Caitlin Stasey and Miley Cyrus: Nudity Is Only Sexual If You Want It to Be

Arguing that adult women shouldn’t put consciously naked photos of themselves online is always going to create a mess calling for more than Bounty towels.
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Arguing that adult women shouldn’t put consciously naked photos of themselves online is always going to create a mess calling for more than Bounty towels.
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2014 was a big year for feminism, and 2015 is looking even brighter already. A few days ago Australian actress Caitlin Stasey launched a new website for women. Herself.com is hard feminism at it’s most challenging and its least safe for work. Nude photo series of racially, physically, geographically, and economically diverse women accompany interviews that pry open everything from religion and masturbation to polyamory and women’s reproductive rights. Stasey is not a feminist in the same way that Taylor Swift is a feminist.

Unfortunately, however, some people can’t even read what the women are saying in the interviews because BOOBIES. Yup, really. In an opinion for Australian news site News.com.au, one writer claims that Stasey’s website misses the mark because it includes nudity. Depressingly, the writer is a woman.

“…when I asked a female colleague to read an interview with one of the women featured on Stasey’s site, she immediately became distracted by the naked photos accompanying the piece. ‘I’m sorry,” she said. “I just can’t stop staring at her boobs.’”

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Wait, I’m sorry — you were rendered physically incapable of reading words because of boobs? How ridiculous. But the moralizing doesn’t stop there. “Getting naked on the internet only ensures that your body, rather than your brain, continues to be the focus,” the article continues. “If you put naked shots of yourself on the internet and expect any other reaction apart from people ogling your body, you’re naive.” Yeah ‘kay, try telling that to Jennifer Lawrence.

Arguing that adult women shouldn’t put consciously naked photos of themselves online is always going to create a mess calling for more than Bounty towels. There is really no way to make it without without essentially blaming women for the fact that men find them sexually attractive. Saying that women would get their points across better if they were wearing more clothes is supporting the idea that naked bodies should be objectified and sexualized. It’s saying women’s bodies don’t belong to them.

Just look at the criticism aimed at Miley Cyrus when she released NSFW polaroids from her new V magazine spread yesterday. Basically all of the Miley hate is directed at her body — whether it’s that she looks “prepubescent,” needs to eat a sandwich, or has breasts like flat pancakes. (This from people who are A-OK with having an equally naked and equally aged Kate Upton on their computer screens.) People are completely incapable of fathoming that maybe – just maybe — Miley wasn’t actually trying to be sexy.

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That’s the thing: nudity is not inherently sexual. We aren’t used to seeing a diverse range of female bodies, so we revert into 12-year-old boys sniggering in a locker room at the thought of seeing a vagina. Instead we should be asking ourselves why we find it so uncomfortable or so fascinating. And further, how that is going to change if we don’t undergo some type of desensitization process. In this way nude pictures on their own do more to unfuck the status quo than having only words would.

It sounds stupid obvious, but the diversity of body types featured on Stasey’s site is crucial. If larger or blacker bodies make you feel more uncomfortable than skinny white ones, I’d hazard a guess that it’s because we don’t often see the former being commercialized and sold back to us at all. Is it worse to be visible and sexualized or not visible at all? Is it worse to exist only in the eyes of men or to be whispered and pointed at like a weird alien?

“I want to help demystify the female form,” Stasey told Australian women’s site Daily Life yesterday, “to assist in the erasure of coveting it, and to help celebrate the ever changing face of it. We consider a woman’s sexuality so linked to her physicality that for a woman to appear naked publicly is automatically an act of sex and not for herself. There’s also a very specific construct of woman we are all used to seeing, and while those women are no less women, I was so desperate to see different faces, different bodies.”

Writer Janea Kelly did a great tweet in response to Sia’s “Elastic Heart” video, which attracted cries of pedophilia after featuring Shia LaBeouf and 12-year-old maddie Zeigler in an interpretive dance: “if you found [the video] creepy, consider that you are the agent of sexualization and creepiness.” It’s the same thing here — it’s up to you, however unconsciously, if you’re going to interpret women’s naked bodies as sexual. The more people are doing so, the more we need women like Stasey. And yeah, like Miley Cyrus.

Reprinted with Permission from Stylite. Want more? Check out these related stories:

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