I spent some time asking friends, acquaintances, and borderline strangers—those people you get to know online through a friend of a friend’s friend—and asked them to “send tasty noodz.”
When online forums and chat groups first became widely accepted, every parent set the same ground rule for their kids: Don’t talk to strangers who might lure you into sex.
Today, there is a facet of today’s youth culture that flies in the face of the warning. Hell, it’s essentially preferable to talk to someone online first before you meet them in a bar. This is often referred to as the “hookup culture,” and is fueled by dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, and countless others. It’s where that “Netflix and Chill” thing comes from. At times, the Hippies of the 1960s look tame compared to today’s hipsters.
A swipe, a quick message, or one-liner—perhaps a risqué picture. Then, decide on a mutually agreed upon meeting time and location, and just like that, you too can question whether every pubic itch is some sort of STD.
I’m not part of this culture. I’m off the market and quite happy I don’t have to deal with this nonsense firsthand. In fact, most of my friends are not involved in this subculture either, so I don’t even have to deal with it secondhand. I am simply an observer, fascinated by how far our cultural expression of sexuality has come since the 1950s, and—at the risk of sounding like a prude—am fearful for how much further future generations will take it.
My goal was never to convince anyone to send me a nude selfie, but to gauge their reactions and potentially open a conversation about the nature of exchanging nudes. I wanted to get an idea of how many people I knew (or was getting to know very quickly) had actually participated in such exchanges.
As you read the responses, please know that these are direct quotes and any grammatical errors are there on purpose. One response included a person’s name, which was censored with asterisks. For the sake of anonymity, I gave each respondent a number so that you can still follow the thread of their responses. Not everyone answered every question, but you should never pressure anyone to send something they are not comfortable sending.
1: “I have not exchanged nudes with anyone yet.”
2: “I have sent nudes to my significant other (who does not reciprocate), and to anonymous folks.”
3: “No?? Even The David disgusts me.”
5: “Back in the day of shit cell phones and high school peer pressure, yes, I did. Immediate regret and thankfulness for lack of clarity on the camera phone.”
1: “I would rather be asked than just BAM send one”
3: “This is a real Sophie’s Choice for a person inclined to say neither, but I guess I’ll go with ask, because at least it gives an opportunity to opt-out.”
4: “There’s no better ego-inflater than getting one sent to you out of the blue from an S.O. Otherwise it’s just weird. I’d say ask first, as there are so many creeps sending unsolicited pics to Instagram “models” that it’s just… it’s a borderline pandemic.”
5: “For the love of god, wait to be asked, if you’d like to send them. If you’re the one that wants them, keep ya trap shut and just, don’t.”
6: “Probably better to ask. The trend seems to be most women don’t want unsolicited pics. Unsure how this fares from the male perspective.”
1: “If I was gonna use a medium I guess Snapchat so I could feel like I knew if it was saved”
2: “I used Facebook Messenger, Discord, and specific online websites.”
4: “Most of the time regular texts, but Snapchat works too. Hopefully it disappears after the set time, but you’ll get notified if that pic gets saved. Then you have to hope you can really trust that person.”
1: “I feel like if I was sent nudes as a younger man I’d be all about it, but the older I get the more I feel like I don’t really need/want them.”
2: “I have no real opinion on it, but it is fun and good for my self esteem.”
3: “Subtlety is sexy, so sending and receiving nudes is simply not for me. It makes me feel outmoded that society has agreed that this is a titillating way to communicate.”
4: “Big time. I used to be like “this is just what people do now.” Now that I’ve seen some of the harsher realities, news stories, and even revenge sites, I don’t necessarily regret my prior exchanges, but I’m certainly a lot more cautious now. Besides, in person is 1,000x better.”
5: “I think the idea is fine, depending on the situation. IE, a boudoir shoot for a significant other, or a “show off” pic for your close and trusted friends (checkin’ ya reflection n’ tellin’ ya best fraaands…)… but… as a weird dating ritual, I think it’s dumb. Wait to see the real thing in the flesh, man.”
6: “Feelings on such exchanges as a non nudes sharing individual. Idk it’s kind of dumb? What am I going to do with a naked picture of a person. As a married lady, what would I do with a naked picture of **** 😂 you know, just something to accidentally pop up as I’m showing my mum a baby photo or something. Awkwaaard.”
1: “My advice would be don’t just go throwin nudes around willy nilly. I’ve see too many “Pic’s you weren’t supposed to share” threads on forums and am sure some of those people would be mortified to find themselves exposed on a public forum.”
3: “If exchanging nudes with someone makes both parties feel good, then my advice would be to carry on in a way that feels true to yourself. If you feel hot, rock on with your bad self. But don’t forget that, like diamonds, digital photos are forever.”
4: “Just don’t. It’s not worth taking the risk that someone other than the intended recipient is going to see you naked. You can trust someone all day, but if you break up with them before you know they’ve cleared their phone and didn’t make copies, you never know what someone will do in the heat of the moment.”
5: “…just, make sure you trust whoever those go to if you’re gonna. If you wouldn’t fall on the sword for ‘em, then nope.”
6: “Thinking backwards in time, I’m pretty sure past me also thought they were dumb. All risk, very little reward. Involves too much trust if you really think about it. And I don’t want someone else’s nude. What is this need for nudes. Did people always send them? Did people send b&w pictographs? This sounds kind of prudish. But they are kind of vain and just weird. No thanks from me”
The point isn’t to find out which friends I might be able to get naked pictures of or finding a good ramen recipe. The point is that I find myself in a position in which I don’t find myself very often—I’m scared.
I’m debating whether or not to get my 11-year-old step-daughter a cheap smartphone for Christmas. No bells and whistles, but it doesn’t take much to get into a world of trouble, and there is only so much I can protect her from. Despite there being no blood relation, she takes after me in several regards, one of which is our fiendish cleverness. My fear is that she may one day out-fiend me and get herself into trouble. Or she’ll give into peer pressure, boy craziness, or worse… teen drama. *shudder* I know she can make good decisions and she will always have my love and support, but we all make bad decisions once in a while—the consequences of which can reach further into the future than anyone could anticipate. My hope is that I can use the words and experiences of other people to one day steer her in the right direction and put that cleverness to good use: trolling teenage boys who ask for nudes.
As for her younger sister, I’m hoping those karate lessons pay off.