Your Own Naked Body Could Ruin Your Life

Feb. 27, 2013
Gaby Dunn is a writer, journalist and comedian in New York City. She is an editor at Thought Catalog and a ...

It’s very, very strange how your own body can ruin your life. Who you show it to. How you dress it. Whether or not you take pictures of it. These decisions are used as excuses, examples of whether or not you’re deserving of respect or whether or not you’re intelligent, a good person, or a worthwhile human being. “Don’t wear that. You look like a hooker.” “She’s done porn? Oh wow. I really respected her before but I didn’t know she was so stupid.” “You posed naked for a friend’s photography class and they put the photo on their website? Oh my god, tell them to take it down or you’ll never find a job! Your life is totally over!” We live in fear of our own skin.

I’ve never understood why politicians who have sex scandals immediately have to step down. It’s such a given in our culture but I’d rather have someone in office who loves taking pictures of his junk but supports gay marriage, universal health care and is anti-war. Aren’t those stances, and their record, more important? Unless they’re touching little boys or other such non-consensual acts, why is it anyone’s business what a Congressman does in the bedroom? What does Anthony Weiner’s dick have to do with how well he does his job? You could say it illustrates poor judgment or that he’s distracted but I don’t see a connection between the two. Why not look at how they actually vote on legislation? And as for distraction, should Congressmen also be barred from playing video games or ever having private lives? Why is it we’re more likely to cry foul — or feel offended enough to form a big angry pitchforked mob — by a politician who shows someone his penis than by one who orders bombings on schools in the Middle East? That second guy, he can stay in office, but HOW DARE someone text a sexy photo! Let’s all call for them to step down!

What about the stories every so often about teachers or office workers being fired for writing erotic novels in their spare time or maintaining a blog with sensual photos on it? If these hobbies haven’t affected their work, why do we feel we need to punish them? The only crime seems to be enjoying sex.

Or how about the scandal surrounding Melissa King, Miss Teen Delaware USA? She’s resigned her post after someone found an amateur porn video allegedly of her. Sites are snidely quoting that she says she likes to be on top and writing about the tape with the immature glee of a 13-year-old boy. So maybe King did porn once. And now she’s lost her crown. You know who was allowed to keep hers? 2005′s Miss Delaware USA Sheena Benton, even after it was revealed she’d been arrested for a DUI. So King, who never hurt anyone and simply made a sex video, is dethroned but someone who endangered lives and clearly needs rehab or treatment is allowed to continue to represent Delaware. (No judgement about addiction by the way, just worry.) To me, that makes no sense and if anything, illustrates how much more seriously we take policing a woman’s sexuality than the disastrous results of ongoing alcohol abuse. It also seems from what I’ve read that King has had a hard life. She grew up in foster care, and works with charities to help other foster kids. Because she was poor, she’s done what she had to do keep herself afloat financially using the one thing she believed she had: her body. In one instance, beauty pageants, she is praised for this. In another, she is reviled. Talk about mixed messages for women.

In the porn video, King seems calm and aware of herself. She says she’s doing porn because she thought it might be fun and she needed the money. She tells the cameraman that her choice to appear in the video is not some big dark secret but that she hadn’t told anyone specifically what she was up to. It just doesn’t seem like a big deal to her.

It might not have been, considering most of her life she’s been prized for her body and sexuality, considering she wins awards for parading around in a bikini, and is literally judged with numbers on how she looks and presents herself. Her living is made by being objectified and yet people are shocked and offended and judgmental of her for doing porn? Open your eyes. At Slate, Amanda Hess sums it up better than I could:

…she broke some unspoken pretty girl law of sexual propriety when she used her body for money in the incorrect venue.

That incorrect venue is one without Donald Trump poking and prodding her to make sure her stomach is flat enough and her boobs perky enough. Disregard her amazing journey from poverty to that stage. Disregard her charity work. Disregard her mind, personality, friendships, loved ones. She showed her body the “wrong” way. (She didn’t kill anyone, she didn’t ruin anyone’s life, she wasn’t even rude or mean.) But she is unworthy now.

Related tangentially: Look at this ABC headline, and article written by a woman, about another woman, Jodi Arias, who allegedly killed her ex-boyfriend in self defense after he became violent. “Jodi Arias Admits Enjoying Some Sex, Maintains She ‘Felt Like a Prostitute’.” DID YOU HEAR THAT? She admitted ENJOYING SEX! Therefore she couldn’t have been abused by this man, since text messages show she gave him blowjobs. BLOWJOBS OF HER OWN FREE WILL. Someone get the smelling salts. Mama’s gonna pass out.

Did that really need to be the headline? WOMAN ENJOYS SEX is worthy of the top of the page?! What year is it? Reading that article made me furious. The prosecutor, Juan Martinez, sounds like an asshole supreme. (At one point, Arias says she doesn’t appreciate his tone or anger and he becomes even more aggressive toward someone who claims to be an abuse victim. Real nice.) He tries to refute Arias’ claims of abuse by saying she suggested the couple use KY Jelly in the bedroom and shaming her for enjoying sex. You know, because she enjoyed sex with the guy means there’s no way he could have been abusing her. She also sent him a topless photo of herself. So basically everything he did to her was either a misunderstanding or her fault for asking for it by sticking around and continuing to have sex. He also derides her for being “aggressive.”

And maybe she did kill him for no reason. I don’t know. I’m not her. But why is this line of questioning acceptable? Why is she doubted for enjoying sex, like there’s no way a man could be an abuser and for you to still enjoy the sex? Not unless you are a bad, dirty person capable of murder.

We so disgustingly prurient and then love to shame the people who provide us these lurid details. We cheer on women in bikinis, but when they actually have sexual agency, we tell them they’ve ruined their lives. Why is the line drawn at naked photos or sex tapes? Everyone is born with a body and yet showing it is a fine, socially acceptable reason to ridicule, mock and devalue someone and their accomplishments. Some of the most brilliant writers, artists, people I know have done some form of porn or stripping or sex work or sent a sext to a partner. And it has nothing to do with their worth as a person or their “goodness.” I could cure cancer and win an Academy Award tomorrow but if someone found out my boyfriend (or the internet, or whoever) has pictures of my boobs, that’s all anyone would talk about in regards to me for the rest of forever.

“Here lies Gaby RIP. She showed her boobs…and also that cancer and talent thing but you know, more importantly: BOOBS.” TC Mark

Gaby Dunn

Gaby Dunn

Gaby Dunn is a writer, journalist and comedian in New York City. She is an editor at Thought Catalog and a …

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