Dear Johnny Depp: No, photoshoots aren’t like rape

Johnny Depp on cover of Vanity Fair “Well, you just feel like you’re being raped somehow. Raped…It feels like a kind of weird — just weird, man.”Johnny Depp tells Vanity Fair how much he hates photoshoots.

Dear Johnny,

Big fan over here. Your incredible acting skills and magnetic sex appeal made me fall in love with every single one of your characters–even that lovable, dirty scoundrel Captain Jack Sparrow. So kudos to you!

But, no. Being photographed is not like being raped. At all. I have not been professionally photographed or raped before, but I feel pretty sure about this one. As a general rule, you should just steer clear of rape metaphors. Comparing things that are not rape–such as taxes or health care reform or, um, being photographed–to rape trivializes a crime that is too-often ignored and is just pretty insensitive to the many people who have experienced the unique awfulness of actual rape.

Besides the obvious fact that being photographed is not, actually, a violent crime against your body, this is not even an accurate rape metaphor. Rape is about the lack of consent. If you don’t want to be in a photoshoot, you don’t have to. You’re the highest-paid actor in Hollywood these days, Johnny! You could forgo the millions of dollars you get paid to do them and just stick to the quick snaps with adoring fans. Yes, many of those fans, like me, will miss the chance to pour over your sexy spreads, but we don’t want you to do something that feels so intrusive to you! Truly.

See, what I think you mean is that being photographed feels like you’re being objectified. Which, of course, you are. And I can see how that might feel “kind of weird” for you, because men aren’t objectified in our culture all that much–at least not to the extent that women are. Except for beautiful, famous movie stars, such as yourself. So I get it. I’ve heard that you’re a very private guy, so it must be totally strange to know that millions of people think you are the sexiest man alive.

I’m not famous, so I have no idea what it’s like to be objectified by millions of strangers. But being objectified by strangers? Definitely. I don’t think I know a woman who hasn’t experienced that–it kinda just comes with the territory. (In this way, it is rather similar to the fear of being raped actually.) The difference is that I don’t make millions off of my objectification; I just continue on with my day. That’s not to say that your feelings aren’t valid. They are! And I would love to discuss the differences and similarities between the ways we’ve both felt objectified over coffee sometime. That sounds like an interesting convo.

But let’s get this straight first: being objectified is not the same as being raped. So let’s just stick to that. Cool?


Update: Johnny has issued a very nice apology: “I am truly sorry for offending anyone in any way. I never meant to. It was a poor choice of words on my part in an effort to explain a feeling. I understand there is no comparison and I am very regretful. In an effort to correct my lack of judgment, please accept my heartfelt apology.”

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • nazza

    It bothers me that the word choice is trendy. We’ve long talked about how some words need to retain their sting. The problem is also that language is by its very nature adaptive. The more people you add, the more language changes. Since we simply haven’t evolved to the point that we can transfer abstract thought exactly to another person, we rely on mutually agreed upon symbols. And symbols can be used wrongly.

  • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    The only time I could even think of this comparison would be in instances (most which I think do not occur at Johnny Depp’s level) where subjects were coerced into sexual acts against their will that were shot onto film. Not unheard of, but no, not likely to be occurring in the press photo shoot of the standard mainstream A-list movie star.

  • silva

    Condescending, insensitive, classist, Polanski-supporter bastard.

  • Jill Jackson

    It has become a common part of today’s culture to throw the word “rape” up in the air when describing everyday situations. I can recall countless times when a male has used the word to describe a player being tackled in football, or someone being beaten in soccer. When I was in high school, I once saw a video one of my guy friends made for a history class. The closing scene had an inferred rape scene that everyone besides me found to be hilarious. The teacher even laughed when the video was played in class. The possibility of being raped has always been the one thing that has scared me, and it angers me to see people casually throwing around the term. I cannot think of anything worse than rape that could happen to a person and I think it is absolutely insensitive and tactless to throw the term around. I feel that people in the public spotlight, such as Johnny Depp, need to be aware that they are setting the tone for what is acceptable in society and think before they speak.