Episode 14: A Quickie: Why I Post Naked Photos on the Internet
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been posting some pretty risque photos for most of the year. One of them recently got removed (again!), and it’s got me thinking all over again about why I do this.
Why do I post such vulnerable, racy, erotic photos on Instagram? Why exactly do I take nude selfies?
I think to someone on the outside looking in, it could be perceived as me trying to get attention or titillate others. And I get that. I used to think this too whenever I saw other women posting the same kind of pictures.
But I can’t speak to their reasons why. I can only speak to my own.
The answer to that question—“Why do I post nude pictures on the internet?”—is really, really layered for me. There’s not one particular reason.
But what I will say is that one of the main reasons I take and post nude selfies comes from a very simple place: Self-love.
In this episode of the Sexually Liberated Woman podcast, I chat candidly about. . .
/ How my naked selfies have helped me find both a sense of body appreciation and erotic power. (Also, how these pictures have helped me repair some really broken ideas about “sexiness”.)
/ But first. . . what made me start taking these photos in the first place (spoiler: it’s because I didn’t feel like a true erotic woman).
/ What’s shifted for the positive since I’ve taken these nude selfies—even in spite of the negativity, like getting my photos flagged on Instagram.
/ And. . . something I really need your input on (stick around to the end!).
“It’s not about titillation. It’s not about exploitation. Taking nude selfies and posting them on the internet has been a really powerful practice of radical self-love and sexual acceptance.”
Or. . . if you’d rather read this, continue below.
I grew into my sexual womanhood with the understanding that my sexuality was for a man only—specifically the man that I call my lover, but preferably my husband.
And this was only reinforced by every music video I watched, by every CosmoGirl article I read, by every boy-crazy conversation I had with my friends.
I never heard any talk about a sexual expression that was independent from the male gaze. I never really felt like my sexuality belonged to me. And because of this, sex (and my sexuality) often felt performative, like something I did only for the pleasure and enjoyment of the boys I was chasing.
As I became a woman, my sexual identity wasn’t ever validated outside of the context of sex. It wasn’t celebrated or acknowledged or really honored. As far as I could tell, I was only a sexual being when I was in the act of sex with a man, and I was only desirable when that man said so.
Obviously, the entire concept of this is really, really dangerous and completely false, but back then this felt like the way sexuality worked. Men are the sexual ones. Women are only sexual when a man activates that sexuality within them. Or so I thought.
So for me, it seemed like the only way for me to be able to safely express my sexuality as a woman was to be in some kind of relationship with a man. That way, my sexuality would have a home, a place to be seen and expressed. In this home, I would be a true sexual woman and my sexuality would finally have purpose.
And that’s exactly what happened in all of my relationships, including the one I got into with my husband. My sexual beingness really came into form when I got married—which I have to say isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But I was still coming at it from this unhealthy notion that I am not a sexual being on my own, that my sexuality isn’t “real” unless it’s being praised or gazed upon by a man.
And this idea suited me just fine. But over the last year, I’ve started to see how harmful this narrative is and how it’s been holding me back from being the sexually liberated woman I want to be. One thing I noticed was that outside the context of sex, I didn’t think about myself as a sexual being.
Like, sometimes I would look in the mirror after showering and wonder what it was about me and my body that would be seen as erotic. All I saw was that I wasn’t thick enough, that my tits weren’t big enough, that my pubic hair wasn’t trimmed perfectly enough.
Outside of sex, I felt clunky and girlish in my body—not at all sexy.
I remember talking to Jonathan about this once and I asked him what exactly it was about me that made me sexy to him. He listed off a bunch of things—the curve of my breasts, the fullness of my lips, the golden-bronze of my skin. And after listening to him describe me and my body in this way, I heard myself saying, “I wish I could see myself through your eyes.”
Because if I could see myself and my sexiness through his gaze, maybe it would be easier for me to own and wield my erotic power. Maybe I would find the confidence I needed to fully inhabit my sexual body—both in and out of the bedroom. Maybe I would finally stop second-guessing myself as a sexual woman.
I wanted to take my erotic power back, because for so long I had been giving it away to the gazes of men, looking to them to affirm my sexuality. I wanted to believe, to know it in my bones, that I am a sexual being regardless of whether my husband vouched for that or not. I wanted to find a sense of sexual agency that stayed with me no matter when I had sex last or with who.
And that’s why I began sexting myself.
So, if you’re not familiar with the idea of sexting, sexting is when someone sends sexy photos of themselves via text to someone they’re dating.
I essentially wanted to do that but instead of having those photos be taken for and sent to my lover, I wanted to take them for me. For my gaze. For my pleasure. For my affirmation. To see if I could maybe see myself in the same way my husband sees me.
I’ve used self-portraiture as a way of finding radical self-love and acceptance before. One of my new year’s resolutions last year was to take more selfies as a way to take up space and stop shrinking myself. And surprisingly it worked. The smiling photos I took of myself activated a self-celebration and confidence that encouraged me to stand taller, that reminded me that I deserve to be here, that made me feel more worthy and radiant.
So knowing that it had worked before, I took the same idea and gave it a sensual twist. With these kinds of selfies, I would be highlighting my sexuality, hopefully toward awareness and acceptance of my erotic nature.
One of my favorite quotes is “You can’t be what you can’t see” and I find that to be so true. I can’t be a sexually liberated woman unless I see myself as a sexually liberated woman.
Sexy self-portraiture has allowed me to envision and realize myself as a sexual being.
It’s become a way for me to take up space with my sexuality as an unapologetically erotic woman. It’s become a vehicle for subverting the male gaze and other oppressive forces that have kept me small in my sexuality. It’s become a modality for deep sexual healing.
By taking nude selfies, I am owning and unshaming my erotic nature in a society that is constantly telling me that I am more worthy, more respectable when that part of me is kept hidden.
By taking nude selfies, I am creating my own narratives around my sexuality, which means I’m taking my power back from forces that have only used femme sexuality as a means to sell products and other harmful notions about what being a woman should look like.
By taking nude selfies, I affirm and see myself as a sexual woman.
It’s not about titillation. It’s not about exploitation. Taking nude selfies and posting them on the internet has been a really powerful practice of radical self-love and sexual acceptance.
A lot of things have shifted as a result of me taking these pictures. I notice feel more confidence in my sexual body. My sexuality as a whole feels more present in my life. And as a result of all of those things, my libido has gone up which I know has to do with me really feeling like the sexual, sensual woman I am. I see her every day in every nude picture I take.
Another interesting thing that’s come from this is that by taking these photos, my sexual beingness isn’t just being validated or acknowledged by the male gaze—it’s being validated and acknowledged by the female gaze.
A large majority of the people who like and comment on my photos are women, and every time I get a new like I feel like it resonates not from this place of, “God, you’re so hot,” but “Yes, sister. I see you as the sexual woman you are.”
And what I’ve noticed about that is that when the acknowledgment of my sexuality comes mostly from women, it changes this idea in my mind that my femme body is only inherently sexual.
To me, these sexy selfies help normalize (and sometimes un-sexualize) the idea of the sexually liberated woman, bringing her down to earth, deeply humanizing her, and therefore making sex and the erotic not a taboo, but a natural part of who we are as human beings.
Of course, not everyone who sees my Instagram feed feels this way. A lot of people still see my photos through the standard lens of women’s sexuality—that if a woman is showing off and celebrating her sexuality, she is being vulgar or unsafe or she is a slut.
But I refuse to let that deter me from my mission to bring celebration and agency to women’s sexualities. I’m going to keep showing myself off, I’m going to keep taking up space, because. . . you can’t be what you can’t see. Quite frankly listener, YOU can’t be what you can’t see.
Through sexting myself, I have found and have grounded into a sexual identity that is all my own, one that is independent from a man’s desire or sexual needs, one that leaves me feeling powerful and seen and sensual and feminine.
With every nude I take and share, I see my sexiness, my erotic power, with my own eyes.
I become my own erotic muse. I affirm myself. I love myself.
And that’s something to celebrate.