My partner and I spent the last 8 days in Iceland. It was a phenomenal experience and I will be blogging about that in more detail soon. But first, I want to write about something that I reflected on somewhat deeply this week. (Therapy has really got me thinking more deeply about “why” I do things, feel things, fear things, etc.)
In Iceland there were many opportunities to be naked. In fact, nudity isn’t against the law there and the culture seems fairly body positive. Of course, it is fucking cold there so not a lot of people were naked (read: nobody). But, despite the cold weather, I found a few opportunities in waterfalls and hot springs to shed my clothing and hang out in nature au naturel.
During these moments sans clothing I took some selfies and other pictures, just like I would if I had clothing on. Unfortunately, I realize that these pictures can only be shared privately and before sharing something like this I believe in getting full consent from the recipient. Luckily, I have a few friends who have consented to receiving uncensored pictures.
In our society nudity is, unfortunately, tied very strongly to sexuality. It is very difficult for us to separate the two, something that isn’t really a problem in some other cultures. I’m sure some of you are thinking right now, “he sends nudes? Is this some kind of sexual voyeurism/exhibitionism thing?”
No. It isn’t. Voyeurism and exhibitionism is something that I have experience with and could blog about, but that is not what sending nude pics really is. Seriously, it is pretty difficult to find much sexual about a guy taking an awkward selfie in a hot spring. Do you know how unflattering the selfie posture is when sitting an hunched over? It definitely is not sexy.
If I wanted to send or receive pictures of a sexual nature then it would involve getting another level of consent from the recipients/senders. I have no problem with pictures like that but I think it would be immoral to use a person (through sharing or receiving) for sexual gratification without getting the consent of that person. To me, the Harm Principle or Non-Aggression Principle is not a strong enough standard for this interaction.
So, if I’m not getting my rocks off then why do I send pictures and why do I ask my friends if it is cool if they receive them?
Because it feels intimate. I grew up in a household that was body shameful and it feels really good to have friends who accept me for me, and that includes the nude me. It is nice to not need to censor myself or hide part of myself or wonder if I’m offending someone with a picture I send them. I want to celebrate beautiful adventures and moments in my life with my friends without running to put pants on. And I feel really blessed to have a handful of friends who are comfortable with me sharing myself so openly, so raw, so exposed.
That doesn’t mean I ask every close friend of mine if I can send nudes. Some of my friends I know well enough to assume they will be uncomfortable with it (I guess if we are friends and you think I’m wrong then correct me). It also isn’t the case that every friend I’ve asked about this has said yes. Many have said no or stated that they are only comfortable with a certain degree of nudity because of their preferences or the restrictions from their partnership and some have even asked that I include their partners for transparency sake. Basically, the degree of comfort varies between individuals/couples. I always respect those boundaries and am not offended or hurt by someone telling me that they aren’t comfortable with seeing all of me. I totally get it. Not everyone views nudity as representative of a deeper emotional bound.
There is a second reason that I like sharing pics that is a little less personal and more political. I think we should normalize nudity and increase the amount of non-porn, non-movie star, non-model bodies that are seen. I’ve had (and still do) some significant body image issues because I didn’t really know what the average body looks like. There is something freeing about seeing and sharing our nude bodies with friends and acquaintances, it breaks down pre-conceived notions and makes us seem more real.
As important as sending nudes is in my life I never expect pictures in return, though it happens sometimes and it feels nice to be trusted with a similar vulnerability that I share. I’m always honored when someone responds to my sharing with sharing of their own, or unexpectedly asks if they can share a picture of themselves with me because they feel strong or attractive or are experiencing something beautiful sans clothes or would like some attention. With apps like SnapChat it is much easier to share without long-term consequences, to be momentarily exposed and have that disappear after a few seconds. Some of my friends prefer that ephemeral representation while others prefer something more concrete and we exchange via text or email.
I recognize that the way we show love differs from person to person. One of the ways I show that I value a friendship or feel that it is deep is that I open myself up in a visual way. Other people show how valuable our friendship is through time spent together or gifts or phone calls or a thousand other things.
One of the things I find beautiful about the world is how we can all carve out unique ways to show love and ask to be loved. And one of those ways that some of us try to show that we care about someone is to ask, “Are nude pics okay?” and then set up the boundaries from there.
Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a Snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?
Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!
Email address: email@example.com
Questions: pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”