A confluence of events in the last couple of days got me thinking.
- A friend posted a storyon my Facebook timeline today in response to my article about online dating that I published recently on The Good Men Project where I lamented that I wanted the ability to forward some men’s internet dating messages to their mothers so that they would know how they were treating women. In the story my friend posted, the author forwarded a man’s naked pic to his mother and told her that he was perpetuating rape culture.
- Then, a comment appeared on that same article in the Good Men Project that said that a male personal trainer friend of the commentator got a lot of boob and butt shots from women just like women get penis pics from men.
- I had the immediate knee-jerk reaction that comment thinking that those women must not think much of themselves to be sending naked pics to this man to get his attention.
- And then I stopped cold in my tracks. WHY did I think that? And WHY did the woman in the article about the penis pics think that men sending penis pics was perpetuating rape culture? Why was nudity from men considered violence against women and nudity from women considered violence against themselves? Let’s break it down.
Men’s Naked Pics – The Assumptions We Make
Cultural Programming – What We DO Assume
- Men are sending this because they think it is a selling point to women.
- Women aren’t interested in getting those pics.
- Showing a naked picture of himself and/or just his erect penis is an act of violence against the woman who didn’t ask for it – equivalent to a flasher on the street.
- The man has no respect for the woman he has sent the picture to.
Cultural Programming – What We DON’T Assume is that a man sending a naked pic means that he thinks that his body is the only thing he has to offer of value.
Women’s Naked Pics – The Assumptions We Make
Cultural Programming – What We DO Assume
- That men won’t be offended in receiving them – every guy wants to see every girl naked, right?
- The women who would send these pictures don’t have any sense of self-worth and it’s sad that they think this is the only value they might have for a man.
- The woman has no respect for herself. Her sending the pictures to the man has no bearing on whether she respects him or not.
Cultural Programming – What We DON’T Assume is that the woman is empowered and is choosing to send a naked photo recognizing that 70% of men are visually-oriented and that her body is one that corresponds to the cultural norms for attractiveness and thus is a good selling feature as part of her overall package.
This Is a Disturbing Picture
One – what makes a naked man obscene?
- Is it the fact that his penis is erect? That’s a natural function that happens every night he enters REM sleep.
- Does the fact that he has sent it in the context of a dating site trigger the programming that women get that if we make a man’s penis erect, it’s our job to do something about it? Well then that’s not him propagating rape culture, it’s us buying into it in our own heads. A man’s erection is his own problem. We don’t expect a man to get us off every time we get wet, why would he expect us to get him off every time he gets hard?
- Or perhaps it’s the idea that he *gasp!* might have actually gotten hard while looking at our pictures! So what? Men get hard over all kinds of things – and sometimes over nothing – that’s the nature of having a penis. One would hope that someone we are thinking about dating might actually get hard thinking about us. It’s a good sign.
- Now the fact that he would force that desire upon us in the form of the photo – that’s the part that seems to hit home – the might feel violent – the forcing of desire upon another. But, reality check, you’re in the comfort of your own home. He’s nowhere near you. There is nothing being forced on you other than a photo that can be quickly deleted (if you want to) from an account that can be equally quickly blocked (again, if you want to).
Two – what makes a naked woman not respectable?
- Is it the fact that she is using her body to sell a man on dating her? We use women’s bodies to sell everything else in our culture. Why, in this instance where a man is actually likely to get his hands on that body, would it not be appropriate to use it to sell men on dating us?
- Or perhaps it’s the “if you give him the milk, he won’t buy the cow” concept in an earlier part of the relationship. Is it that we think that restricting access to our bodies is the only way to hook a man?
- Or maybe it’s an unfair competition thing. We don’t want to have to get naked to get a man’s interest, so she shouldn’t do it either?
- Or is it that we think that getting naked online puts us in the same bucket as the porn queens out there. And if that’s true, then why isn’t that true for the men’s pics too? (Come on ladies, I know you look at porn every now and again – what makes it different? Especially if it’s a nice body…)
- The bottom line is that a woman’s sexuality is powerful and often, culturally, we are just looking for ways to not have to acknowledge that power so we will find any reason to write her off.
Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t women out there with low self-esteem who think that their body is the only thing they have of value. Or men with power and control issues who would send an unsolicited penis pic and then rape a girl if they were given the chance. But these are not the norm. Men put out the penis pics because it’s what they would want to see if they were a woman. Women put out the naked pics because it’s what they think men want to see. We’re all marketing ourselves the best we can in any given moment with insufficient information about the other party.
The real challenge with these assumptions above is that they all assume that a woman is inherently a victim – either a victim of the man who sends the unwanted picture, or of herself. There is no room for the concept that women might not be victims of a man’s sexuality or of their own. The underlying, unspoken, victim-mentality, assumption at the bottom of all of the items listed above is that the woman is an innocent – a child really – and that sexuality damages her in some way, whether it is a man’s sexuality or her own. There is the assumption that sexuality has a mind of its own and that the woman is a victim to that intent. In fact, if you think about “rape culture” as it is defined by those rallying against it – there is the assumption within that culture that men can’t control themselves against their own sexual desires either.
So if we’re going to ask men to take responsibility for their sexuality, shouldn’t we do the same for women? Shouldn’t we acknowledge that women are powerful sexual beings too? Which means that if a woman wants to send a naked photo of herself to a man, she should have that option without being labelled a “slut” or assumed to have no self esteem. And if she receives an unsolicited naked photo from a man, she can be annoyed (or not if she enjoyed it), but she doesn’t have to be a “victim of rape culture”. This victim mentality doesn’t serve any of us in the long run.
Untying The Cultural Straight Jacket
Part of what I work with my clients on is untying the cultural straight jackets that have been forced upon them that are keeping them from being the fullest expression of themselves. And when I see one as blatant as this, I can’t help but speak up – especially when I find myself in a position of occupying it, however briefly. Empowerment is about acting from the core of who you are – not your cultural, familial, religious, or other programming. And when it comes to sex, we have a LOT of programming to be waded through. This is one of what I am sure will be several posts about sex, sexuality, and intimacy. Want to find a stronger connection to your sexual empowerment? Sign up for a free self-discovery session!