I get that boobs are pretty popular. As far as ‘popularity on the internet’ is concerned, they come second only to cats. Were it possible to combine the two, by placing a tiny kitten in my cleavage, I’d have done so.
Over the course of thirty years on this planet, I have sent fewer than ten naked or vaguely indecent pictures of myself to loved ones. Of those, only one of them included nipples, and one included cunt. I have no regrets about sending most of them – they’re relatively basic, utterly anonymous shots like the one I’ve posted here, and like the others that are scattered sporadically across this site. In short: should any of these turn up on the front page of the Daily Mail I won’t be spitting coffee over my laptop and begging for them to be burned.
But there are a couple I regret.
Sexy pictures I regret
The one I texted to a guy I had no intention of sleeping with again. I was drunk, and in the mood for someone relatively remote and distant. Some flirting, general horny chit chat, an early night with some of his personally-tailored smut and my own right hand. I got the smut, but only in exchange for a blurry, oddly-angled close-up of my fingers deep in my own vagina. The regrets come partly because I’m not 100% sure the guy will have kept it to himself, but mainly because I don’t even wank like that. It’s an inaccurate depiction of my own masturbatory habits, and thus I suspect one of the least sexy pictures I’ve ever taken.
The second one I regret wasn’t taken by me. Halfway through a particularly energetic fuck, in a position the guy clearly loved, he asked if he could take a picture of me. I said yes, and he did. Looking at the picture afterwards gave me a genuine jolt of delight. As one who generally thinks my body is wrong in all the classic ways, this pic surprised me by being a quickfire, candid, naked shot in which I actually felt I looked hot. The morning after I was walking on air: delighted at the slightly sore feeling of satisfaction after a delicious, no-strings fuck, and hugging myself in the knowledge that maybe I was sexy after all. Four hours later I found out that he hadn’t just shown me the photo – he’d sent it to half the people in his address book.
What am I ashamed of?
When people talk about naked pictures, one of the most common go-to emotions is shame - body shame, slut shame, the shame that comes from feeling like a dirty little fucker who should have known better than to let someone see your private bits. I think I’m so used to hearing about shame when naked pictures or videos are circulated that I find it hard to calculate what my actual feelings are towards the incidents above.
Sure, I’m angry – I’m angry because trust has been broken, or might be broken, or because the significance of my rare pic-giving hasn’t been fully appreciated. There’s perhaps a pinch of self-loathing in there too. Not only am I not the greatest fan of my own body, but smartphones are not the most flattering tool with which to show it off. I’ve often been tempted to send something, but given up after spending half an hour contorting in front of a mirror to make sure that my tits are in shot, my face isn’t, and my knickers sit just right without showing a bikini line shadow or an uncomfortable bulge of hip fat.
Sexy pictures aren’t shameful
I’m cool with feeling these things. They are, after all, my own emotions and mistakes and neuroses. Shame, though? I don’t want to own any shame. Shame isn’t the product of the photo itself, it’s the product of the reaction. Shame – like guilt – is one of those emotions that isn’t always mine. There are many times I’ve beaten myself up about a perceived slight, or an insensitive comment, and wanted to beg forgiveness then be swallowed by the ground forever. There are many more times when I’ve felt I was in the right – that my ‘insensitive’ comment was actually a fair and frank assessment of whether someone or other was an arsehole – but I feel guilt anyway because other people are telling me to. The first kind of guilt I own, because I actually feel it, whether it’s come about by my own navel-gazing or someone else highlighting a genuine fault. The second kind is one which is applied to me even though it baffles me.
Shame is the same. I can be ashamed of that time I got so drunk I could barely walk, and phoned a close friend to tell him I was being chased home by pizza delivery guys (I wasn’t, obviously – they have more important things to do), and although I still blush to think of it, I don’t feel any worse than I realistically deserve to.
Picture shame, though? That’s applied – projected onto us. It comes about because we’re used to people reacting with horror to the idea that we have body parts and desires and (yay technology!) the ability to send them to each other over the internet. The shame applied to sexy pictures isn’t one that comes from my own beliefs about what’s right, it comes from other people’s reactions.
So when people say “what would your mother think?” or “aren’t you worried your future children will be horrified by your sex blog?” what they’re actually saying is “don’t you feel ashamed?” Perhaps my answer should be “I might, but only if you make me.”