Yesterday, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I stumbled upon a Facebook status shared by an acquaintance. It was a link to his website Ilooksexynaked.com, which featured their most recent behind the scenes look at a photo shoot with one of their models. The model, sported a red onesie that left most of her backside out which was oiled along with her legs that were bare. A perfunctory gander at the rest of the website revealed other women or “models,” mostly scantily-clad in bikinis or lingerie featured on the site.
This is, essentially, the website’s marketing strategy: use “models” or “HOT CHICKS” (as the website refers to them) to draw in viewers by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Sex is easy to sell to men. Well, at least, that is what some men obviously believe. With the prominence and profitability of sites like WorldStarHipHop, which dedicates an entire section of their website to their “ICandy”– scantily-clothed sexy women– it is easy to understand why many may fall for the false notion that sex alone can sell a product.
However, it cannot always. By any measure, Ilookedsexynaked.com is a failing enterprise. It barely has any followers. No one even liked the Facebook post that I am referring to. In other words, a crap product is a crap product. And in this case the product– poorly-written books by a pick up artist– is crap. And even the barely-covered, oiled backside of a woman (with quite a beautiful body if I may add) cannot sell crap.
But the point of this post is not merely to point to an example of a failing enterprise. More importantly, it becomes a question of what happens to the women whose bodies are used to market and promote a failing enterprise, especially in a world that degrades, berates and finds expendable women who use their bodies in this fashion. Endeavors like these may be unprofitable to everyone, but more importantly they not only objectify but also possibly exploit women and we see examples of this far too frequently with black men.
After all, how many ladies do you think know a man who has claimed to be a “photographer” who wanted to use them as the subject in his photography, which mostly features barely-dressed women? For these photographers, yeah, maybe their work is “business,” to them. But in the event that their “business” fails, they have had the pleasure of access to women’s bodies for merely purporting a title. Any man can pick up a camera, this is after all 2016. Almost everyone I know owns a digital camera and with the advent of DSLRs just about any single one of us can capture high-quality grade images. So where do we draw the line between a professional and a, well, creep. How do Black women protect themselves from falling prey to the whims of Black men who are mixing business with pleasure?
In truth, Black women need to better protect their image. While I am a firm believer that women have the right to do what they please with their body, that does not negate the fact that these “choices” can sometimes lead to them being exploited by others and even more specifically Black men. Often, when women pursue “modeling careers,” they may not anticipate the ramifications of having “racy” photos in the online world, even if they are under an alias. There are numerous examples of women being fired from their jobs, after such photos are brought to the attention of their employers. A“modeling gig” today can be the reason why you are unemployable tomorrow. And thus, the stakes are very high.
Black women need to safeguard themselves from exploitation and that means:
Black women should always own the rights to their image. When working with a brand that is barely known or established, always have a written contract that gives you complete ownership of your image. In the event that the brand fails, you can always try to take your pictures down.
Black women should be sure that they are being adequately compensated upfront for their image. Many of these “photographers” do not monetarily compensate their models and instead offer “exposure” or “free photography.” This is excruciatingly problematic, especially in the event that the photography is poor and the website really does not have a following.
Black women need to be sure that the images produced by these “photographers” are on par with industry standards. Models trying to book future gigs need well-lit, adequately edited photos. Not pics that look like a dog or cat could’ve taken them.
The Black female body is constantly under attack and sadly, some of our biggest predators are Black men. In today’s world where any man can be a “photographer,” the exploitation of models becomes a particularly commonplace occurrence and though this exploitation may not always be intentional, the impact is still the same. We must safeguard our image, our employability and our future. And Black men must begin to question whether or not their “art” or “work” is exploiting Black women.