UNPOPULAR OPINION: I Don't Care If Internet Skeeves Jerk Off To My Picture

The reality of the internet is that people are going to steal your photos to jizz all over them.

Aug 14, 2013 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

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Because a permanent account is forever. Oh, icons.

One of the first pictures I posted on the internet of myself was a total Myspace angle shot of me wearing an ankle-length black satin skirt, an oversized black satin long-sleeved button up shirt, and enormous Rapunzel-ish blond and red ponyfalls. I used it for my first Livejournal icon that wasn't some kind of cartoon or picture of a squid. 

As it got easier for me to take digital photos (read: as I knew more people with digital cameras up until I got one of my own), I took a lot of pictures of myself and turned a bunch of them into icons. Sure, I had my Star Trek Christmas-themed ones for the holidays, but having my face next to my words usually made the most sense to me.

In fact, taking photos of myself and then posting them online was one of the biggest steps I took toward accepting my body and getting over my life-long sense of self-loathing when it came to how I looked. Several other xoJaners have noted this happening to them, since we all take our own photos and illustrate our own articles here. I think it's because we get used to seeing ourselves -- but maybe also because putting ourselves out there just takes practice.

In any event, I've been putting my image on the internet for a long time. And in that time, people have done a lot of things with my photos, from using them for thinspo to putting them up on fetish forums. While this sort of nonconsensual usage has made some folks uncomfortable enough to stop posting, it's never actually bothered me.

I do want to say explicitly that I don't think anyone is obligated to continue posting photos if they're skeeved out. You don't bring this sort of thing on yourself just by posting pictures -- that kind of argument always leaves me cold because it's just another game of victim blaming. I don't blame people who opt out of posting their images because you have to take care of yourself.

At the same time, while I know my photos have shown up in a variety of unsavory places (often because people have emailed me to that effect), I can't actually bring myself to care.

While my image is definitely an image of me, it is not ME.

Maybe that's unhealthy compartmentalization -- but when some dude messages me on Facebook to tell me how hot he thinks I am and what he's going to do with my picture, that's about him; it's got nothing to do with me. I don't have to think twice about closing that message out and blocking that dude. When an obvious fetishist marks me as a contact on Flickr, I don't hesitate to delete the notification and go on about my life.

It's not that what I don't know doesn't hurt me -- people tell me about these things so I do, in fact, know. It's that it has zero practical impact on my life. 

The reality of the internet is that people are going to steal your photos to jizz all over them. And then they are going to tell you about it because that is how they exercise control over you. 

And if that's how random dudes (because it's always dudes -- 100% of the time) are reduced to trying to exert their power over me, man, I have to laugh at that. Because, sure, it's gross that some asshole is using my image, but if that's the best he can do, well.

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Any time a picture with cleavage is posted to Tumblr, I'm aware of where it might wind up.

I started posting images of myself so that I would be visible, so that I would be real. I continued posting images because the visibility of fat people matters -- there's this idea that the things we see around us determine what we consider "normal" and that one way to normalize things is to increase the visibility of them.

That's why media representation is so important, for example (for people of color, for people with disability, for people with varying body types and sizes, and so on). My body isn't a big deal when you've seen bodies like mine in everyday contexts.

Yeah, I know, that sounds like an ambitious project. And, you know, maybe it really is just that I'm vain (that pic has shown up in some places). But when I hear from people -- as I think all size acceptance bloggers do -- about how much it has meant to someone to SEE a body like theirs, I can't help but think we're making some progress.

And in the face of that, seriously, why should it matter to me that there are creepy dudes being creepy? They have literally no impact on my life. And the only thing they could make me do is stop posting pictures -- in which case their creepiness wins out and there's fewer representations of bodies out there.

To put it simply: Fuck that. Fuck them. There's plenty of situations I can't control -- interviews where people judge me by my body size before we've said a word, dating scenarios where dude are embarrassed to introduce their fat girlfriend to their dude friends, doctor's visits where allergies are blamed on fatness. But I can control this one -- I can delete whatever message I've received, be it "sexy" or deathwish and continue posting my image where other people can see it.

I'm not going to be invisible or scared because someone nonconsensually sexualizes me. I totally get being creeped out -- except for how I don't even think it's that creepy. Like, for it to be creepy, there'd have to be some menace there. And these guys can't actually do anything to me. That is such an incredible privilege and I have to recognize it. Internet skeeves are low on my scale of harassment compared to rape threats and death threats plenty of people online are receiving, too. 

Don't get me wrong -- dudes shouldn't be harassing women. Period. But just like I'm not going to hide in my house after dark in the hopes of preventing my own rape (never mind that the vast majority of rapes aren't stranger rapes in a dark alley somewhere), I'm not going to curtail what I'm willing to post. The guys who email are the problem, not my picture of me wearing a BreastNest or eating a hot dog or whatever.

People have to take care of themselves; the Internet, as Ed so often says, doesn't love you so much as it just wants your money. It's not a safe space. And if you ever feel in danger, I fully support doing what it takes to make you feel safe. 

And in the meantime, I'll still be here, posting my pictures.