Jennifer Lawrence at the Paris Fashion Week, July 2014 // Copyright Getty Images
There’s nothing like reading a column by a self-proclaimed conservative who equates prudishness with modesty to realize you’re not a prude after all.
I am talking about Wendy Shalit’s post on Time.com in which she opines about the Jennifer Lawrence hacked-nude-selfie fiasco, conflating sexuality with promiscuity, the erosion of modesty with too-much social media and falling off a cliff with taking selfies, among other things.
“Since the Jennifer Lawrence photo hack, Internet security has come under scrutiny. But why do many young women feel the need to take and share nude selfies in the first place?” Ms. Shalit writes. “Young women are told that it’s a sign of being ‘proud of your sexuality’ to ‘sext’ young men — a philosophy that has turned girls into so many flashing beacons, frantic to keep the attention of the males in their lives by striking porn-inspired poses.”
Um, does Ms. Shalit really think only young, impressionable teenagers sext and get naked in front of the camera? News flash, Wendy: Adults take nude selfies, too. Yes, mature adult men and women do it all the time — and not in an adulterous manner. In fact, I bet you half of your adult friends have done so in the privacy of their own homes — photos they have every intention to share exclusively with their spouses or significant non-matrimonial others. You don’t believe me? Go to shul and take a survey of the fine and modest men and women who follow Halacha to a tee and strike poses, probably not porn-inspired, for spousal consumption. What’s wrong with a little healthy sexual teasing to keep the fire in a relationship burning? Why must it be deemed frantic male attention-grabbing when all it really is two consenting adults indulging in hard to come by (no pun intended) foreplay?
Allow me to take this a step further: You speak of the celestial romance of the Algerian-French singer Enrico Macias who sings a love song to his wife — on stage — and you call it “a drama between them that was not for the public to see.” Do you suppose that, maybe, while he was singing to her “for the public to see,” somewhere in their little private love nest there were love notes containing explicit sexual content, and perhaps suggestive photos? Jennifer Lawrence, or anyone else snapping nude selfies, does not post her racy photos for the public to see, but puts out her best, dressed self, much like Enrico Macias publicly serenading his wife.
I can bet you that the poets and writers of yore who wrote steamily way before Fifty Shades made its splash were not inspired by nude selfies. Neither were the authors of the Talmud. And what of all the nude, sexually suggestive art — from paintings to sculptures — created over the centuries? Relax, Ms. Shalit, humans embraced their sexuality way before iPhones, and the world has not collapsed on its promiscuous derrière.
When Ms. Shalit says that the larger issue is “our addiction to ‘externalizing’ our private experiences, to the point where we have nearly lost the ability to simply enjoy these moments privately (or to be allowed to mourn privately),” I fully agree with that sentiment. I also agree that carving out “private, unmediated moments” that are not saved to Google photos, like Shabbat, have a special quality and should certainly be preserved. But I fail to see the connection to sexting and other new-age replacements of erotic letters, or to the hacking of private photos for that matter. Furthermore, the leaked celebrity photos are not of gullible young girls being coerced into posing nude, as she opines, nor were they meant to be “externalized.” We are not talking about promiscuous people sexting multiple partners at a time; we’re talking about monogamous adults indulging in some fun on their private devices, fully expecting those private experiences to remain just that — private! Besides, when did sexy talk between consenting partners become immodest or shameful?
I can’t believe I have to spell this out, but here goes: What you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is no one’s business but your own. There is a time to be modest and a time to let your guard down and have fun. Just read our Jewish texts, Wendy, for further proof.
Frimet Goldberger is a frequent contributor to the Forward.