I had originally intended on continuing the series on accountability today, but something on Twitter last night caught my eye.
There was a conference on The Gospel and Human Sexuality in progress and many people were tweeting live from it. So, the top trending topic was #erlcsummit. I was excited to see it being talked about.
The third trending topic, however, made my heart stop for a minute. Apparently, yesterday was National Send Your Man Some Nudes Day. It is an unofficial holiday to say the least and many women on Twitter were mocking it, posting pictures of their bare arms or a bottle of Naked fruit juice. Still, some of the men were greatly enthused. One even let all the single women know that he was accepting direct messages for those who did not have a man.
It made me think about that day, over ten years ago, when someone asked me for pictures.
And I gave him them.
Sexting is not something new. We can act like it is, but it has been around.
In case you are behind on the lingo, sexting is the act of sending sexually-explicit pictures or content to another person through digital means. It is commonly associated with texting (hence the name) but it can take many forms.
It can be done via e-mail, instant message, apps, webcam, and so on. Step into an online chatroom and you will probably be solicited within the first five minutes. Yesterday, thousands of women were solicited just through a hashtag.
What do you do when that happens? How do you respond?
Well, the easy and obvious answer is to just say ‘no.’ Logically, we can see what is wrong with such a request. We would never just walk out our front door in the buff for the world to see and if some creep on the street came up and said, “Take off your clothes” we would either mace him, or strategically lift our knees and then run. Many of us would not entertain such a request in ‘real life.’
Still, for some of us, as much as it does not logically make sense, we find ourselves entertaining the idea.
I know. I get it. I have been there.
What makes the difference between a real man asking to see your body and a stranger asking for nude pictures?
I feel some of it probably has to do with acceptance. When I was asked for my pictures, I was at a place of trying to end the games. I had been caught with a porn problem, was told it could not be my problem and felt stuck. I felt like the only path left for me was to be an adult actress. Then, I could stop trying to hide this. Those pictures were the first step down that path.
Anonymity probably has a lot to do with it too. The thing with pornography, in any form, is it separates the body from the person. You can send your pictures anonymously to a complete stranger. You can be physically assured without ever having to take emotional risks. If it ends up being a total flop, then no one has to know it was you.
If you find yourself in that place and someone has asked you for pictures, think about these truths:
1. A picture is not ‘just a picture.’
You have heard the saying, “A picture speaks a thousand words.” If you send off a picture of your body to a man who has not committed to you, who may not even know you, what is that picture saying about you? More than that, what doesn’t it say about you. It does not say that you are a hard-working chem major with hopes and dreams of becoming a researcher one day. It reduces you to body parts on a screen, something easy, something for him to get pleasure from without having to invest anything.
2. What happens in Vegas never stays in Vegas.
Every year, it seems, there is at least one heartbreaking story of a young woman whose life was ruined by a picture. She sent her boyfriend a nude shot and he shared it with the football team and they shared it with their girlfriends. She sent it to her man, who opened it on his computer and showed it to all his roommates.
3. You can never take it back.
Understand that once you click send, you sign over all control. My friend, Donny Pauling, is a former porn producer. He still gets e-mails from young women asking him to take down their pictures. He can’t, though. He’s just the photographer. The pictures now belong to different sites and Donny has no control over them. All he can do is stand back and watch another life crumble in front of him. These girls write with gut-wrenching stories- their bosses found the pictures; their fiance called off the wedding.
My own pictures are the biggest regret of my life. Even though I e-mailed the man I sent them to and asked him to delete them, I still have no guarantee he did that. The thought has crossed my mind many times that, one day, those pictures could resurface. I can tell you right now I would be devastated.
If someone asks you to make that decision, to send your body to them for their enjoyment, here is what you do:
Go beyond “no.”
Some people do not take no for an answer. They will pressure, push, and try to justify every reason why you should do what they want. Eventually, you are going to get tired of saying, ‘no’ and possibly make a big mistake. Instead, make a statement with your ‘no.’
Block his e-mail. Block his account. Report him to the administrator. If you’re underage, report him to the local authorities. Block his phone number. Dump him. Get him out of your life.
If he is part of your life (a classmate, or such), then tell someone.
Being solicited is not your fault. We grow up in fear of a victim-shaming church culture. Well, if you hadn’t been on Facebook this wouldn’t have happened! Well, if you hadn’t started talking to him you would not have this problem. You are only responsible for your actions. Not his. He needs to be accountable for his actions and needs to know that your body is off-limits, in any form.
It is a huge trend now for women just to hand over their bodies to the next man who asks. We sell ourselves as sex objects and we sell ourselves short. Do not sell yourself short. Stand up for yourself and for the dignity and beauty of your body.
Save it, don’t sext it.
More Resources on Sexting and Sextortion
Thorn.org – Stop Sextortion Campaign
Porn 2.0 The Sexting Crisis – A Study from the Barna Group
FAQ on Sexting and Sextortion – Connect Safely