Jonah Hill and what men get wrong about women posting photographs of themselves.

Over the weekend, some damning accusations were made against Jonah Hill by his ex-partner, Sarah Brady, who released screenshots of text messages that she received from the actor while they were in a relationship and alleged that he was "emotionally abusive". 

The text messages Brady posted appeared to capture Hill attempting to enforce rules about certain activities that she was not allowed to engage in while the two were in a relationship. In particular, it appears as though Hill took issue with Brady posting photographs of herself online that he deemed to be too revealing or sexual. 

One text message, in particular, has gone viral, in which Hill wrote to Brady that if she needed "surfing with men, boundaryless inappropriate relationships with men, to model, to post pictures of yourself in a bathing suit, to post sexual pictures, friendships with women who are in unstable places and from your wild recent past beyond getting a lunch or coffee or something respectful, I am not the right partner for you." 

Brady, a surfer and law student who was in a relationship with Hill from mid-2021 to 2022, wrote that she chose to share the text messages "because keeping it to myself was causing more damage to my mental health than sharing it could ever do". 

Another string of messages appears to show Brady trying to comply with Hill's demands for her to delete revealing photographs of herself off of her Instagram. The actor responded with a photo of Brady surfing in a one-piece swimsuit that was still available on her profile and told her that she "doesn't seem to get it".


After posting the series of Instagram stories, Brady posted a photograph of herself wearing a white mini-skirt and a low-slung top with the caption "reviving a pic I took down by request of a narcissistic misogynist". 

Jonah Hill has not confirmed that the texts and claims are real and we're certainly missing context around them but the messages we can read are alarming and seem to paint a disturbing portrait of Hill as an overly-controlling, insecure partner. 


However, I don't necessarily want to wade into an outsider's analysis of what happened while they were together. Certainly, there seem to be some deeply complicated rifts between the pair, particularly considering that these screenshots were released shortly after Hill and his new partner, Olivia Millar, welcomed their first child. 

Beyond Brady and Hill's relationship, what the text messages raise are some really interesting questions about possessiveness and boundaries within relationships in general and, in particular, what men seem to get so wrong about women posting photographs of themselves online. 

Hill's texts demonstrate a prevailing belief system (that, as far as I can tell, seems to be held by both men and women) that when women post sexual, revealing, or flattering photographs of themselves when they are in monogamous relationships, they are acting disrespectfully towards their partners. 

A woman in a relationship posting a hot photo of herself is so often perceived as a violation of some unwritten law that partners – and only partners – should have access to images of a woman looking desirable. And I think we really need to inspect why we would think that at all. 

Certainly, this belief speaks to the concept of 'possessiveness', a characteristic commonly attributed to men, when they feel as though they are entitled to some semblance of ownership or control over the body of the woman that they are with. 


The fundamental problem with possessiveness is that it naturally implies that female partners' bodies can rightfully be seen as possessions, which is dehumanising and misogynistic to its core. I also think that the concept of having any sense of ownership or rights over the person that you love is becoming increasingly outdated as young people question the institution of marriage, long-term relationships, and monogamy in and of itself. The basic question being: why does romantic love require sacrificing autonomy? 

Listen to the Quicky discuss why parents are deleting photos of their children. Article continues after podcast. 

Built into this belief system around women taking selfies or posting hot photos of themselves is also this complete miscomprehension of why women do it at all. Too often, men seem to believe that women are exclusively attempting to signal to men when they post sexy photos which may be true in some instances but it's absolutely not the sole reason.

In fact, in 2016, a group of Korean researchers looked at the motivation behind posting selfies on social media and found that people tend to do it for one of four reasons: attention-seeking, communication, archiving, or entertainment. Basically, that is to say, that sometimes posting a photo can be an attention-seeking sexual signal – but it can also be a way to just communicate with peers, keep a record of what you've done or show your followers something interesting. I would also add that there are many women out there posting sexy photographs of themselves for wholly benevolent reasons, like contributing to the body positivity movement. 


As much as men feel comfortable assuming this, not everything is about them. 

Watch the Mamamia team talk about selfies below. Article continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

It should also be stressed that Brady is apparently in her late 20s and for women of our generation, the process of posting photographs of yourself, wearing whatever and looking as seductive as you like, has been completely normalised from a very young age and is an every day (and even somewhat expected) part of the social media fabric. For better or for worse, it's a behaviour that we rarely question, but that still doesn't mean it's necessarily a partner's business. 

There are absolutely fair reasons that we should critique our social media behaviour, our addictions, our attempts to seek validation, and any overly-obsessive tendency to post selfies – but a partner's insecurities aren't chiefly among them.


There is also an unavoidably absurd component to Hill's complaints about Brady's online photos and modelling career, which is the idea that he's seeking to control her image and whether or not other people should be allowed to enjoy looking at her. And that's a question that spans far beyond social media – did he expect that he should be allowed to control how she dresses? Should people avert their eyes from his partner in the street because she's beautiful and in a relationship? What are all the ways that you'd expect somebody to realistically belong to you?

Ultimately, this is why the Hill story and the text messages we've seen are so brutal and disturbing. Because when a partner is trying to delete photos off their Instagram, it's not really about the photos at all. It's overtly controlling, policing behaviour dressed up like a normal relationship boundary. 

The content on Brady's Instagram is wholesome and mostly depictions of her walking back and forth on a board as she rides a wave – but again, that's not the point. Asserting control is the point. Making a woman smaller is the point. 

If a partner takes issue with a woman's Instagram photos, the question shouldn't be so much 'Why is she posting them?' It should really be 'Why does it matter so much to him?' 

Elfy Scott is an executive editor at Mamamia. 

Feature Image: Getty + Mamamia. 

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