Thursday, September 9, 2010
Naked Pictures on the Internet
There is a stigma surrounding having naked pictures of oneself on the internet. If you are a street rat or a porn star, it doesn't much matter, but if you have a reputation to uphold, being "exposed" online could be the kiss of death. If the people you know offline find out, your reputation could be ruined, your family and friends may have to reevaluate their opinions of you, and you could even lose your job - especially if you work with kids, because people who work with kids aren't allowed to have a private sex life.
But wait, the internet's not private. The internet is global, it reaches everyone everywhere, and the information on it not only flows freely, but never disappears. If it were as simple as not putting the pictures on the internet, it might be less of a problem, but we are living in an increasingly interconnected digital world. Cell phones connect to the internet. Video game systems connect to the internet. Television sets connect to the internet. It's only a matter of time before anything and everything you own that is digital, will have a link to the net. Thus, any digital image runs the risk of being leaked (maybe deliberately, either by yourself or a thief, or maybe accidentally) into the ocean of the web.
Our very concept of privacy is being transformed in this digital world. I'm not here to argue whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, or if there's any way to stop it. I wish merely to explore ways of learning how to deal with it. If you take naked pictures of yourself - for whatever reason - and want to share them with others of a like mind, then should you be held responsible if your boss or your wife or your mother happens to stumble across them? Since when is this behavior a crime, or evidence of a bad personality?
They say that posting photos of this nature on the net is an exercise in "bad judgment". Well, insofar as society has a habit of ostracizing people who do it, it does represent bad judgment. However, that's not the end of the story. Because I don't think the act itself is a bad thing. There are many good reasons to put naked pictures on the internet and share them with others. But of course, our puritan society regards anyone with an open view of sexuality as a public threat. This is ridiculous. The way to eliminate the "problem" of naked pictures on the internet is not to eliminate the pictures, but to eliminate the problem - that is, we should all stop making such a big deal about it.
But since the internet is "forever", people say you should be careful not to reveal things you'd later regret having revealed. You may enjoy posting a naked picture of yourself now, and think it's nothing but a good idea, but how will you feel years down the road? Will you regret it? Better play it safe! This is an argument that is often used when the persons with bad judgment are minors (see: sexting). These people are too young yet to understand the ramifications of their actions, and we ought to protect them from making that mistake, right? Except that I don't see any reason why an 18-year-old would have any better an idea than a 16-year-old how they'll feel about those pictures when they're 40. The only significant difference is that the 18-year-old is not legally owned by his or her parents, and thus is entitled to make his or her own bad decisions.
Yet I still maintain that this is not a bad decision. There are bad consequences that can arise, externally - and you may regret it later - but there are good reasons for it, too. One of the best decisions I made in life was to start taking pictures of myself naked when I was eighteen. I only wish I had started sooner. It makes me happy to look back at those pictures, and nobody else's opinion is going to spoil that. And so far, having shared those pictures with others has not brought me any serious negative consequences. Granted, I accept - to a point which others may not be willing to go - that I may be shunned by society for this, to the extent that it finds out. And I feel that, for me, it's something that's worth fighting for, even if that means making some sacrifices.
But my goal is to encourage a world where people can celebrate the beauty of nudity and eroticism and share it with others without having their lives ruined by puritan busibodies. And in the meantime, the more people who come out of the woodwork and admit that there are naked pictures of themselves on the internet, and that they are not ashamed of it, the less of a foothold the rest of society will have in saying that this is an uncommon and abhorrent practice that "good" citizens (the ones worth hiring and loving and hanging out with) never engage in.
So go ahead, take pictures of yourself naked and put them on the internet for the whole world to see! But don't forget to stand up for yourself when others question your judgment. Do you want to conform, or live free?