You have the right to take naked photos of yourself – but should you?

It seems like the subject of nakedness keeps baring itself in the news. A few weeks ago I wrote about a contestant on a reality show called “Dating Naked” who was suing the producers and cable channel because an image of her naked crotch was aired without being blurred out. A few days later, a group called Go Topless hosted a Women’s Equality Day event, in which they urged women to don bikini tops printed to look like naked breasts to protest laws allowing men to go bare chested in public but not women.

And this week, the naked truth hit the headlines again with news that Apple’s iCloud was hacked, and that nude photos of celebrities were stolen and released on social media.

The initial reaction to news like that might seem to logically be “Don’t take nude photos of yourself and you won’t have to worry about nudes photos of yourself won’t be leaked online.”

But a blog post by writer Chuck Wendig got me thinking. He points out that the naked photos of actresses Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence that made their way to the internet weren’t leaked – they were stolen. He made some good points about our rights and the way society makes the victim the problem, rather than making the criminal the problem.

There’s nothing illegal about taking naked photos of yourself or your partner (as long as you’re both over 18 years old).  You have the right to take naked photos of yourself and pose naked for photos in which you have given your consent to be photographed (versus being photographed without your knowledge or consent, like the creeper who hides the camera in the shower of your own house).

As for looking at the photos without your consent? Sharing someone else’s nude photos without their consent is illegal and unethical. In fact, in the case of Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, whose photos were also stolen when the iCloud was hacked, it’s child pornography, since she was under 18 years old when the photos were taken.

You have the right to be naked and be photographed, with your consent. And you have the right to expect that when that right is exercised your rights will be protected by the law.

But here’s where things get sticky. What about reality, where the decision to exercise that right is very risky and carries huge consequences if violated?

Once upon a time, if you took a naked photo of yourself, the only people who might see that photo without your permission would be the guy at the photo lab who developed your pictures. Could he make an extra print? Sure, and maybe he did. So you take it with a Polaroid, and only you and the person who pushed the shutter button had access to the photo, unless you chose to give them the photo or the actual picture was stolen. Risk of that picture being stolen? Pretty slim. And how to you get rid of the photos? A little camp fire for the photos and negatives and you were pretty sure the image was gone for good.

Today, with social media and internet hacking being what it is, the risk is far greater than ever that any naked pictures of yourself will find their way online, without your consent. Servers are hacked all the time. That photo you snapped with your cell phone and sent to your partner could go to the wrong person, or if he gets ticked off, be forwarded to hundreds of people in milliseconds.

Your right to take the photo of yourself hasn’t changed. But man, have the consequences gotten bigger.

I go back to the post I wrote about Jessie Nizewitz , who is suing VH1 over the naked crotch shot, and I think I see now where her expectation of privacy was violated. Yup, she had the right to be naked on a TV show. And yup, she had the right to expect that her privates would be blurred out when the show aired, because that was in her contract. And yup, I still think it’s stupid to go on a naked dating show. But that decision was hers to make, and in the end, her privates weren’t blurred, so the expectation of privacy was violated and she deserves her day in court.

At the same time …

I think that there are times when we have to realize that just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean that we should ignore the possible consequences when things go wrong, and maybe reconsider our decision to act on that right. We do it all the time.

I legally can leash my dog and leave him in my front yard. But I know that there are several children on our street who don’t pay attention to my admonition not to try and pet the dog (he doesn’t like children). So I keep the dog in the backyard behind a fence, because the risk to a child is great, and the consequences if something happens will all fall on the dog – even if he’s legally in his own yard and the child is trespassing.

I have the right to leave my car in my driveway or parking lot with the doors unlocked and expect no one will take out my loose change, or laptop, or camera. But I lock the doors and bring the valuables in the house, because I’m told a laptop bag on the seat it too much of a temptation for criminals. My right to security in my car is trumped by the reality that I’m going to lose my laptop if I don’t lock the doors.

I have the right to use our credit cards to make purchases online. But even though we all cling to some sort of (real or imagined) security that we can fight the bad guys if it our information is stolen,  we follow the advice of experts and change our passwords regularly, or maybe keep one card dedicated just for online purchases. If someone gets access to your bank account, you’re screwed.

I’ve never taken a naked photo of myself, but I’ve posted my own photos (of dogs, scenery, etc), on my blog, which is clearly marked with my copyright, and had those photos stolen and used without my permission. So I don’t post my favorite pictures online any more and, if I do post my photos, I try and mark them with my name and date.

Does it piss me off? Absolutely. My rights are being violated. But I also have drawn a line in the sand where the risk of my rights being violated outweighs my desire to exercise that right.

Is that an answer to the problem? No, but I think we have balance our right to do something with our expectation that others will respect that right, balance our realistic expectations that we can fight them if our rights are violated with the consequences if it all hits the fan.

I’m not a risk taker, by nature. I know that once something appears online, it’s almost impossible to erase, and having fought that battle before over something far less serious than celebrity nude photos I know where my tipping point is. So I tend to err on the side of caution.

But you might be a bigger risk taker than I am – and you have the right to be. If you want to take a naked photo of yourself, go for it. But maybe consider a Polaroid. It can cause a lot less damage in the back of a desk drawer than on a cloud server.

RELATED POSTS:

Happy National Women’s Equality Day! (Did you show your breasts in public?)

The Wave (1896) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The Wave (1896) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Today is National Women’s Equality Day, honoring the anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution on August 26, 1920.

Earlier this week, I blogged about women, freedom and a show called “Dating Naked,” and mused on whether we women have forgotten the fight our foremothers made for equality.

Case in point? In honor of Women’s Equality Day, a group called GoTopless held an event at Venice Beach in California where women were encouraged to show up wearing a Ta Ta top.

Technically, the women were fully clothed, but figuratively? Naked.

Ta Ta Tops make bikini tops that look like a naked breast. How do you feel about seeing a woman wearing this in public?

TaTa Tops make bikini tops that look like a naked breast. How do you feel about seeing a woman wearing this in public? Is the image of naked breasts different than the painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau?

In a press release promoting the event,  Lara Terstenjak, Los Angeles leader of GoTopless, said:

“In this city, as in most places around the world, women still can’t lawfully go bare-chested, although their male counterparts have had that privilege for decades. It’s time to celebrate women’s topless pride in spite of all the silly and unconstitutional restrictions posed by local laws.”

She goes on to further say:

“Imagine if, 100 years ago, women had worn pants with lifelike knees painted on them. Many people in 2014 don’t know it, but women’s knees were considered too indecent to show back then. Today, no one bats an eye at the sight of an uncovered woman’s knee. Soon it will be the same for bare breasts! How silly it is to have to wear painted ones!”

She makes some interesting points. It is silly for a woman to be allowed to wear in public a bikini top designed to look like a naked breast, but not be allowed to bare a naked breast in public. What’s the difference? The Ta Ta Top looks just like a naked female breast (and that’s coming from a man I showed the photo to). Nude beaches are commonplace in other parts of the world.

And why is a naked male torso in public a less sexually charged image than a naked female torso in public? Is it just desensitization? Or are we programed to view the female body in a different light? When does the image of a bare chested woman go from nude to naked, art to indecency? Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #25 Women, freedom and “Dating Naked”

VH1's new show "Dating Naked" premiered in July.

VH1’s new show “Dating Naked” premiered in July. (Source: VH1 pressroom)

Last year, I went to visit the Susan B. Anthony house and mused afterwards about what Susan B. Anthony might have said about the reality show, “The Bachelor”, in which women basically throw themselves at a man in the hopes he’ll pick them to be his wife. I likened it to emotional prostitution and pondered the idea that maybe women have forgotten the battle their foremothers fought for equality and respect.

Yes, women in America now have the right to educate themselves, prosper, and express themselves in ways women 100 years ago could only dream about. But have we taken those rights to such an extreme that we’ve enslaved ourselves to a celebrity driven/sexuality saturated culture?

I bring this up again because I saw a story in today’s entertainment headlines that makes me think yet again that we women have misused our freedom and set women’s rights back a few steps.

This summer, VH1 premiered a series called “Dating Naked”. The premise, according to a press release:  “Do you find love easier when you truly have nothing to hide?”

This season a rotating group of frustrated singles answered the show’s challenge to “bare it all” in the quest for love. After embarking on a series of blind dates, twelve people currently consider themselves “in a relationship” with someone they met on the show … Filmed in a remote exotic locale, each close-ended episode follows a man and a woman both going on three naked dates, including two with other suitors and one with each other.

It is an interesting premise, to consider what would happen if two people were left to woo each other without the material trappings of technology and social conventions. But when you take away the clothing? There are going to be problems.

Today, People.com reports that “Dating Naked” cast member Jessie Nizewitz is suing Viacom, the parent company of VH1 and the channel that airs the show, for $10 million in damages after the producers allegedly failed to blur out a shot of Nizewitz’s crotch.

In other words, the naked contestant on a televised naked dating show is upset because she was shown … well, naked. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #24 Follow The Improv Brick Road

Carol Burnett Wikipedia

When I was a young girl, I wanted to grow up to be Carol Burnett.

For my 50th birthday, I wanted to do something really fun but different than the standard night out with girlfriends or surprise party. So I invited all of my friends to join me at a free improv workshop. I’ve never done improv, but it sounded like a fun way to celebrate turning half a century.

If you don’t know what improv is, think “Whose Line Is It Anyway”, seemingly spontaneous silliness and frivolity, with lots of laughter. When I threw out the idea, several people said they’d like to join me. But when the time came to actually sign up for the free workshop, everyone bailed.

The general excuse was “I’m too afraid to …” Get on stage. Speak in front of people. Look stupid. Act stupid. Say something stupid. Be judged for being stupid.

Pick a fear, or borrow one of mine. I have a long list from which to choose.

When I was younger, I loved female comedians and actresses like Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Marlo Thomas, and of course, Carol Burnett. In fact, when I was younger, I wanted to grow up to be Carol Burnett.

Not be like her. Be her. She was skinny (like me) and had a short haircut (like me, although I doubt her mother forced the hairdresser to give her that super short pixie so she could “get her money’s worth” at the salon).

But more importantly, Carol Burnett had something I desperately wanted: beauty. To me, she was beautiful not only because she had a pretty face but because she was funny. And that beauty made her fearless. Which made her more beautiful.

Maybe it was her ability to step into any character role and make people laugh, whether she was Eunice arguing with Mama or Scarlett O’Hara making a ball gown from velvet curtains. Whatever it is, I wanted it. One year, for Halloween, I even dressed up like the washer woman character that opened her show, complete with my dad’s giant work boots and a bucket full of “suds” my mom made by cutting up sponges.

As we all know, who we want to be and who we are frequently are at odds, and as I grew up my fears generally dictated my life. Fear of being judged, fear of being alone, fear of looking stupid. Where once the seeds of laughter and humor had been sown in my soul, soon the weeds of fear, judgment, and bitterness choked everything positive before it had an opportunity to sprout.

It’s not that I never had fun; I just never let the fun dominate my life. Fear ruled with an iron fist.

So when everyone backed out of the free improv workshop, I went alone. I had no idea what to expect, who would be there, or what I’d be doing with these total strangers. Just going to the class was, at least for me, an adventure far outside my comfort zone.

What came next was a journey I had not planned to take. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #23 Confessions of a non-recovering introvert

This post originally appeared in 2013 on my Heavenly Creatures blog at Patheos.com. I generally write about animals and faith and God on that blog, but when offered the opportunity to read and write about this book for a Patheos roundtable, I jumped at the chance. Turns out it wasn’t only a good read; it profoundly changed the way I view myself, making it a must to include in my “5o thoughts on turning 50″.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Quiet-book-imageI’m an introvert. When I said it to friends a few times over the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten responses like, “You? You’re so talkative” or “I remember you as so outgoing” but almost always, “You’re not an introvert.”

Really? How would you know?

You probably base your idea of who I am on what you see on the outside, without knowing what’s going on inside of me most of the time. Sure, I can put together a party and play the happy hostess. But inside, I’m usually freaking out, because I have a difficult time talking to lots of people at once. You see me as talkative because I try to go out into social situations only when I’ve built up enough social energy to carry on a conversation; you don’t see me in my alone times, just me and the dogs, walking in the cemetery and recharging my batteries.

I can talk at length, and even in front of a crowd, about a topic dear to my heart. But it’s impossible for me to speak when I don’t believe what I’m saying. Want to talk about human trafficking or positive dog training methods? I’m all about it. Which girl should get a rose on “The Bachelor”? I’m out – or rather, I end up musing about why women would value themselves so little that they’d compete for some guy on a game show and throw their emotions around so trivially; usually everyone else wants to talk about which girl is the biggest bitch.

I’m always asking questions to strangers, like “why do you believe that” and “how did that make you feel”, surrounding myself with gads of acquaintances but few real friends, avoiding conflict and loud noises (and people who wear copious amounts of perfume or cologne), always aware that there is a social line that, once crossed, can throw me into panic or drain me to the point of physical exhaustion.

I get it. I sound cuckoo. In fact, for years (and years) I thought there was something wrong with me. Let’s face it. In our culture, we revere the outgoing, bold, confident risk takers, those who set goals and go after them with wild abandon. Those of us who spend a lot of time thinking and wondering but not always doing are viewed as weak.

That’s why I was so relieved to read Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” The book could have been subtitled “Joanne: An Owner’s Manual.”

For the first time, someone has taken the side of the introvert and shown how important they (we) are in an American culture, dispelling the myth that all introverts are recluses who avoid human interaction or that extrovertism is the ideal. And she uses neuroscience and research to back it all up.

Newsflash: there’s nothing wrong with me. Continue reading

A reader gives me feedback – and the bat goes free

The bat escaped ... this time. Fly free, Mr. Bat. Fly free.

The bat escaped … this time. Fly free, Mr. Bat. Fly free.

When you’re a writer, reader feedback is always welcome, whether you’re telling me that you enjoyed something I’ve written or you think I’m an idiot.

In the July issue of Refreshed Magazine, I wrote about hearing a critter in our attic and darling husband’s brave battle with a bat. The bat lost. One reader sent this comment about the killing of the winged rodent:

“I think the article Bats in the Belfry by Joanne Brknow [sic] was disgusting! There was no reason to kill the bat!  Bats are good as they eat tremendous amounts of insects. How could you print that? And under the heading That’s Life!”

Yesterday, we found a bat in our basement. In honor of the reader, we set it free.

Well, if I’m being honest – and you know that honesty always makes for the best humor pieces – we trapped the bat between the front door and the screen door while we debated whether to whack it or let it go.

It must have been listening, because as darling husband inched the door open, the bat escaped. But as it flew away – and then circled our house, and the neighbor’s house, and the street for about 10 minutes – I cried, “Be free, Mr. Bat! Be free!”

After eating bugs in the backyard, I fully expect Mr. Bat to return some night this week for another midnight round of Critters In The Attic. We’ll be waiting … with the bat whacker …

Automated Thanking Machine gives customers gifts – being nice is good business

I’d like to say that this video of customers using an ATM and receiving gifts instead of their expected transaction made me a little teary. But it didn’t. Nope, no misty eyed response for me. I cried. I’m talking giant tears rolling down my face.

The video is from TD Canada Trust, a Toronto-based bank offering a full range of financial services. In short, it’s a regular old bank. But after watching the video, in which they say thank you to some of their regular customers with gifts that show the employees truly know them personally, you’ve got to wonder if there’s something more going on at the heart of the company.

Like … they have a heart?

I recently pulled out the files for the Be Nice Project, the year long mission I was on to try and be nice for 365 days. I got sick soon after and abandoned the whole thing because I was exhausted. (It’s not like I couldn’t be nice while I was sick; it’s just that my energies were so focused on dealing with everything else going on I didn’t think I could keep up with a coordinated project at the time.)

Then I met a few people who’ve been on a similar journey, so I’ve dusted off some ideas, the first of which to spotlight people being nice.

This one takes the cake. And if I was customer, I bet they’d give me a cake the next time I stopped in to make a deposit.

You can learn more about TD Canada Trust on their website.

You can read more about my Be Nice Project in these posts.