It is the start of the year. Covid has taken over the world, and you are locked in your home. Seeing your crush, meeting up with your date, making out with your partner, and all physical interactions have come to a halt. What’s the next best thing?
“Hey, wanna video call ;)?”
Sexting has become the new normal during the lockdown, but for most people, there is always a hint of anxiety and guilt attached to it. But it’s 2020, right? People are more accepting and respectful, right?
Your Nudity Is Not the Same as Mine
I talked about how female sexuality is curbed and policed by society. In an Indian household, the male members can roam around in their shorts or shirtless at home or in public. But a woman showing any amount of skin is immediately sexualized.
I remember many instances where women in the family were judged for wearing the saree below their belly button, or when my uncles would ‘advise’ me on why I should not wear sleeveless when I’m in India.
Kids watch the elders reprimand women for their clothing choices. They are never taught to see a woman’s body for what it is, as it is, without unknowingly sexualizing it. These biases seep into their adulthood as they begin to question other women.
This builds the idea that women’s bodies should be protected and that female nudity is not normal.
How We See Female Nudity
Many ‘feminists’, like Julia, believe that a woman baring her skin is giving into the male gaze. Men and women continue to argue that modern-day feminism is just about ‘getting naked and calling it women empowerment’.
But I wonder, “If you cannot detach a woman’s value from her body, isn’t that also playing into the male gaze?”
Female nudity and modesty have long been viewed from a man’s perspective.
We have internalized patriarchy so much that we simply cannot grasp the idea that a woman can be naked for the same reasons a man is. That she can be naked for herself. That her body has nothing to do with her value as a human.
How Our Views on Female Nudity Affect Sexting
Because of our perception of female nudity, we place honour in a woman’s body. This gives rise to image-based sexual abuse or revenge porn. The perpetrator weaponizes the intimate images and the victim’s feelings of shame. The society then blames the victim for ‘making those photos available’.
A few weeks back, Chris Evans accidentally leaked his nude pictures, and the internet collectively supported the actor and ensured his pictures stayed hidden on social media.
While this was an incredibly positive gesture, many pointed out the double standards when it came to female celebrities.
In 2014, a hacker leaked the nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Kirsten Dunst. The actors were criticized, their pictures were rapidly shared, and the incident was dubbed ‘The Fappening’.
In 2019, another hacker got hold of Bella Thorne’s nude pictures and threatened to release them. She filed a police complaint and released the pictures herself. She received immense backlash, and people ridiculed her saying, ‘Sure, fight naked pictures with more naked pictures’.
What everyone left out of the narrative is that by posting the pictures herself, she took control of the situation and her sexual autonomy. It was not about right or wrong, but about power over her body. Whether we agree to it or not, it was her choice, and that was the version she wanted to portray.
How Can We Sext Safely?
Sexting, or at least clicking nude pictures, is here to stay. To make the experience consensual and fun, this is what we could do.
- First, do not pressure someone to sext if they are not into it. (No, your boyfriend/girlfriend does not ‘owe’ you anything to ‘prove their love’!) Do not send unsolicited nude pictures or messages to strangers. If you continue to persist, despite the person saying no, you might end up trending on social media.
@siddharthshettar sorry dude I decided I wasn't going to let you ruin my day. I'm going to own the…
- If you come across or receive a video or photo that is taken without consent, or seems like so, report it and the person who is sharing it, and delete the image.
- If you are sending an image, send it through Instagram or Snapchat that have a one-view feature and lets you know if the receiver has taken a screenshot.
- Sometimes, even if we trust our partners, our data is susceptible to hackers. If you are worried about your images being leaked, make sure your face and any identifiable features are not seen. Don’t forget to delete the images from your gallery and your cloud, or save the images in an encrypted folder.
- In the worst-case scenario, if you are a victim of image-based sexual abuse, know that it was done without your consent and it is not your fault. Screenshot the link for your evidence, and report it immediately. If you report to the police, know that Indian laws protect against leaking and sharing of sexually explicit images. The incident could take a toll on your mental health. Confide in a friend or family member you can trust, and do not hesitate to seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed by your emotions. Remember, this was not your fault.
Though it can seem daunting, sexting can be extremely fun and liberating when done right. Whether we sext or not, we need to understand that everyone is entitled to their bodies, and no one can control how they choose to express themselves. Nudity can be a part of their expression; it may be natural for some, maybe empowering for others.
If it offends you, you are welcome to keep scrolling and look away.