In 2006 I was dating a woman who had a nineteen year old son. The young man and I became friends which led to him forwarding me some off color jokes that would have angered his mom, but none of them were truly offensive. One day he forwarded me a message on my phone that was a photo of a very young and halfway nude woman. I couldn’t believe he did it but before I could call him another photo arrived and then another. The last was of a very nude and very very young woman. I called him and asked him how he felt about sharing a jail cell with me and he seemed shocked that I was shocked. This was common practice. It was no big deal. Everyone was doing it. I asked him how old the girl in the last photo was and he said he didn’t know her. I told him she looked fifteen to twenty, and the possibility of parole, with good behavior. I felt like burning the phone and heading to Mexico before the FBI broke the doors in. But again, he seemed puzzled by my reaction.
I don’t have a problem with casual nudity. I think more people ought to go around totally nude and then maybe we’d simply get over the idea that there is something intrinsically different between someone wearing clothes and that person sans clothing. But this isn’t about nudity at all. Nudity isn’t the most salient point in sending or receiving nude photos, particularly with young people these days. This is an issue of males on the internet asking females on the internet for nude photos, and sometimes outright demanding such photos. This has as little to do with nudity as rape does with orgasms. It’s a method of control using a female’s body as a weapon against her.
33-year-old Justin Ross Harris left his infant son to die in his car while he was at work. But Harris had researched prior to the death such topics as “How Long Does it Take a baby To Die In A Hot Car” and “How to survive in prison”. He and his wife also had two insurance policies out on their son. It’s odd that the computer would be the downfall of Harris. The alleged man spend all day, the day his son was slowly dying, sending messages back and forth between himself and six women, one of whom was only sixteen. Nude photos were exchanged and we can only hope Harris had a closed door to his office.
Harris didn’t seem to show any regard for his dying son, his marriage, his job, or the fact that one of the women was sixteen, no. He was trying to get nude photos of women in what can be considered the most superficial of any sexual act short of masturbation. The social interaction needed to get a live woman in person to undress isn’t needed or it’s too hard. Now, all you need is a keyboard and some time on your hands. Clearly, there are women out there who are receptive to the idea of sending. But this isn’t harmless give and take, even discounting the murder of Harris’ son.
I have a female friend who is into online gaming. Men who play and who know she’s a woman make constant reference to her gender and some in ways that are derogatory. Even other women get in on the act. When my friend tried online dating there were many men who came right out and asked for nude photos or nude chats. What the internet is training women to believe is that they are there for the asking. “It doesn’t hurt to ask” is something I’ve heard before but it does. Women are worn down by the constant idea that some male they know is, sooner or later, going to ask them for a photo of their breasts. They become used to the idea that this is going to happen and it is going to happen simply because they are female and online. Physically, one in four women can expect to be sexually assaulted in their lives. Online, an unwanted sexual encounter, it’s any given day.
They are going to be asked because men are accustomed to asking and getting a woman to respond to the request in a positive fashion. It’s a vicious circle of overwhelming expectations which are fed by women who simply give in to get positive male attention. If a woman walked into a bar and only a small percentage of the men tried to openly fondle their breasts then it could be expected that a well-placed slap might dissuade those men. This would not only be because men were getting slapped but because other men would see this behavior being punished and they might be less inclined to grab. Moreover, if there were men in the bar who saw this and disapproved, and there are, then you'd expect the grabbers to get punched by other men.
As men, we very rarely try to discourage the behavior of other men online. In our defense, a lot of what goes on goes on behind closed doors, which is at the very root of the problem. There is a disconnect between the men asking and the women sending. Social skills are being truncated by online sexual predation. A man could ask twenty women a day for nudes and even if he was shot down by all but one of these women he would still, in time, have quite a collection of nude photos and the excitement of the transaction. This isn’t exactly courtship ritual material. Again, this is masturbatory in a way that damages that man’s ability to function with real women in the real world and dog only knows what it does to the woman’s idea that her body is special and ought not to be passed around on the internet like a video of a dog who can speak English.
The year is now 2014. The nineteen year old is now twenty-seven. If he is married then there is a very good chance, unless he has changed his behavior, that everyone he knows has a nude photo of the woman he married. If he has daughters then what will he expect them to do when they are old enough to do so?
Justin Ross Harris’ sociopathic behavior wasn’t born out of trading nudes with sixteen year old girls. I think it was heightened by it. I think that each time a woman is asked for a photo of her breasts by someone she is friends with then that lowers her expectations of the men around her and I think it has to have an effect on her self-esteem. In a world where such requests come in a flood rather than a trickle we have to wonder what we can do to stem the tide. Courtship and foreplay seem to have been dispensed with in favor instant gratification. Behavior once seen as degrading or humiliating is now part of the internet culture and norm. Justin Ross Harris and his wife rose out of that culture, had a son, and then looked to the net to find a way to rid themselves of someone who wasn’t entertaining enough.
We have to stop thinking of women as those people on the internet who have breasts to be seen and passed around. We have to stop thinking of this sort of behavior as harmless. We have to stop passively hoping that the objectification of women on the internet can’t in some way, have terrible consequences.