Sam Holstein

The Many Problems With Nudes

The Many Problems With Nudes

Allow me to open with a disclaimer:

I don’t think the concept of a nude photo itself is ethically a problem. There should be no reason two consenting adults can’t create and share content this way.

My problem with nude photos (and the subject of this article) isn’t the nude photo in theory, but the nude photo in practice.

The nude photo has the potential to be a powerful and enjoyable part of sexuality, but the manner in which the nude photo is used in real life is rarely in the service of free sexuality. In practice, the nude photo props up sexism far more than it does tear it down.

Here are some of the reasons nude photos are so problematic:

Please bear in mind that these are generalizations. Obviously, there will always be outliers. The point of this list is not to discuss every outlier, but to illustrate general trends.

Nudes are only sent by women, not by men.

Have you ever heard of a man sending a nude?

Okay, yes, dick pics exist. But have you ever heard of a woman actually requesting a dick pic? No one asks for them and no one wants them.

Okay, so one time, you met one woman who requested them. ?

My point is, the vast, vast majority of nudes are sent by women at the express request of men.

By now, we know that women are just as lusty and sexual as men are. So, it stands to reason that men and women should be requesting nudes in equal measure. But it’s really only men that request nudes, and women that send them. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

To me, this is one symptom of our culture’s general objectification of women. Women are objects which exist for men’s pleasure, so it’s photos of us that get sent to them, not the other way around.

Men keep libraries of nudes. Women don’t.

I once knew a man who kept every nude he’d ever received, from anyone, in any context, in a private photo album on his phone. Even if they weren’t involved anymore, even if it ended on bad terms, and even if he barely knew the woman involved (or didn’t know her at all), he kept the nudes in his vault.

He was not special. He was a regular fuckboy — in fact, probably one of the nicer ones. Many men on the dating scene right now (if you’re in your mid-twenties, probably many of the men you know) have similar libraries on their phones or computers as well.

That’s creepy.

It’s one thing to have nudes of someone you are currently sleeping with. It’s another to have nudes from a woman you saw for three months three years ago. I highly doubt the subjects of these photos would be okay with them still existing if the men keeping these photos asked them.

Most of the nudes on the internet are not shared with consent.

A man I know (a different man) was part of a Facebook meme group. He had his phone set to download any memes posted in the group to his phone. But this meme group didn’t only share memes; occasionally, the meme group sent to his phone nude photos.

We assume that when someone takes a nude, they intend for only the recipient to view them. For anyone else to view them requires the express permission of the subject. But the subjects of most of the nudes floating around on the internet did not give the recipient permission to share them at all, let alone post them on the internet. They certainly didn’t give consent for their nudes to be shared with a meme group where they were then automatically downloaded onto someone else’s phone.

Side note: If you are part of any online community that shares nudes without the explicit stated consent of the subject, leave that community. If you don't, you're complicit in sexual abuse.

Many women who send nudes are pressured into it.

Just as men will needle and wheedle and whine their way into sex, so too will they do so in order to get nudes. As a result, many of the nudes floating around out there were not sent with enthusiastic consent, but reluctant and anxious consent.

People — this is not okay. Just as you shouldn’t have sex with anything less than enthusiastic consent, you shouldn’t be getting nudes with anything less than enthusiastic consent. (Same goes for sharing them).

Even in cases where a woman sends a nude without being asked, I still wonder how enthusiastic their consent is. Thanks to our objectifying culture, many women feel pressured into seeming “sexy” and “fun” and “open.” They then do things like voluntarily send nudes to men even if they’re not comfortable with it because they don’t want to be labeled as “prudish” or “bitchy.”

Even if nudes seem random and voluntary, they may still be pressured as well. Perhaps the recipient spoke earlier about how he thinks nudes are hot, and he thinks all women should send nudes. That’s a recipe to create an environment of pressure for a woman, even if he never directly asks.

Welive in a culture that is finally letting go of forcing purity on women. This is good. But we are trading it out for an equally dangerous culture in which sexuality is forced on women, and it seems to me the nude photo is being co-opted as a tool by which this is being done. If a woman feels that sending nudes is one step down the road of sexual liberation, far be it from me to tell her not to — but I sincerely doubt this is usually the case.

I think it’s far more likely that most nudes are being sent under the same conditions most women are having sex: technically consensual, but pressured and stressful and something she ends up regretting later.

If you’re a man, please bear these things in mind when you are requesting nudes. (Or maybe just don’t).