are worried they're the next to be targeted and soon images once thought to be securely locked in their iClouds could be just a few clicks away from popping up on your MacBook Air.
And why not? Sex sells. Sex clicks. Sex is something that we can't stop talking or thinking about even if we refuse to really talk or think about it.
Beyond the lure of being able to see celebrities we have idolized and/or daydreamed about without their clothes on, these leaks are also titillating in that they offer us the opportunity to fantasize about what we would do in the same situation and momentarily (and more importantly, safely) experience the thrill of the panic and vulnerability that comes with it without having to deal with the aftermath. Because, whether or not we'll admit it, I'm willing to bet that most of us have taken (and sent) nude photos of ourselves at one time or another.
I certainly have. Yup, I have a dick pic and I have no problem sending it out.
When I told a few people I was going to write this piece, they laughed nervously in response. Suddenly, my penis was now part of the conversation. Some of their anxiety came, perhaps, from me sharing something we've been told is incredibly private. Even though I didn't show them the photo, the specter of my dick was now hovering just above our heads like a hot air balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (OK, OK, maybe just a tad smaller). But aside from that, it also instantly and unambiguously revealed me as a sexual person -- someone who thinks about and actively pursues sex (physically and in other ways) and would have use for -- and would actively use -- a photo of my dick.
But for me, it's liberating to unleash this into the world -- both my dick and the confession itself. I firmly believe that if we started owning up to taking nude photos of ourselves (and/or wanting to see them), there would be a lot less stigma surrounding having and sharing them. What's more, if we started owning up to having bodies that are capable of providing us with pleasure (and if we accepted that this pleasure isn't wicked or unseemly) and we stopped thinking of nudity and sex as our enemies, we'd have a healthier, happier society.
This is especially true for women and queer men who are routinely denied access to and agency of their own sexuality. Earlier this month a new poll found that exactly half of all Americans still think that gay sex is a sin, even though we all know that straight people are having gay sex too (and when you consider how many straight people there are compared to how many queer people there are, straights are actually having more gay sex than we are!).
Still, queers aren't off the hook when it comes to buying into shame and secrecy about bodies and our sex lives. I find it particularly distressing that many of us believe in order for queers to be taken seriously, we need to stop behaving badly (a.k.a. being sexual -- especially engaging in sexual activity that is outside the realm of what is considered "normal" or "healthy") and settle down. But as I've argued numerous times before, why would we want to be part of a system that tells us sex and our bodies are sinful, depraved things? As much as I want my queer brothers and sisters to have the same rights -- like marriage -- as our non-queer counterparts, my greater wish is that we could challenge the way we all think about these issues and help to usher in a sweeping kind of sexual liberation that would decimate the sexism, homophobia and transphobia inherent in so many of our institutions and therefore all too present in our everyday lives.
I understand that because of the society we currently live in -- one that has yet to welcome a true sexual revolution -- these issues are tricky. The concept of body image for both women and men, non-queer and queer, is too often corrupted by what we're told and sold by our culture. There's a big difference (and power differential) between me sending my dick pic to another gay man who I may or may not be having sex with and a straight man sending his unsolicited dick pic to a woman. Stealing someone's naked photos and splashing them across the web is never OK. And those examples are just the beginning -- there is a seemingly endless number of other issues and my little blog about my dick pic won't be able to magically change or erase any of them. But I humbly offer that this might be a place to start because I want more for all of us and I think we can have it if we're smarter and more honest about who we are, what we want and how we go about giving and getting it.
Am I asking you to pop a nude photo into your Christmas cards this year? No. If you never have and never want to take a nude pic, then by all means don't do it. But I hope that you're refraining from doing so because you really don't want to -- not because you're scared or because you think there's something dirty or immoral or -- sweet Jesus help me -- slutty about it. And certainly don't shame those of us who do have them. Do I think taking and sharing nude photos is the answer to all of our problems? No. But I do think it can be a radical, empowering and -- let's face it -- hot move and, what's more, the sooner we start to open up about our sexuality, our sex lives and our bodies, the sooner we stop being held hostage to the hackers -- literal and figurative -- who want to use us -- literally and figuratively -- against ourselves and each other.
Now... who wants to swap some pics?
Also on The Huffington Post: