By Katherine Marrone
A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally sent my best friend a nude photo of myself.
It was 3 a.m, and I was drunk. I went on Facebook and saw that my best friend from Italy messaged me. We started chatting — she about her time in Germany, me about my finishing up school in Eugene.
I was excited to talk to her — it’d been a while since we’d last spoken — so I decided to send her a photo of myself. I took one of myself, on the couch, giving her a peace sign.
I opened our conversation and clicked on the little camera icon in order to download the photo.
But when I looked through the photos folder on the computer, I couldn’t find it. Instead, I found some photos I’d taken a while back — photos in which I’m standing in front of a mirror, bathroom counter a mess, my hips thrust to the side. Fully naked.
They were photos I’d meant to send to my boyfriend but never got around to doing it. I’d almost forgotten about them. I clicked on one.
Right when I clicked on the photo, it began downloading into our conversation.
I panicked, looking for ways to stop the photo from downloading. But I couldn’t stop it. In four seconds, there was the bathroom mirror and the dirty counter and my nakedness.
You always wonder whether this could happen to you — whether a nude photo can get in the wrong hands. What if, we ask ourselves, as we take off our shirts and spread our legs: What if someone else got a hold of this?
And then it does happen and you almost can’t believe it. I was alone, but I laughed aloud and took my face in my hands. I immediately apologized and told her what I really meant to send her — the photo of myself, fully clothed. And that I’d wanted to surprise her. She reacted in the most perfect way imaginable — laughing and joking and telling me I was “bellissima,” that I was beautiful. But I was still embarrassed. Extremely so.
And judging from friends’ reactions over the next few days, they would have been too.
And I wondered where all that anxiety came from. After all, I’m comfortable with my body. I’m comfortable with my sexuality. I write about sex-positivity and freeing the nipple. It was my friend, after all. Not a stranger.
But even if it weren’t a friend: so what? Why should my naked body, a nakedness we all have, be so shameful? Besides, it’s not like people don’t take nude photos. Many of us do. So why all the embarrassment?
Does this anxiety have to do with the way we attach shame to nude bodies? And is that shame inherent in human nature, or is it something we’ve constructed — a construct borne of a sex-negative culture? I’m almost sure those who like going to nudist colonies or beaches would tell you that we live in culture in which nude bodies are, almost always, taboo. Dirty. Somehow unnatural. Somehow always remarkable. Somehow always tied with sex.
If we didn’t associate this shame, this control, over bodies — especially female bodies — would celebrity nude leaks even happen? Would revenge porn? Would, after her nude photos were leaked, Jennifer Lawrence worry how “this would affect my career?”
Would I have been so embarrassed that night, a couple weeks ago, when I sent my best friend a nude photo of myself?
Maybe. But maybe not.