The other morning, I accidentally created my most viral personal post so far. I reposted this blog entry, and its full text (just so that people would be sure to read it). I got over 40 comments and numerous shares.

The gist of it, was that this young lady posted pictures of her butt online, and got a variety of feedback, much of it harassment or men thinking that she’d fuck indiscriminately.

Her original post sums it up, in a few paragraphs, but I don’t know if she could have been much briefer:

… Here’s what these pictures DON’T mean:

  • I want to have sex with you.
  • I want your attention.
  • I want sexual attention.
  • I have issues with self esteem.
  • I have no self-respect.
  • I have “daddy issues”.
  • I will have sex with you no matter who you are.
  • I am unintelligent and vapid.

Here’s what these pictures DO mean:

  • The human body is beautiful.
  • I have a butt.
  • It’s a good butt.
  • I’m proud of it.
  • Here’s a picture of it.
  • That’s it.
  • Nothing else.
  • Just a butt.

Here’s what these pictures say about me:

  • Nothing.

Here’s what pisses me off:

  • People who think that showing your body equates to a lack of self-respect or says something about your sexual activity.
  • People who think that this justifies receiving fucked up and creepy anonymous messages of harassment.
  • People who think that seeing a picture of my butt says anything about my personality, my mind, my soul, etc.
  • People who say they back up feminism and body positiveness, but if their girlfriend, or a girl they were interested in, posted a picture of their body on the internet they would suddenly “lose respect” for them.
  • People who think naked bodies = sex.
  • People who say things like “Do you think you’ll ever get a boyfriend if you’re posting those pictures?”, “I thought you weren’t posting those pictures anymore, haha.”, or “Why would someone date you when they can just look at your blog for those pictures?”
  • People who say those things and then ask me to send them pictures of my body. Fuck you.

Here’s what (I think) you should do:

  • Stop leaving hateful anonymous messages.
  • Stop using words like “slut” and “whore”.
  • Stop having double standards.
  • Stop assuming things about people.
  • Stop being hateful.
  • Be kind, be gentle, be respectful.
  • Keep scrolling down your dashboard.
  • Keep your shitty thoughts to yourself.
  • Love yourself.

That’s basically all I wanted to say for now…

The responses, when I reposted this on my personal FaceBook page, were interesting, especially after a few people shared it. Men and women remarking on her nice ass, quite a few people saying that she shouldn’t be complaining because she put her ass out there, and there was one person who claimed that people like her – who post their asses online and demand to be treated with respect- have ruined feminism.  Another girl pointed out that she had a wishlist linked, as if that further makes her less worthy of respect and her complaint about creeps and bitches less valid.

I think that out of about 40 comments, only myself and 2 other people thought that there was anything wrong with this girl getting the reactions and complaining about them, as a result of showing her ass online.

Is posting sexy photos publicly online “asking for” it? It being sexual harassment from men, rude comments, and criticism from men and women? In an ideal world, would “boys still be boys” and “women treacherous” in the when viewing nude body parts online? What is the difference between street harassment, for wearing short shorts or a sexy dress in public, vs showing sexy body parts online?

I think that with the Internet, many people genuinely don’t know the online difference between the equivalent of “an appreciative glance” and street harassment. I serendipitously surfed onto the article “Your Body is Never The Problem” on the Good Woman Project’s blog.

This, to me, is the answer:

It is not inconsistent to want to be seen and not be stared at. You know the difference, I suspect, between an “appreciative look” (which can feel very validating) and the “penetrating stare” that leaves you feeling like crawling into a hole. While people are not required to give you the former, it’s not unreasonable to expect them to avoid giving you the latter. It’s also not unreasonable to want guys your age to be interested in you, and want the creepy old ones to leave you alone. Remember, it’s not hypocrisy or naiveté on your part to dress in a way that you hope will get you that positive attention you want without also bringing the negative attention you fear and loathe.

I think it applies to the Internet as well as to the off-line world.

What I think happens online is that people perceive themselves as distanced from “real life” consequences and will even use their real names via FaceBook to make comments that they never would in person.

When they’re using “anonymous” accounts not directly linked to their “real name”, then they often become even more bold. I think that this happens for the good and bad: men with taboo interests will send a nice complement “anonymously” when they otherwise wouldn’t; and people hurl insults under “anonymous” handles when they otherwise wouldn’t.

People also post photos and videos and write more boldly, when their online personas are disconnected from their “real life” identities. The girl posting her photos of her ass seems to be somewhat anonymous, and not using her “real” name. I think such disconnection from mainstream constraints and entanglements is the source of large amounts of great art, honest writing, resonating dialogues and social movements.

So maybe, when pseudonymously posting photos of one’s ass, one shouldn’t expect anything. Culture hasn’t evolved to have etiquette for different online situations. Still, you would hope that common decency would prevail. If not that, then the most common religious rule and philosophical rule that people across cultures seem to have: Do No Harm. Primum non nocere. Better yet: “Do Unto Others…” – I’m sure that other religions and cultures have some version of that societal more! (It worries me that many folks posting negativity and hate really feel that they are doing no harm).

Ideally, women of whatever age and body type, should be able to post pics of asses, feet, cleavage, breasts, backs, hands, legs, noses, eyes… and get appreciative attention from whoever, left alone by most, and not be harassed or contacted by creeps and judgmental people.

Posting photos is just like walking down the street or dressing up for a night out, wearing whatever makes a gal feel comfortable and beautiful.

(image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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