Sunday, March 16, 2014

I Love Cleavage (Who Cares)

A couple of days ago, I saw this story about a "creepy subreddit" that encourages members to upload pictures of women showing cleavage (in fact, any "sexy" photo will do) onto a special Facebook page designed for the viewing pleasure of...  well, I guess anyone on Facebook who loves to see a suggestion of breasts.  (I assume this isn't an "I Love Toe Cleavage" page, although God knows that would draw its own audience.) 

There are ground rules: The pictures must already have been posted by the subject (a Facebook user herself), the woman must be over eighteen, and the woman must not be named (as though that will somehow protect her identity these days). 

The pages (there are actually more than one) have met with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response.

Disgusting, isn't it?  My first response was: One more way to punish women for being on the internet. 

But what if the tables were turned?  What if some intrepid person (woman or man) was inspired to obtain pictures of attractive male Facebook users for the same purpose?  Hell, for all I know, someone already has (but I'm not willing to waste an hour looking for them). 

I had to admit that didn't bother me nearly so much, and I had to ask myself, Why not? 

There is plenty of evidence that American women have taken to "objectifying" men in record numbers.  Just read Jezebel or any number of popular women's magazines.  Recall the kerfuffle over Jon Hamm's candid "crotch shots" last year?  I have every reason to believe he found that experience just as humiliating and invasive as some Jane Doe who has already posed for and posted the pictures herself. 

I'm not saying that "objectifying" people of any gender is behavior to be proud of.  But we have to acknowledge it seems hard-wired in the human brain to do so.  Obviously, both men and women enjoy looking at pictures of good-looking men and women in various states of deshabille.  (And kittens. And babies. And food.)  And we especially savor images we're not "supposed to" see. 

The underlying "revenge" element in "I Love Cleavage" or similar Facebook pages is quite unpleasant, like watered-down versions of Hunter Moore's Is Anyone Up.  There is an unescapable sense that these young women are being "shamed" for their sexuality.  Again, I ask, Why? I assume the young women posted their own "sexy" images as a celebration of their beauty, or out of vanity, or a desire to be desired -- all, BTW, perfectly valid, healthy, and natural reasons in my opinion.  So the idea that these pictures have "shaming potential" is merely a demonstration of how fucked up puritanical Americans are (even / especially American "feminists").

I'm not saying that Facebook shouldn't address this issue with a change of policy.  If enough fuss is raised, it probably will.  After all, Facebook is the domain of adolescents (of all ages), whom we hypocritically claim to "protect." 

If there is one thing I've learned in the last few months, it's that none of us have completely comprehended the power of social media to showcase the most base of human behavior.  

Although I'm not ever going to find my mug (or boobs decollatage) on an "I Love Cleavage" Facebook page, I will just add that I'm sorry I ever joined Facebook.  Of course, now that I'm on, I can't get off.  And I'll bet a lot of my friends feel the same way.


  1. Good thing I'm pretty much flat chested and live somewhere cold, where I'm always bundled up lol

  2. I suppose it's about the nature of privilege. Because men are rarely shamed for the way they dress, when a man is assaulted no one asks how he was dressed etc, therefore a facebook page of attractive male bodies would be unlikely to achieve shaming overtones, not if the only context was how attractive their bodies were.

    The objectification of women is accompanied by a long history of sexual violence, either the threat of rape, or the threat of punishment for willingly being sexual. When women are objectified there is that underlying message of 'know thy place'. The male body does not come with that kind of baggage.

    Not that men should be objectified or degraded, or have their privacy breeched. I think when a man is treated in this way it comes as more of a shock because men do not grow up expecting to be victims, whilst with women being commodified and humiliated is business as usual.

    There's no way I'd end up on such a page as no such photos exist of me. I learned very young that if I looked a certain way bad things would happen to me, so I stopped looking a certain way. Sad thing is I probably missed out on a lot of fun along the way.

  3. And yet Facebook is right on that delete button if a nursing mom's pic is posted. Go figure.

    1. Even though breast feeding, by definition, would mean the nipple would be covered.

      Meanwhile it was fine to post a video a of woman being beheaded, until sufficient numbers of Facebook users pointed out to Facebook that that was wrong.

    2. Good points. For some reason, you remind me of that Bill Maher bit a few years ago in which he objected to mothers breastfeeding in public because, among other reasons, "I'm eating in Applebee's so I'm already nauseated" and "There's already a place where food and breasts mix; it's called Hooters." It made me realize how sophomoric and sexist he was and I've never really enjoyed his comedy since.

  4. I have always been conflicted about the whole 'sexy vs. feminism' thing. In certain contexts, I like being sexy/sexually appealing. But as an above commenter pointed out, girls being sexy comes with a lot of baggage. In mainstream media, women ARE treated one-dimensionally as solely sexual objects, so when I exhibit sexiness, I have to worry about whether it will undermine how others respect me in other ways (such as professionally/intellectually/emotionally.)

    There IS a time and place to be sexy. It is never appropriate in a professional setting. I also think exposing too much skin (like your boobs/buttcheeks) is inappropriate in general public places. This is universal - guys would never go to a conference or grocery store shirtless, no matter how great their abs are. However, going to a party where you know you will meet a bunch of cute guys, playing up the sex appeal a bit doesn't hurt.

    I think in the end of the day, the feminist issue comes down to whether girls are choosing their sexuality in their own terms. I've been sexually harassed on the street even when I wasn't dressed the least bit sexy. Sexual objectification results from misogynistic attitudes, and not how a woman dresses. It explains how my boyfriend has seen me naked but still treats me like a human being.


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