In the era of digitisation and growing concerns and scandals around data sharing and privacy, we at E&M started reflecting on the implications of sending nudes in this day and age. But what’s the fun in talking about privacy concerns all day?*
So we collected stories and opinions from young Europeans: here they share their experiences of sending and receiving nudes, positive and negative, with the dangers and the thrills.
* don’t get us wrong, let’s keep talking and fighting for our privacy rights!! (let’s just also have a little fun on the side)
Jacob, 23, Sweden
Any man who has occasionally had sex with another man has either heard of, or used, the app Grindr. For the ones blissfully ignorant of the app, it is similar to many other dating apps where you endlessly browse a catalogue of more or less handsome people. And while Grindr has rules on – and needs to approve – how little clothes you might wear for your profile picture, there are no limits when you are messaging with another person. The app, and its users, never cease to amaze you in how explicit they can be, even when showing one’s face; depending on your inclination, there are no limits to how many anuses or penises you will be sent on Grindr, even featuring a face.
If it’s not completely clear, Grindr might be a dating app on the surface but anyone looking for true love on there is, to paraphrase Rihanna, doing it in a hopeless place. It is fascinating however, how it is not only a somewhat safe space for men who sleep with men to connect with one another, but also a seemingly safe space for sending nudes. Why? Not completely sure, but part of it must be normalization: everyone sends more or less explicit nudes, showing more or less of your face. It is, in that regard, completely shameless and not special at all to send them.
Having it being normal to show your junk to consenting strangers online, what a wonderful world, no?
It is, in a way, refreshing, and maybe that’s where the rest of the world will end up as well. Having it being normal to show your junk to consenting strangers online, what a wonderful world, no?
Anna, 26, Italy
My experience sending nudes online, is one that I believe (too) many people who recognise as female have had and continue to have – that of leaked nudes. I was 14 and desperate to please. I know some people send nudes out of an equal flirtation and I in no way would like to suggest that sending nudes is a submissive act – it can be incredibly thrilling and exciting. At 14, not yet quite comfortable in my sexuality but in an incredible rush to feel this way – I decided to surprise my boyfriend at the time by sending some. It was exciting, it was fun and I felt I had reached a new level of confidence in myself, and felt sexy. Only to then, a few months later, find out that these had been shared and ogled at by him and a few of his friends – mutual friends at that. I then also heard from a friend, who overheard people talking about them on the bus in Rome, accompanied by lewd trumped-up stories of my sexual behaviour. I was crushed by overwhelming feelings of humiliations and violation. Worst yet, I never even confronted my then-boyfriend about this, and carried on seeing him for about a year.
Needless to say, this behaviour was part of a larger pattern of a misogynistic behaviour that I felt blind to. Over time, it has become obvious to me what this episode represents. It fits into a larger trend of boys and ‘men’ who feel entitled to owning, and doing whatever they please with the female body. The female body is something to be looked at, shared and then discarded.
Most telling to me though, was my silence at the time. Brushing this episode off I was effectively condoning and normalising this behaviour. To me it’s not enough to look back, feel sorry for myself and be disgusted at this behaviour. Don’t get me wrong – I am disgusted and sad for my previous self and that horrible little boy. But more than anything I wish I’d spoken up. Because our bodies are our own, not commodities to be traded like Pokemon cards. I wish more than anything I could go back in time and teach him a lesson, tell him the hurt and pain that episode caused me. If we continue to brush these episodes off, and discuss them as past episodes and feel sad and pity for ourselves we continue to strip ourselves of any agency to deconstruct a society based on a systematic degradation, oppression and subjugation. So what I ask is not to stop sending nudes, but whenever a mishandling has taken place speak up and ensure that it is an enjoyable interaction for both parties involved.
This wonderful article by Lily Loofbourow on the female price of male pleasure, underlines how women are socialised into keeping silent about their pain, especially in the bedroom. Nudes, like sex, can be fun and exciting for anyone who recognises as female too – as long as the playing field remains equal, safe and pleasurable. So don’t be afraid to demand this.
So reclaim your sexuality – claim it, own it and enjoy it
On top of this, plenty of stories of leaked nudes dominate the news, such as the ‘now tainted’ high school musical star Vanessa Hudgens. Not only does this re-perpetuate this dynamic where male sexual partners feel entitled to disseminate private, intimate moments and the female body, but also shows how female sexuality is considered something to be quashed, not to be revealed. Sexuality of anyone who recognises as female is something to be ashamed of, to cast away, once revealed you are tainted. So reclaim your sexuality – claim it, own it and enjoy it. Take nudes and keep them for yourself, you deserve it!
Franzi, 23, Germany
I learned to love my body on my phone screen first. Sprawled over a few inches, under filters and stickers (got a bruise/pimple/scratch you’d like to cover up? Stickers, baby!) I was beautiful. Bend, twisted, arched over the front camera, I was sexy. Retracing the outlines of my thighs on my touch screen, I felt closer to my body than I had ever been before. Nudes offered a comfort that my analogue naked body did not: to be director of my own beauty. I can take and re-take every picture until I capture a version of myself that my mirror stubbornly refuses to show.
My digital, nude self trained my eyes in kindness
My eyes have been trained to spot the flaws, the dips and dimples, the pimples, the places to suck in and stick out. As someone who identifies as female, I have been raised to never be enough – not skinny enough, not curvy enough, not fit enough, not feminine enough. My mirror-me is a project of constant self-improvement. Meanwhile, my digital, nude self trained my eyes in kindness.
Offline, my body is measured and calculated (a six, a seven maybe?), evaluated on scales and in too brightly lit changing rooms. My attractiveness is always up for debate, mapped out by the sweaty hands of strangers in bars, whose fingers wander further as I “excuse me, just need to squeeze by, thank you”. On my screen, my own gaze softens. On my screen, my body is mine until shared. I can love my dimples and pimples, I can suck in or stick out if and whatever I like. There is no perfect version of myself to capture on camera, but there is a version of me that is not afraid to be looked at, there is a version of me that demands to be visible, but doesn’t need to be seen.
For me, taking nudes is not about sending them to someone else, it’s about me. It’s about teaching myself to be kind, to look at my body not as a collection of construction sites, but as complete whole that is beautiful, that is mine. That exists not because it is looked at by men, but because it is visible to me. On my phone screen, my body has become beautiful.
Cover Photo: chuttersnap (Unsplash)