The story of how my X-rated selfie was leaked.
Words by Michelle Andrews.
What I am about to share with you is very personal. And yes, supremely awkward also, considering my parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles all read my blog (hey guys, pretty please do not mention this post to Nana Betty, great thanks love you all). More than anything, though, it’s just really upsetting.
So here I am. And here you are. Because I want you to be.
It all started on a Saturday evening six months ago. I was getting ready to go out clubbing and answered a phone call from a friend. She asked me to send her a photo of my breasts, because she “hadn’t seen them yet”, to which I obliged.
I know what you’re thinking: “What was her friend so keen to see? Does this weirdo-blog-chick have special magical tits? Boobs that lactate gold flecks? Ones that perform phantasmical-transforming-ninja acts or something? Are there three of them?”
Ding-ding-ding, friend! You are correct on all accounts. All three of my transformer boobs excrete 9-carat gold. The end. Thanks for coming, champ.
Sadly, my breasts are mere mammary glands. If you’re still querying the reason my friend wanted to see them, you’re clearly a male reader.
A male reader who is unaware of the unspoken reality of female friendships: female friends sometimes (often) see each other naked. We just do. The fact that our friend needs help fake-tanning her back, or we want to try on her strapless top, or she needs our expert medical advice on that weird freckle next to her nipple, means we end up bra-free in front of each other on a semi-regular basis. And before your jeans get all tight in the crotch area, Mr. Man Reader, you should know the nakedness is completely un-sexual. It’s just something we do for the sake of melanoma-nipple-related paranoia.
Anyway, this friend had heard about my lady lumps on ye olde grapevine, and was um… curious. Long story short, I sent her a photo of my chest.
Well, actually – in the interests of specificity – it was a Snapchat. A three-second Snapchat. With a grainy black and white filter to boot. How artsy of me, I know.
And yes, sending this kind of photo did feel strange. To this day, I have only ever sent two people naked photos (one being this friend, the other being a boy I was dating earlier this year… HOW SCANDALOUS). I’ve never been the girl to send random people my ‘nudes’. Never. To have a naked photo of myself leak was once my ultimate fear. I mean, celebrity nude photo scandals were enough to deter me from sending nudes for my first 20 years of existence.
For both people I used snapchat. I considered snapchat photos as temporary, the application as safe. To my knowledge, such photos ceased to exist once their three-second lifetime expired.
So I’m sure you can understand, once I had sent that black and white badboy off into cyberspace, my mind instantaneously wandered to more pressing matters: like what snack I was going to eat next (probably popcorn), or what beverage I would elect for pre drinks (definitely pepsi max).
I was unaware that my friend had an application, ‘Snapsave’ on her phone, which saved and filed each snapchat photo she received.
My friend and I were both unaware that someone would, weeks later, be on her phone, find the photo, send it to himself, and then proceed to share it with his male friends.
It wasn’t until March, when a male friend of mine commented on my boobs in a Facebook group chat, that I temporarily stopped breathing, lost all sense of zen, and almost went into cardiac arrest.
It’s hard to adequately describe what I felt at that moment. The thought of my topless selfie being seen by a male friend, let alone being seen by strangers, made me nauseous. I wasn’t just confused, I was bewildered, frantically trying to figure out how something I had always feared had actually become a reality.
At first I suggested it must have been another girl’s photo, believing he had wrongly assumed it was me.
That was when I was reminded that my face was also in the photo.
To have that photo utilised as entertainment for a group of males effectively reduced my identity to my body parts. It said: we don’t really care about who this person is, look at her rack, even though she didn’t give us permission to do so.
I know that I am more than a pair of tits. I am more than a body. I am so much more. I have squillions of things to offer people that are far more interesting than boobs. I know that I am worthy of better treatment. Every woman on this planet is. And every woman deserves to be treated like she is more than just a collection of body parts.
I have since forgiven the person who wrongfully shared my photo. He is a good person who made a bad mistake. Although he hurt me in the process, he knows what he did was wrong, and I know that he will never do it again. In sharing this, I’m hoping other men who find themselves with the same opportunity choose to not take it. I’m hoping that the more attention this issue gets, the less it occurs to innocent women.
Sadly, the reality is that my photo, and my experience, do not exist in isolation. This same thing happens to women everywhere on a daily basis.
One of my closest friends had a revenge-porn Instagram account created about her following a nasty break-up. Another had her nudes publicly posted to Facebook last year. Another is terrified a video, taken of her by a boy she recently dated, will resurface online now that things have turned ugly between them.
At the end of the day, people will take naked photos, and they will appear in videos. That should not, and will not change. Your Dad and Mum probably exchanged polaroids back in the day (some rough mental imagery to cope with, sorry), and they did so with the understanding that such a transaction is private. You should have the freedom to take a photo of yourself, and do so with the expectation that it will not be stolen and shared without your permission. To blame the person in the photo is to blame the victim. And victim-blaming is not only wrong, it’s archaic.
This story belongs here. You belong here. Because I have decided to share this with you.
This is my life – the body in that photograph is mine – and ultimately I should decide who I am shared with.