Addressing a culture of dogmatism and privacy
by Andrea More; photo by dan more
How should you respond when nude photos of your best friend get leaked? I asked myself this just a few weeks ago when the dignity of someone very close to me was violated.
Meet Oscar. He’s not the typical Palo Alto resident. He never applied to Stanford, nor is it likely that he ever will. He does not know how to code. Nor has he ever stepped foot in Whole Foods. This is because Oscar has no feet with which to take steps. Instead, Oscar was born with four paws.
Most recently, Oscar has become the victim of an egregious intrusion of privacy that has gone viral. Thirty-five miles south of San Francisco, the Silicon Valley has become obsessed with the question of who is the accuser and who should be accused. It’s time that a larger discussion about voyeurism and civil liberties—and who or what are entitled to them—take place.
Oscar was rescued from Pound Puppy Rescue, a non-profit dedicated to saving homeless dogs in the Bay Area. During his daily walk around the block, Oscar gets his recommended allotment of exercise, but that aspect of his health comes with a price: His physique is constantly critiqued, photographed and ogled—in short, he is denied ownership of his own body.
A stranger reaches out and scratches his ears—you don’t have to have opposable thumbs to know that the ears are one of several erogenous zones on a mammal’s body.
A man walking down the street offers an opinion on Oski’s racial makeup. “Yup, with those paws, he’s gotta have some boxer in him.”
Shut the fuck up. Oscar doesn’t say this aloud. Even if he could speak English, he’s much too polite. Instead, he just licks the stranger’s hand. He knows when to bite his tongue, so to speak.
An elderly neighbor implores Oscar to sit for her. A group of disruptive toddlers pass by in a stroller and shout slurs.
They barely speak English and yet little Oscar still understands that he is being made into a spectacle.
Yes, Oski is a good-looking dog. That much can be agreed on, so it makes sense that he’s photographed an average of three times a day: in his bed, on the couch, hanging out on the lawn. The photos are superabundant. But does that mean Oscar’s corporeal self should be accessible to anyone with an Internet connection?
When photos of a naked Oscar, photos taken in the privacy of his own home, make their way into the hands of people who are not dog-owners Dan and Judy More or their daughter Andrea, a flagrant violation of Oscar’s privacy is taking place.
If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, or even access to the photos and magnets on the Mores’ refrigerator, you will be faced with images of Oscar in the nude. So the question remains: to look or not to look? As with any issue, people are prone to voicing their own moral instruction. As if a person completely removed from the situation even knows Oscar’s favorite dog toy (answer: it’s a tie between the Frisbee and stuffed elephant).
“Why not dress Oscar in a T-shirt and jeans?” someone might ask. Because, you idiot, dogs don’t belong in T-shirts or jeans.
Central to all the attention Oscar and his body have received is a preoccupation with all things cute and furry about Oscar—and there are many of them. His strongest feature, many have pointed out (despite never being asked), are his ears. Yet little O is more than just his gentle paws, or his tail with the white tip. Just last week, Oscar was sitting by the hallway mirror, barking.
Dogs belong in backyards and parks—not in front of mirrors or lenses. They should be free to roam and sniff other dogs’ crotches and pee wherever they please. Don’t give Oscar a Christmas sweater or puppy slippers. He may be 35 pounds, but for a 6-month old, he’s still a big boy. He can wear or not wear whatever he wants. I have nothing but admiration for a dog that is comfortable in his or her own fur.
To deprive a canine of its right to trot around the house naked by instilling a fear of being photographed is to take away the privacy of man’s best friend. But victim blaming is just that, no matter how adorable the victim is.
We live in a culture with a peculiar relationship to dogs. In much the same way that misogyny tells men that women are there for male amusement and pleasure, society—at least American society—tells us that dogs, especially young dogs that are some kind of lab and Rhodesian ridgeback mix, are public property. Looking at naked photos of a dog who isn’t your dog goes beyond voyeurism; it’s taking advantage of a creature that can’t even operate a camera.