Note: This column contains sensitive content about nudes and revenge porn which may be triggering.
Leaked nudes and revenge porn are topics I am all too familiar with.
2016 was a weird year for me. It ended with Drug Dealer Dan, as mentioned in my previous column.
But it started even worse: my boyfriend of three years cheated on me.
The best way to move on seemed to be with a rebound, so I started dating my first mistake of 2016. Brandon was a nice kid, doofy with daddy issues, who lied about not being a virgin.
His stepmom was the worst; controlling, manipulative and sincerely unstable.
One day, she found my nudes.
They were nothing crazy, a few tasteful booty pics that didn’t even show my face. She confronted me about the photos, then decided my mom should see them too.
My parents grounded me for a month.
Brandon and I were obviously over, and then came in Matt — a “good friend” I occasionally exchanged nudes with.
Matt was sort of my makeshift boyfriend. By this I mean he was my friend with benefits, but without the benefits.
He was really there for me with the Brandon debacle. He said it was “f––––d up” that Brandon saved my pictures in the first place.
“You know I would never save your nudes,” Matt said.
We hung out, went on double dates with friends, he came to my volleyball games and we occasionally –– nightly –– exchanged nudes. He asked me to our senior ball and let me smoke his weed. He was truly the rebound I deserved.
Until he wasn’t.
Two weeks before ball, I heard the news among my 100-person class that Matt had been showing people my nudes.
All my peers had seen me naked without my consent.
I was devastated. For the third time this year, someone I trusted had betrayed me.
But the lesson wasn’t on me. I was not in the wrong for engaging in sexual behavior. He was in the wrong for using images of my body without my consent.
Most people end senior year with happy memories, I left having known everyone, including my mom, had seen me naked.
I felt used and useless.
But what I’ve learned, despite my mother’s hopes, is not that I shouldn’t take nudes. Instead, I learned that the people who shared my nudes were shitty people.
And that’s just about all you can learn from this.
I know, because I’ve tried just about everything else to feel better about myself.
I tried acting like I wasn’t bothered. I tried crying. I tried showering for hours to “clean myself” into a new person, to clean all the unwanted eyes off my body.
But the bottom line is that it isn’t your fault when someone else betrays your trust.
Releasing people’s naked photos unfortunately seems to be a hot trend in today’s society.
The National Enquirer tried to blackmail Jeff Bezos just two weeks ago with “below-the-belt” photos he sent to a mistress, Rob Kardashian shared photos of Blac Chyna after their break up, Sia even posted her own nudes online in response to paparazzi trying to sell the photos.
There’s nothing wrong with sending out nudes. Let’s be honest, most of us have, and most of us receive them too. So why do we collectively humiliate people whose nudes are leaked?
No one is ashamed of snapping naked pics. People are ashamed when private photos they shared with one person specifically, are instead seen by thousands of strangers.
There are many steps victims of revenge porn can take to begin the healing process.
Whether it be therapy, online support groups or finding a “take-down service” to remove your photos from the internet, seeking out information and guidance is the most important step.
In many cases you can even take legal action against the perpetrator.
Savage suggested the resolution to revenge porn and leaked pictures in general, is a day where everyone releases their nudes so no one else can. This would also normalize the already common practice.
The only thing that worked for me was self-acceptance. I started feeling comfortable with myself again once I understood that what I do with my body is no one’s business but my own.
Once you start to love yourself unconditionally, you start to realize that your self-worth is just that –– up to yourself.
If you or someone you know fear or have experienced sexual assault, there are a number of local resources. Students can on UB’s website, through the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (716-645-2266), Crisis Services of Erie County (716-834-3131) and UPD (716-645-2222). For off-campus emergencies call 911, Amherst PD (716-689-1311), Buffalo PD (716-851-4444) or the New York State police 24/7 sexual assault hotline for college campuses (1-844-845-7269).
Stay tuned for another sex column by Charlotte Valentine on March 11