Editor’s Note: This month, that is September 2019, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Positive Sexual Experiences, where we invite various articles narrating healthy, consensual and pleasurable sex or sexual experiences.If you’d like to share your story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Jubi
It was three years back from now when I was first asked for a nude. I was on this app called Whisper. It was platform where you could post anonymous confessions, you would get likes and comments, and one could even message the person who posted it. The novelty of the app—you were anonymous. You can have any profile name, you could change it within minutes, no profile picture and you can keep your location on or off. Imagine that, the freedom to become someone new, within a click.
I had talked to many people over their posts, but I never knew about sharing nudes. So there he was, an American guy (most were Westerners) talking to me. He was a year older. As we started talking and flirting a bit, he asked me: Do you think you can send me a nude?
I was just a little shocked at his question. In fact, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. People send each other naked pictures? What if they misuse it? Someone could blackmail me, or morph it into something else? Notice how the first thing I was concerned about was my security, what will people think? Well, that happens when you’re a woman in a country which conditions you into thinking that your image in the society precedes your own desires.
As shocking as his request for a nude was, what confused me even more was why would he want nudes from me, a woman who hated her body? Would he appreciate these saggy breasts with their stretch marks? My ever growing thighs and my belly which has body hair on it, wouldn’t he think I’m ugly?
But see, that’s the thing; he didn’t know I was all that, he didn’t even know what I looked like. So I convinced myself that I will do this. I went to the bathroom, untied my hair, and unhooked my bra, switched on the front camera of my phone and under the yellow light, I clicked a picture. I didn’t capture my face (first rule of clicking nudes), just from the neck down.
When I looked at the picture, my initial reaction was wonder and then joy.
I didn’t know that my naked body could look this beautiful, that my breasts which have always been noticeable if you look at me could look amazing without bras. I didn’t select a filter, I didn’t change anything about that picture, I didn’t even know that there might be apps which could make me look fair or even thin. I doubt whether I would use them. But in that moment, I just kept staring at it, clicked two more and sent it to him.
His reaction? He basically worshipped me; he thanked me for sending it to him, thinking he was worthy enough for my nudes. I lapped up all the compliments because for a woman like me, who gets judged with clothes on, this was the first time I was complimented for not wearing them. Somehow my size did not matter to me or him, and that thought freed me.
I know how this can look otherwise too, that women like me who might have low self esteem and body issues, now take naked pictures of ourselves to get the validation we want or even need from men/others? Trust me, I thought of this too. I was/am a raging feminist and this was my guilty secret. It was only over time that I learned that I am one who clicks my picture, in all of its chaos and curves; I’m the one in control of the camera. My body which makes people uncomfortable to look at, so much so that suddenly they feel the need to talk about ‘health’ when they see me, even when I’m perfectly fine. Isn’t taking control empowering then?
But when I look at that picture of my naked body, I see a woman who took control of how her body should be represented. How many of us have that agency?
Our bodies which have been sexualized for so long, what happens when we are the ones to do it? For me, my journey to loving my body began. Today, I can proudly say that I have shared my nudes with countless men and women, received back too (second rule of clicking nudes).
Did I worry about being blackmailed? No, it did not matter to me. Being in that moment, where I look at myself from my camera took up more space in my mind. I took that chance and I told myself that, when at least three of my nudes are already on the internet (with my consent) I don’t think I need to worry about anything then.
I went on to becoming a sex blogger, one who would record her sexual encounters while being a virgin. I clicked nudes and posted them, I wrote erotic poems and a short story too. I talked to many people who were fellow bloggers, mostly who were white but in that community I wanted to see other brown women talking about their bodies despite the shaming we go through. Later on, I had to shut down my site because I could not devote more time to it as I had to prepare for entrances. I have promised myself that I will come back to it once I’m financially secure to host my own site, one which has relaxed rules about adult content.
Last year, I read Richa Kaul Padte’s book Cyber Sexy and I was amazed when I read about the women who were like me, who clicked nudes without feeling embarrassed or guilty. The book also gave me a new platform for my nudes. It was Reddit; turns out there are many subreddits where you can post nudes and have a conversation with people around it, all consensual and safe. There is a famous one call r/GoneWild (NSFW) where mostly white people post their nudes and guess what, there’s also an r/IndiansGoneWild (NSFW). I was pretty late to this party but I joined in. Initially you post your nudes, you get upvotes and comments/messages (many) and then the moderator asks you to verify your account. There are rules on how you do it and I got verified.
It was thrilling to see so many men appreciate my nudes. It felt like I finally got the validation I wanted and I enjoyed every bit of it. Trust me, I was also questioning myself too, I told myself, “See this is how your conditioning is successful because you are seeking a man’s validation“. That was one part of me.
Another part of me looked at my pictures with appreciation. I think I rebuilt my relationship with my body because of them. Every picture I clicked, I smiled looking at them, like, there it is, my body, photographed, by me. I have clicked pictures of almost all parts of my body but mostly my breasts because as much as I did not love them during their growth spurt, I was fascinated by them. I cannot wear tops or dresses which show my cleavage in public but in the online world, I have countless pictures of them. It’s interesting how we can be judgmental of things in the offline world but in the online one, we are mesmerized by them and that is the freedom that forums like these give.
No part of me felt ashamed of clicking even one picture and fortunately no one misbehaved or made me uncomfortable about it. In subreddits such as these, there is a strict policy about how to behave with ones who post, moderators often emphasize that we need to report people who will ask you to sell your pictures or harass you. Another important thing when it comes to posting nudes is to never disclose any personal information, for example, even your tattoos because there are cases of doxing, so one has to be careful.
But my most proud moment was to participate in a Photofest hosted by Molly’s Daily Kiss in the month of February each year. Each day we had to click a picture and write a line about it too.
28 pictures of me.
That’s a whole lot of self love people.
Jubi is an English Literature student; she is interested in the matters of feminism, gender, desire and sexuality. When she isn’t prepping her research proposal, she reads books, consumes Netflix without the chill and rants a lot on Instagram. You can find her on her Instagram and Twitter.
Featured Image Source: Georgia OKeeffe
This article was originally published in Feminism in India.