How Sharing My Nude Photos With Strangers Helped Me Feel Empowered

Aug 20, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. ET
Image: Getty Images

I’ve always been fascinated by nakedness and how I feel in the nude. I never felt like my body should be shielded or hidden away from the public eye.

That feeling drove me to pose as a nude model for my small college’s drawing class, and my final thesis for my photography degree included a series of nude images of myself. I’m always the first person to suggest skinny-dipping. This isn’t to say that being nude is always comfortable. Being without clothes is vulnerable — it can be terrifying. However, shedding those drapes of cloth and material always feels right for me once the first sock slips off.

Recently, I joined a Facebook group with a few hundred members. On the private page, strangers, peers and friends all share nude photos, videos and stories about their sex tales and adventures. I was immediately smitten. “These were my people,” I thought as I endlessly scrolled through the posts filled with soft skin and lacy lingerie.

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Though this wasn’t my first introduction to sharing nude photos with strangers. Ever since dabbling in webcamming and online sex work, I began to see the benefits of sharing photos of myself with people who would never actually touch or meet me. It was empowering.

While many people might find nude photos desperate, sad or shameful, I felt the complete opposite. Publicly publishing photos of my body gave me incredible confidence in a way that no partner had ever given me in the past. While I don’t require validation from another human to love my body, I do enjoy the freedom it gives me to know that my skin is floating aimlessly on the internet. I looked at my body in a new light. Sharing these images helped me admire my curves, my hip dips, the way my thighs met when I bent forward, the tattoos I might regret one day.

In 2016, Kim Kardashian posted a nude photo of herself on her Instagram account. I felt that the backlash from other celebrities like Bette Midler and Piers Morgan was disrespectful and harsh. Because the truth is that regardless of your opinions of the reality star, celebrating her body shouldn’t be met with criticism and judgment. The fact that one takes the camera into their own hands to capture nudity shouldn’t be met with heightened criticism when posing for professional nude photographs is seen as artful and classy.

Having the power to press publish and to curate what parts of me are exposed initiated a new form of self-confidence that I had never experienced in the past. The low-fi photos from my iPhone made me notice perfections that I didn’t know existed. The way the curve of my back met with my buttocks, the small of my back and the thickness in my arms.

Performing live on camera made me see areas of my body that normally weren’t in my view — I was seeing myself as a sexual object, yes. But I was taking that objectification and utilizing it for my own positivity. Even when I didn’t need the money from strangers online anymore, I found myself missing being in front of the camera. I found that being nude for strangers was just something that I simply enjoyed. It wasn’t about money or orgasms. Instead, it was about me being turned on by my own body. Self-absorption, narcissism, whatever you want to label it is something that I fell deep into. It helped me really see myself in the light and for who I truly was. I didn’t care who was admiring me on the other side or what they had to say. The strangers weren’t players in this monopoly that I had created for body-positive outlook.

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I don’t post my photos online for strangers to find me lovable. I find myself lovable on my own. My relationship to my body is constantly changing, as it evolves year after year, and taking nude photos aided in reclaiming my sexual agency. My control over the angle, the filter, the clothing or lack there of made me the photographer and the subject. Taking nude photos, even if they are for myself, became a crucial part of sexualizing myself in a healthy and beneficial way.

More important, I was putting myself first. I wasn’t thinking about family or friends and how they might perceive my nude photos. My choice to publicly put myself on the internet for all to see was and still is exhilarating.

I’m still naked a lot. On Fridays, I nude-model for a drawing class on the north side of the city. My phone is still filled with dates and memories of my body — the shade of my skin altering shades from season to season. I’m still a part of the summer Facebook group where we all hit likes and hearts and leave comments on each other's nudes. It’s a safe space away from cis-men and judgmental onlookers. I have my nude community and I have myself.

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While not everyone finds sexuality empowering, it’s my method of choice. And as a supportive community, we should empower people to move freely through whatever avenue they choose to travel through. Loving yourself comes in all shapes and forms. Mine comes in the shape of a front-facing camera with few clothes on and my signature fishnets. Head tilted, hair down and powerful.

By S. Nicole Lane

Originally published on HelloFlo.