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[WARNING — There is a thong-sheathed butt photo towards the bottom of this article. It may be NSFW, depending on how visible your computer screen is to your coworkers or how comfortable you are with naked butts in a work environment.]
My best friend and I do this weird thing where we swap nudes. We're both in happy, heterosexual marriages and have never experimented with lesbianism with each other, but one day, Liz sent a picture of a new tattoo she got between her tits and I just sent one of my plain ones back for jokes. It kind of spiraled from there.
It feels good to be in your thirties to get positive feedback on your body from other women, especially in light of the gross and pervasive idea that life for women is over after their twenties. Men are appreciative, for the most part; the bulk of age and body-shaming generally seems to come from women against women. Net-net, it wasn't difficult to round up some awesome, smart, beautiful members from our inner circle of girlfriends to start sharing racy selfies. The fire was fueled as we on-boarded ourselves to Snapchat, which provides just enough false sense of security to convince yourself that the content is temporary.
I decided to take it to the next level and quietly publicize this activity by starting an account on Instagram with censored nudes (of myself only) under alias. They weren't great, I'm not a photographer, but I tossed in some sassy hash tags and somehow the likes started rolling in.
I know there are apps like Uplust that are specifically designed for kicks like this, but the exciting part of this project, for me, was about being so exposed on a tool that everyone I know has access to.
I went from posting twice a week on my personal IG to maybe twice a month, opting to use this sexy account fulltime instead, and followed hundreds of accounts in the same seedy vein. If someone liked a post, I would deep-creep their profile and like and/or comment on four of their sexiest. I researched Arabic hashtags to get around Instagram's stringent pornography monitoring (even though nothing I posted was nearly as graphic as what's being hidden behind those hashtags). I became a woman obsessed, as I do when a new project engulfs my life.
(For example, one time, I became obsessed with terrariums and I'm pretty sure I bought every single one of those alien-looking air plants in town before realizing that my lack of plant-care knowledge extended to plants that require only air and a slight monthly mist. I'd spent like... five hundred dollars. Anyways, I'm not comparing air plants to Instagram-safe nudes, but you get the picture.)
I couldn't post fast enough. Between my demanding job and personal life, there was never enough time to sustain regular posting (taking and editing sultry selfies for the public eye is harder than it looks!), so I enlisted Liz and a few other friends to help. It was fun for a little while, for the same reasons it was fun to share the nudes among ourselves, but this time the positive reinforcement was coming from strangers.
And then I realized: holy shit I am a fucking CREEP, though.
I was convincing women, my trusted friends no less, to send me naked pictures of themselves for the gratification of likes and follows — that's not cool! And for crying out loud, what if some underage kid decided to send nude selfies to me for a shout out? This is not an uncommon practice for this type of account (i.e., users direct messaging images for shout outs) and Instagram doesn't monitor DM content. There are so many accounts like this (and far, far worse) floating around for hundreds of millions of users.
Around this time of realization, some random internet man sent me a direct message asking if I would sit on his face after a post of my friend's butt, which was ultimately the final straw for me. I was already feeling super pervy, and the level of casualness in the message freaked me out. He didn't even have a private account; a quick peek through the guy's Instagram account revealed his face, name, and a whole life of normalcy that didn't look like it included internet people sitting on his face.
When I shared it with my girlfriends, some of the feedback was along the lines of "what were you expecting?" Something I started as a fun, sexy project was suddenly felt serious and rapey. Some of my friends joked about leaving hilarious direct messages back, which seemed too light and airy of a response to something I felt gross about. Ultimately, I chose not to respond at all; I was already weirded out enough with my personal moral dilemma to get into clever quip mode with a stranger.
I've since shut down the account. In the few months I ran it, I didn't ever post anything from strangers or tag anyone (including myself); no randoms ever sent me pictures to post (thankfully, in hindsight), and given my posts ran on the safe side of Instagram's nudity policy, no one ever narc'd on me.
I wish I had some positive messaging about the dangers of sharing nudes on social apps to wrap this all up, but in truth, my girls and I are still all snapchatting our naked asses on the regular and feel zero shame in the game. It's kind of hilarious to have a raccoon mask filter over your face, rubbing its hands and laughing maniacally while your body is splashing around in a bathtub.