“HAVE you ever sent a nude pic to a lover?” I asked a female friend a couple of weeks ago.
“God no,” she said. “I don’t want my lovers to see my body while we’re doing it, let alone look at it in a photo!” We laughed. “What about you?”
“I’ve done it,” I told truthfully. “It was really fun. I have no regrets. I’d probably do it again.”
I thought about our conversation last night, after Sports Sunday aired a segment about the Richmond leaked photo scandal. As Peter Fitzsimons criticised the AFL’s historical mistreatment of women, radio commentator Emma Freedman had a different take.
“My opinion on it, Peter, is, don’t take your clothes off, to be honest,” Freedman said. “If you’re in a position where you think you might be put in a vulnerable position later on, for me, I wouldn’t take my clothes off.”
Freedman has since been accused of victim shaming, and she vehemently denies it.
“I consider myself a feminist,” she wrote last night on Twitter. “(But) choosing and consenting to take part in a photograph, such as the one that was distributed, is dangerous. I’m not saying it’s wrong, or bad. I’m saying it’s dangerous.”
Now, in a sense, Freedman is right. Taking part in a nude photograph is risky. But you know what is really risky? Sex. Getting naked with another human being, who may be larger and stronger than you. And you know what else is risky? Dating. Relationships. Intimacy. Flirting. Love. Every single aspect of sexual and romantic interaction comes with huge vulnerability, and we engage in it anyway, because it’s also hugely rewarding.
I have received a few dick pics in my time, and I either delete them, or keep them hidden in a locked file, because I am not an arsehole and I wouldn’t dream of sharing them. Even though the men attached to these dicks are now out of my life, I maintain their privacy, because that is part of the unspoken contract of relationships.
Similarly, I trust that the couple of pics I’ve sent over the years are kept safe. I trusted the men to whom I sent them, and I trust them now to do the right thing. And, quite frankly, I trusted these men with a lot more than that. I trusted them with my body during sex. I trusted them with my intimacies and secrets. I trusted them with my feelings.
I understand that Emma Freedman is trying to protect herself, and other women.
As a single woman navigating the minefield of modern dating and relationships, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to protect myself. But all relationships, sexual and otherwise, come with vulnerability. We must embrace vulnerability to live fully, and to open ourselves to possibilities of pleasure and intimacy and fun. And we must trust our fellow humans to do the right thing by us, as we commit to doing the right thing by them.
Sure, sending nude pics to a partner can backfire, but so can any other aspect of human vulnerability. We take a risk every time we get into a car with another person, or agree to a date, or walk down the street alone wearing high heels.
But what’s the alternative? Never have sex with anyone other than a spouse or trusted friend? Never sext? Never exchange pics? Never go out at night alone? Never trust another person to do the right thing? Shun vulnerability to protect ourselves from hurt?
I don’t want to live like that, and I don’t want my daughters to live like that. I don’t want to teach my girls to fear vulnerability. I want, instead, to focus on those who exploit it. I want to teach my son and other men to respect women, to honour our privacy, and keep sexual relationships safe.
We women have the right to live fully as sexual beings, and to participate in sexual experiences and digital technology. We shouldn’t need to monitor and limit ourselves. All we need is for our male partners not to be arseholes.