One of my coworkers was a cheerleader throughout college, and she went to one of those football-obsessed southern universities on a cheerleading scholarship. She is fond of telling the story about how one of her co-cheerleaders fell from grace after hardcore porn images of her leaked onto the Internet.
I won’t further “embarrass” this girl by mentioning her name here; mostly because I can’t even remember it. But the story basically goes that she had a bad break-up with her boyfriend, he created a fake Facebook account under her name with photos of them having sex where only her face was visible, and since she was such a high-profile student she was expelled or some nonsense like that. Basically, she was swiftly and severally punished for something that most girls her age do. As you could have predicted, the boyfriend was not expelled or even punished at all, as there was no proof that he was the one who took or posted the pictures. Typical.
I don’t think I even need to go into how unfair, disgusting and sex-negative I feel the university’s actions were. I don’t feel I need to go into how much of an unbelievable douchebag he must be for violating her trust like that. This girl’s life was ruined; according to my coworker, she works at Hooters now. Not that Hooters is the epitome of undesirable employment; but had this not happened to her she might be a Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleader by now. Basically seems like the same sort of job to me, but I imagine the latter was more in-line with her dreams.
What I want to talk about is how discouraging society’s response to this sort of situation is. My co-worker tells this story repeatedly and with great joy. The tone in which she relates it is cautionary. “She should have known better than to allow him to take pictures!” “She should have made him delete them immediately!” “How could she let something so trivial destroy her life?”
I cut her some slack, because she just doesn’t know any better. But whenever my coworker tells this story, I ask her if she’s ever allowed someone to take pictures of her while they’re having sex. Her answer is yes. But she’s not working on a career in cheerleading. She only allowed nudes not pictures of sex. She made sure he deleted them right away. She’s different. She’s smart.
I have been asking other women the same question since this started coming up, and the answers are usually the same. It’s interesting to me that there is so much scorn for those who get caught doing the same thing that all of us do. I do feel the phenomena is worse for women, but it affects everyone. We all remember the shame that Anthony Weiner was forced into feeling when his nude photos leaked. We live in a society where many of us (I would go so far as to say the majority even, with technology making it as easy as it is today) participate in some sort of recorded expression of our sexuality. Many people can even admit to having a secretly kinky sex-life with their co-workers or colleagues of various types, but most people still think it’s just fine to judge people if that expression of sexuality becomes public in any way. It’s the modern life dirty little secret: you can do it, but don’t get caught!
So what do I propose the sex-positive among us do to combat this phenomena? I believe that everyone should own their personal expression of sexuality. I don’t mean that no one should ever let someone take nude pictures of them; rather, I think everyone should encourage the photographer to post the nude picture somewhere. I think everyone should take nude pictures and put them on the Internet without shame.
Not everyone is in a position where they can do that, and I do understand that. But the more people do this and remind everyone that it’s no big deal, the less it actually is a big deal. No woman should ever be expelled for her nude picture, and I don’t care what’s happening in that picture. Whether there’s a dick in her or around her or she’s fucking a (consenting) donkey in Tijuana. Or none of those things, just a nice looking picture with some T&A. No one should ever lose their job over it. Most importantly, no one should ever be made fun of behind their back for being sexual somewhere on the Internet. It’s not stupid, it’s not insane, it’s definitely not gross. It is what it is: sexuality. And it’s just never right to shame someone for that.
I’ll get it started. The picture accompanying this post is me. It is an image I own, and that I choose to put on the Internet. An image I chose to share. Yes, it was done by a professional photographer. Yes, I chose it because I look good in it. But that’s the power of owning my sexual image; I get to decide how it is presented. I get to feel whatever I want to about it, and shame is the farthest emotion from what I feel.
Tag, you’re it.