By Jilly Mcbane
This is one of eight posts in the center’s You Might Be Causing Harm If . . . campaign.
“But I only showed it to one friend . . . ”
Even if it didn’t end up getting around to other people you know that very act may be more harmful than you realize. We should never share the nudes we receive from someone without that person’s permission. This post isn’t anti-sexting or anti-nudes; it’s addressing how we can do so in a way that doesn’t have the potential to hurt others.
If someone trusted you enough to send you their nudes, wouldn’t you want to live up to that trust by keeping them private? In the same way that we have a responsibility to be careful about who we share intimate photos with, we also have a responsibility to protect the consensual photos we receive. When we’re with our friends, we tend to think “what’s mine is yours,” a seemingly harmless mentality that can be used to rationalize showing our friends these types of pictures.
What we don’t realize, though, is that these pictures aren’t ours to show off in the first place. If that person wanted all your friends to see the same photos they sent you, then they would’ve sent them their way directly. Betraying their trust takes away their autonomy and ends up objectifying that person, which means that their value is reduced to their body…the same body that you are giving everyone you share the photos with access to. What’s even worse is when the person in photos you share is praised, criticized or shamed by others. That doesn’t sound right, does it?
People can have a lot of different reactions when they receive nudes (turned on, excited, maybe even turned off, etc.) and all those feelings are valid. But assuming it’s okay to share them — or even that others want to see nudes — disrespects the privacy of the person who originally sent them.
As sharing nudes becomes commonplace, we should consider the harm our actions may cause — to the individual, the relationship and even the friends we show images to. It’s hard, but it takes all of us to change a culture that shows off nudes like they’re sports trophies.
Note: Learn more about the You Might Be Causing Harm If . . . campaign and other topics covered at this link.
Jilly Mcbane (she/her/hers) is pursuing a degree in psychology and is a member of Greek Life at the University of Utah. She is a student staff member of the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention Research & Education.