Any woman who has bravely attempted the world of online dating has faced this particular proposition. Somehow being online is an invitation for this kind of thing. But why is that exactly? And how do we deal with it?
As someone who has quite a few salacious images of themselves out there, it can be difficult to set the boundaries. It seems to be a hard concept for a lot of guys to grasp that I might not be interested in sending them nudes before I know them fairly well. It’s especially difficult once they find out I do burlesque. “What’s the big deal?” they ask. If I take my clothes off in public, on a stage, why should I care about sending some random guy a quick pic of my boobs? It’s not like I’m shy about my body. But believe it or not, there is a difference, at least for me.
When I am performing, I am in control of the situation. I’ve decided to do a particular performance, and considerable thought and effort has gone into creating it. There is nudity, but it is also a creative expression, and I like to think that the people in the audience understand that. Same goes for the photographs of my performance that are on various websites and social media platforms. If people simply wanted to see mostly nude girls, they’d go to a strip club, or watch the plethora of porn available on the internet. I might not know everyone in the audience, but we have entered into a relationship of performer and viewers, based on mutual respect. If the audience isn’t being respectful, they are removed. But when it comes to some random guy on the internet, I have absolutely no control over how my images will be used (or misused) once I’ve sent them off. And that’s not something I am comfortable with.
Given all the stories we hear about women having their phones hacked, or exes posting their photos on revenge porn sites, some might say the wise thing to do is to stop taking nude photos of yourself. That if you have those sorts of images, and especially if you send them to other people, you are asking for those pictures to be widely circulated. But that line of thinking is flawed, and dangerously close to victim-blaming. It’s a slippery slope from “Don’t take sexy photos” to “Don’t wear such revealing clothing” to “She deserved it”. And quite frankly, I have every right to take photos of myself naked, and to send them to whomever I please. This doesn’t make me slutty, and it doesn’t make it okay for me to be exploited or shamed. It makes me a woman who loves her body, and who sometimes wants to share those images with people that I love and trust.
Giving someone a personal image takes a huge amount of trust, at least for me. Sure, I have suggestive photos of myself on my phone (lots), and I’ve even sent some to various partners over the years (a few). But those were in instances where I actually knew, trusted, and even loved the person on the receiving end of those photos. Sure, you run the risk that someone you love will break your trust, but I think a lot of what you do in a relationship is putting your faith and trust in someone and hoping that they respect it. But the expectation that a woman should feel okay sending nudes to a stranger she’s only just met on the internet is pretty crazy. And that many men respond with accusations of ‘tease’ or ‘prude’ when she won’t send those photos, is actually pretty disgusting. It’s not cute or playful to constantly badger for nudes; it’s obnoxious, and we shouldn’t have to put up with it.
To me, it comes back to that assumption that the most important thing about a woman is how she looks naked. For some guys, whether they are looking for a wife or a one night stand, their first priority is to make sure she has a body that passes muster. And it feels pretty shitty to be on the receiving end of that. I, and I think most woman, hope to find someone who values my intelligence, my confidence, my humour, and a whole bunch of other things, in addition to how I look naked.
Now I know that this isn’t how every man conducts himself. Even in my own experience I have had some perfectly lovely interactions with men that are respectful and kind, even if they weren’t the one for me. But when the vast majority of messages received are not questions about your hobbies, or what you do for work, but are either one word requests for nudes or lengthy but sexually explicit propositions, it kind of starts to feel like that’s all that is out there.
So how do we handle it? I tend to be fairly opinionated and sassy, so my response is to call guys on their bullshit. I let them know that the messages are not okay, and I explain to them why. I remind them that I am a person, and that to have any real shot at me they need to treat me like one, and not like an object. Yes, it sometimes results in some hateful vitriol being spewed back my way, but I can handle that. At least I’ve done my bit to try and inform and educate the caveman. But maybe that’s not the right option for you, and that’s okay. Maybe all you want to do is discontinue the conversation and block/unmatch the person. Maybe you want to respond with a sassy meme that puts them in their place. Whatever your response, do what feels right for you.
For those of you that perhaps like to respond to these kinds of requests by sending nudes, I am not trying to judge or make you feel bad. If you are a consenting adult, you do you. But I do hope that you will think about why you are doing it. What is your motivation in sending these pictures? Maybe you really don’t mind sending your photos to someone who doesn’t know you, and likely doesn’t care for or respect you. I suspect though, that the reason a lot of women send nudes has nothing to do with enjoying it, but rather it has to do with pressure and the need for validation and acceptance. But please listen to me when I tell you, your worth depends on more than just your naked body. You have more to offer the world than your naked body. You are beautiful and you are worthy of love. And if a potential date doesn’t see or appreciate that, they don’t deserve you. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter why you are on a dating website; whether you are looking for someone to spend your life with or someone to spend a night with, you deserve to be treated like a human being.
So keep taking those sexy photos, and don’t ever feel ashamed for sharing your body. Keep them for yourself, or share them with the world, it’s up to you. But whatever you do, remember that your body is yours and yours alone, and no one should feel entitled to make you feel uncomfortable by asking to see it. You, and your banging bod, deserve more than that.