The Scarlet Number

Photo from bbc.com

A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday — euphemistically the date that I would be legal to sleep with.

Natalie Portman

At the age of 12, Natalie Portman began to act in her very first movie. The award-winning actress had not yet been exposed to the hyperactive lens of the media. A year later, at the age of 13, she opened a fan letter from a man. It was a “rape fantasy.”

The same year, a radio show started a countdown to her 18th birthday, when she would be considered a legal adult in the United States. Movie reviewers talked about her adolescent breasts as if they were vital to her character’s story. Portman began to turn down more risqué scenes, adjust her public image and emphasize parts of her personality and interests that wouldn’t warrant comments on her body from the media. In a speech delivered at a Women’s March in 2018, Portman said that she had experienced sexual terrorism.

Video from CNN on YouTube

Singer Billie Eilish was only 14 years old when she started her singing career in 2016. As the artist started receiving more attention from the press and was widely recognized for her dreamy vocals and talent, she made the decision to start wearing her trademark baggy dress. By shifting the conversation to what many considered outrageous clothing, Eilish was able to do what almost no emerging young woman in Hollywood had done before, which was to protect her growing body from being photographed and critiqued.

This never stopped the dialogue on her manner of dress. The media couldn’t fathom why a young woman would choose to swaddle herself in layers upon layers of Gucci or Louis Vitton, accessorized with chunky platform sneakers and lengthy fake nails.

Photo from forbes.com

Eilish later explained in an interview with Daze Magazine that she had started to dress in these layers due to body image issues. Over the past two years, multiple photos of the singer have gone viral for showing more skin than the media has seen since she started her rise to fame. Unable to resist the Los Angeles heat, Eilish was thrown to the number one trending spot on Twitter after a picture of her walking outside was circulating, the topic of conversation being her breasts.

My boobs were trending on Twitter! At number one! What is that?! Every outlet wrote about my boobs! I was born with f*cking boobs, bro.

Billie Eilish to Elle Magazine

Thanks to technology being developed over the years, cameras can capture pictures of unsuspecting celebrities in higher definition than ever before. In the United States, the possession, recording and distribution of child pornography is illegal and punishable by law. The difference between revealing angles and the age of the subject can be the deciding factor for being fined and even sued for paparazzi. Once young women hit the age of 18, they are considered adults and access to pictures of their body, while invasive, are often protected.

Over the years as the boundaries between the public and celebrities have broken down more and more, the lines of privacy have blurred. In California, public privacy laws are fairly limited. The rights of paparazzi come down to the location and the manner in which their subject is photographed. These photographers are notorious for being invasive and if criticized push the argument of free speech to justify their actions. Despite this, they are surrounded by general feelings of distrust and resentment by the public, and especially by celebrities.

Cara Delevigne avoids having her picture taken: Photo from boredpanda.com

Young women don’t owe us any explanation for their bodies. The notion that being in the public eye somehow signs you up for relentless criticism is troubling, especially when the comments have nothing to do with their work. Women need to stop being sexualized for simply existing.

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