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Self-portrait

Nude pictures have been in the papers almost every day for the last two months. Or at least, discussion of them has. The news is hardly an appropriate place for naked photos of people, despite what The Sun might preach.


The news has been focused on a fairly large group of female celebrities – mostly actors and musicians – who have found their naked self-portraits copied from supposedly secure storage and posted on the internet.

 

Considering the topic of the rest of this article, I think I’d better make my views on the aforementioned events – which I am using as a stimulus and vehicle for discussion, without any intent to comment further – absolutely clear at the get-go. They are as follows:

The removal of a person’s property, including photos, from any secure place is theft, and should be treated as such. Despite failures in security – like the iCloud’s apparent (and ridiculous) vulnerability to brute force password cracking – impersonating someone else to get access to their data is identity theft. Stealing naked photos of other people is a crime, and publishing them on the internet borders on sexual assault. Reproducing and distributing stolen property is still reproducing and distributing stolen property, regardless as to what has been taken. And a crime being easy to commit anonymously and get away with does not make it any less a transgression.

With that done, let’s get on with the show. Everything I say below applies equally to all genders.

Should I take naked photos of myself?

Sure, if you’re cool with it. Your own body is your property, and what you do with it is up to you, providing it doesn’t affect others. If taking photos of yourself has any kind of erotic charge at all then it could be worthwhile, and it’s frankly a cheater’s way of fostering and sharing intimacy with another person. As deep demonstrations of trust go there are few quicker and simpler than taking a photo of your junk and giving it to someone else to keep.

What if I’m not cool with it?

That’s a perfectly valid reason for not doing it, and a perfectly valid thing to say to someone who might be interested in asking you to. Regardless of your reasons for not doing it you shouldn’t feel pressured (wishful thinking, since you will). Being pressured into doing something isn’t sexy, and in my mind, being pressured into doing something you’ve said you don’t want to should ring alarm bells beyond what happens on Snapchat.

Things naked photos are

A huge exercise in trust.

A responsibility and a test of that responsibility for the receiver.

A massive turn-on (hopefully).

Currency in the great game of sex.

Things naked photos are not and never should be

Lacking in value.

A demand or a requirement.

A weapon or a tool.

Currency in anything other than sex.

What risks am I taking?

The chief risk is fairly obvious, so we’ll come back to it. There are other, smaller and more complicated risks that come with sharing nude photos of yourself. Like any demonstration of trust – and any piece of physical intimacy – it can accelerate a relationship too quickly or beyond established boundaries. It can present an imbalance in intimacy that needs to be addressed lest it lead to resentment. It’s pretty fucking complicated, to be honest, and that’s without getting on the the giant, pink, roller-skating elephant in the room…

What’s to stop people sharing them without my consent?

Pretty much nothing, apart from your bad feelings towards them. The threat of legal action – although valid, and something that should be encouraged, rather than challenged – isn’t a deterrent of the sort that would stop them stealing your car or your TV.

This means you need to think carefully about who you send photos to, obviously. But beyond that it becomes tricky. Victim blaming is insidious and shitty, but you do have a responsibility for your own body – it’s yours, and how you act with it is up to nobody but you. You can take steps to protect yourself (although most of them aren’t physical or technological – they wouldn’t have helped the victims of the recent iCloud attacks).

 

Who should I share them with?

Ideally people you trust, and people who’s actions you can largely predict. I don’t mean people who are nice or safe or boring, I mean people who will continue to act largely as they do now, regardless of circumstance.

There’s a great quote from Nora Ephron: never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from. It encourages you to be aware of a possible future even if you have no idea how that future might come about, and use that knowledge to make decisions in the present. Say you send a load of pictures of your cock to your girlfriend. You’re pretty sure she’d keep them to herself. But what if you cheated on her? What if you got married, had kids, then you cheated on her? What if you put her in a situation where she was almost (whisper it) justified in getting revenge on you?

This is the problem with the ideal scenario. You cannot predict the future. You cannot predict anyone’s actions with 100% accuracy. You cannot, in the end, predict your own actions all the time. So…

What if I want to do it anyway?

People send naked photos of themselves to people they do not 100% trust. I’ve done it. Statistically, you reading this, yes you, you’ve done it. What I would suggest if you really want to (and I can understand why you would):

Remember the things that naked photos are, and the things they are not.

Don’t rely on safety precautions you don’t really understand.

Ask for trust, and share responsibility for photos.

Don’t ask for or expect photos of the other person to balance things out, or expect having them to change anything.

Set rules, and make sure they’re clear and understood.

I can’t suggest anything that combats theft, because nothing I can think of is completely effective. Digital photos are perceived as being easy to steal, so you could take steps to secure them with a static hard-drive, but what if someone walks off with it? Only taking polaroids and storing them under the bed is a low-tech solution with low-tech problems.

In the end, you can only take the same steps you would take to store anything precious, and hope that they work out. It’s not your fault if they don’t.

Should I do it?

It would be irresponsible to give you a simple answer on this, but, well… fuck it. Yes, you should, if you want to. The rewards are simple and short lived but not to be discounted – you feel horny as hell for a little while, and know that someone else is feeling the same – and the risks can be great (which is part of the reason why it’s such an aphrodisiac – the fact that it still feels taboo). You can take steps to minimise that risk but beyond that… it’s out of your hands.

Sex is, as previously discussed, very complicated. But the issue over naked photos is divorced entirely from sex, and is more about power or something like it. In the end, all I can say is this: your naked body is valuable. The fact that we have a nudity taboo guarantees it. So nude photos have a huge value too. Anyone who treats them as if they don’t is suspect, and you should treat them as if they are precious. Without wanting to sound too happy-clappy here, you are precious. Don’t act like you forgot.

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