According to some critics, portrait apps such as Lensa are a problem in their sexualized creation of female avatars.

The criticism at the heart of the recent Lensa controversy is two-fold. Artist-advocacy groups state that the photo/editor app cheapens (and robs from) legit artists’ work.

This post focuses on the second point of criticism – that Lensa avatars of female users are over-sexualized.

But Does Lensa create overly-sexualized versions of women? 

And if it does, is this a problem for society or its customers?

New App. Old Problem

The debate about the sexualization of the female image is an age-old one that has gained new impetus amongst women’s rights advocacy groups.

The focus of the argument is that men create and consume images of women (in all forms of media). So, images of women tend to objectify women as sexual objects.

A recent Guardian article highlighted the issue as it relates to Lensa –  

Is it just me or are these A.I. selfie generator apps perpetuating misogyny?” complained one subscriber, alarmed with the ‘fantasy’ and ‘hyper-sexualized’ reworking of personal photographs she uploaded.

The Guardian itself supplied Lensa with stock photos of prominent feminists and was alarmed at the way the pictures were slimmed down and made to look more youthful.

Amelia Earhart as per Lensa

As critics point out, the problem with Lensa is the person (or person-programmed A.I.) making the aesthetic choices. 

Someone (presumably male) has decided that the best way to make Lensa profitable is to have the app turn most female images into ‘hot space chic’ or ‘brazen flower girl’ avatars.

Unfortunately for said critics, and judging by the app’s success, the folks at Lensa have made the right call. 

Most subscribers are happy with their image results. And if that’s a problem, surely it’s a societal one?

Yes, critics are right to condone male-centric and unattainable versions of beauty and sexiness that are proliferated in the media. 

But if women are buying into that (even reclaiming sexiness in the name of female power) then the misogynistic argument remains an unattractive moot point amongst a demographic that simply wants hotter-looking selfies.

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