I stopped sending nudes to men and started exchanging them with friends instead. Like most decisions that prioritize supportive female friendships over fleeting sex arrangements, it's been great.
The author and her supportive friend.
I open Snapchat and my friend is naked on the toilet, a beer in the background. She sent a selfie with the caption, "pooping," and I'm delighted she thought of me. "Happy for u," I type back. A few weeks later, I'm traipsing about a hotel room, wearing a robe that costs more than the retail value of all my jeans combined. I open the robe, flashing the full-length mirror, and snap selfies, putting one foot on a nearby chair and tilting my head, trying to find my light. I send the one I deem hottest to a few of my best friends. For a moment, I lament that I am single, that there's no man in my phone who deserves to see me naked. But then, for a much longer moment, I am overcome with a warm, cozy feeling of satisfaction and peace: I got to share my bod—which, to be clear, bums me out most of the time—with the people I love most.
While I've sent nudes to people I've dated, and in doing so figured out my most flattering (i.e. deceptive) angles, the best way to arch my back, the sneakiest way to round out my ass by way of phone angle, it's the mundane nudes I send to friends—some hot and some actually repulsive—that fill me with more delight than a sexting swap ever could, because to be real here, I'm not trying to see images of dicks. I'm just not. When I send nudes to my female friends, in explicitly platonic contexts and with consent, I'm celebrating my body with people who will celebrate it with me and—again—not interpret my feeling-myself moment as a dick ask. (To be clear, there is a time and a place for a well-timed dick pic, but so often their sexual interpretations of my nakedness get kind of boring—the same dicks from same angles, same phoned-in sexts—while the love and encouragement I receive from friends is anything but. (A male also friend told me, "My thinking is that no one is really super excited to see my dick," and most of the time, I agree.)
So why have nudes become so desexualized for me? I love to sext—and I'm a cross-platform, multimedia sexter—but for me, the written word is hotter, more sexually charged than a context-less organ image. "I haven't sent a nude in like four years," a friend told me. "I now opt more for sexually explicit text messages—less risk and more reward honestly. I have never gotten off on a dude's dick pic before, but I have gotten off on what a guy has written to me."
When you're sending sexy photos of yourself in the dead pigeon of a year that is 2017, trust is paramount, which is why the friendship nude is such a safe space to me; I've always trusted friends more than romantic partners. And over the past two months, my nudes have exclusively gone to friends, as I've made a concerted effort to avoid dating. (I'm busy! I want to get into plants! I don't stretch enough!) This means I'm not having sex, and I haven't for a while. And just as I've found other ways to take care of myself sexually, I've discovered other outlets for my naked just-woke-up-and-skin-looks-dewy photos and boobs-popped-out-of-my-bathing-suit-in-a-cute-way photos: my motherfucking besties. They cheer me on, as I do them when they send me theirs. Sex blogger Kate Sloan of Girly Juice told me that she sends her friends nudes for two reasons: "To be like, 'Should I send [person I'm dating/banging] this picture?' or 'LOOK HOW GOOD MY [butt/chest/mouth] LOOKS!!!'" A gay man, who shares nude photos with his gay male friends, told me, "We know each other very well and have a solid, shared sense of boundaries. We also really like genitals." Another woman explained: "Because it's fun! And my friends are hot."
I send my friends nudes as if to say, "Hey, look at my body, it's here, and it exists, and it's sexy— even when it hasn't had sex in forever and probably won't for forever longer, but that's fine, it's fine, I'm fine, ok? *nervous humming*"
When I start dating again, in whatever kooky version of the future wherein men stop being boring and rude to me, I'm sure as hell going to send nudes, because it's fun, and I'm not scared of the cloud—despite having seen at least 247 trailers for the 2014 romp Sex Tape, the very premise of which is the cloud's unreliability. Most of the people I spoke with for this story, in fact, said they didn't send nudes for fear of the photos getting out. One woman told me she doesn't even send them to her husband because "he's an idiot and would end up putting it on shared cloud with his mom."
Revenge porn is serious and horrifying, too, and it breaks my heart that many women I spoke with don't take nude photos of themselves at all, for fear of them getting into the wrong, vindictive hands. Our bodies are ours, and they are no less ours when we send photos of them to the people we love or even just like enough. Everyone should feel as comfortable sending nudes as my friend does sending them to me when she's pooping. I'm sad that's not the world we live in.
An old ex-boyfriend (who I hope doesn't interpret this shout-out as encouragement to contact me) had a password-protected file on his computer with naked photos of me that I'd sent him. When we were dating, I made him promise that he'd delete the file the second we broke up. When I tell men about that now, they say, "He 100 percent didn't delete the file," and if that's true, which I think it might be, I like to picture his face after jacking off to the photos, morose and remorseful about how badly he messed up, and I feel that's punishment enough for breaking his promise.
This is all just to say that I'm never going to run for president or try to be CEO of anything. I don't even have a nice belt! Better to skirt the conflict entirely and bask in the hotness of friends, exchanging nudes to lift each other up and pass time on the toilet or in expensive robes. That is real love.