It was in my early twenties. I was in a long distance relationship, in the days before the internet. The days of phone sex. And on one of those days I was asked if I would go out and buy a polaroid camera and take photos of myself and send them.
I didn’t exactly run out and get the camera.
I gave it some thought, because it seemed like a very outrageous thing to do. I had my hesitations yet the requests kept coming, until finally, in my eagerness to please and my desire to be loved, I went out and bought the camera. Then I figured out how to set up the camera on a table near my bed, set the timer, jump onto the bed, strike a pose and wait for the flash. That’s how it went.
In some I was partially clothed, in others not. Clear in my memory is that the first few photos didn’t develop properly, only half of me was on the 4 x 4 film and the other half was black and gray smudges. Yet I persisted, and soon had a half dozen racy (to say the least) photos that I packed up and sent to this person. When they arrived, I was quite pleased that he was so excited about them.
And then — he wanted more. Can you get the camera closer? he said. And I was like — what? It was a little annoying. Here I had sent this gift, these very private and intimate photos of myself, and he wanted more, as if what I’d sent wasn’t enough or hadn’t quite done what he’d hoped they would do. Or something. I don’t really know. But not only did he want more, he also asked if I would get a video camera and send a video too.
The photo sending ended at that point. No I didn’t buy a video camera. And no I didn’t feel more loved or accepted, I only felt that I’d sent something very special to someone who didn’t really deserve it. Yeah, too late for that. What was done was done.
Years later after the relationship ended, when I asked for the photos back, he said: They’re gone. And I was like – yeah, right. I very much wish I had persisted and said: What do you mean gone, did you chop them up into a million pieces or burn them or what?
I knew they weren’t gone.
In the here and now, with many years gone by, I can’t help but think — why is it that I trusted this person, and why is it that I gave away a part of myself to someone completely unworthy, and why couldn’t I just have the fucking photos back?
To an extent it still pisses me off. And I suppose this doesn’t really have much to do with Valentine’s Day, except that today is the day of sending all kinds of things — cards, little gifts, and I would imagine nudes as well.
Maybe these days it’s just more acceptable to send nudes. We’re bombarded with images online, and running across a naked body in a Twitter feed is nothing out of the ordinary. We’ve become desensitized. It’s not any special gift. It’s not something you have to go out and buy a camera for and pack up and send to someone by post. No time for reflection. And since everyone seems to be doing it, it makes it all that much easier to convince yourself that it’s ok to do it. And maybe it is. Maybe I would be doing the same thing if I were in my twenties now. Maybe everyone's just more liberal now. But I know how I feel, and I know I still have regrets over those photos sent years ago.
So I was thinking about our Sending Nudes anthology and all the different attitudes on the topic, and how each one of us has had different experiences that shape our point of view. When I was putting the anthology together, I asked each writer to send a little blurb to say what they think about sending nudes. I put these in the anthology because I thought it would really add something special. So that it isn’t just a collection of racy stories and poems, but also the authors’ own personal feelings on this not often discussed act.
Some embrace this sensual act, others warn of potential dangers, others say things are out of control, and the quotes are all fantastic, but I think my favorite one is by Claire Askew:
“Sending nudes is a new form of intimacy that can feel liberating, but it also makes a gift of our vulnerability. The act says, I trust you with this. I trust you."
Happy Valentine’s Day. Stay well. Be kind to yourself. And remember to think for a minute before you click send :)
p.s. about the photo, yes it's me, and I contemplated whether or not I should put it in here as I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable but it seemed rather tasteful to me and it wasn't from that batch sent years ago. It was a taken by a photographer friend/lover who I adored.
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Guts Publishing's Sending Nudes anthology is a collection of fiction, nonfiction and poetry by 16 fantastically talented writers. To find out more visit: gutspublishing.com/sending-nudes