Don't Watch The LeBron James Penis Video, Because, Seriously, Consent Matters
So something kind of bizarre happened during the NBA Finals on Thursday night, and by the end of the game, it had caught fire on social media: ABC's broadcast accidentally aired Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James doing a little last-minute...adjustment, let's say. And in doing so, he inadvertently gave all of America a brief, yet undeniable glimpse of his genitals, leading countless people to repost the video. But you shouldn't watch it — watching the LeBron James penis video is not okay, because consent matters.
It's a rather apparent double standard, a prime example — in my opinion, at the very least — of how patriarchal norms can be just as damaging to men as to women. Obviously, when female celebrities are victimized by a paparazzo's low-angle lens spying up their skirts, to use a familiar example, a lot of thoroughly gross people enjoy indulging in those images. But there's also a requisite level of condemnation that comes with it — that's an obviously violating act, and anyone wanted to be taken seriously should clearly not promote them.
But in the case of LeBron's accidental penis flash, the reaction seems a great deal more gleeful and chuckling, in spite of the fact that, you know, it's really no better. Obviously, ABC's camera crew didn't mean to catch a glimpse, but they did nonetheless, and now LeBron's privates have been turned into public water-cooler talk.
Rest assured, as one of the world's most recognizable people and one of the greatest basketball players in history, if LeBron wanted us to see his penis, we would've seen it by now. And just because it happened in an unexpected way doesn't make the exposure any less potentially humiliating.
I say "potentially" because obviously different people will relate to their penis being aired to millions of people in different ways — it's possible, I realize, that he doesn't care that much. But that shouldn't be taken as an assumption just because he's a successful, dominant male athlete. To put it bluntly, anyone could feel awkward and distressed by what happened, and that possibility should be enough to give people pause.
This clearly isn't a debate many people are having, however. There are plenty of places to watch what happened, either because people assume James shouldn't or wouldn't care (a flatly gender-based assumption, I'd argue), or they simply don't care themselves enough to consider it on a deeper level.
Even further, consider what would happen if James admitted publicly that he was bothered by this. He'd be opening himself up to worlds more derision and mockery, accusations of unmanliness, over-sensitivity and sexual insecurity — never forget, toxic masculinity hurts men, too.
I get why people sometimes don't cut celebrities much slack in certain areas and why this sort of thing gets more prominently discussed regarding women — the culture of sleaze and invasiveness directed at them is self-evidently more pervasive and played up for sexual thrill in a way that I don't really think LeBron's flash is.
But the simple fact is this: People are people, cultural norms be damned. And just because you might think someone has the world in the palm of their hand, with success, fame, and fortune galore, that doesn't mean they deserve this kind of treatment. Stop for a second and imagine that your penis was accidentally aired to millions of worldwide viewers and became the topic of mocking conversation throughout the Internet. Then think about whether that's a phenomenon you really want to be a part of.
Images: ABC; Getty Images (2)