A Personal Appeal to My Fellow Man

Men, can we have a heart to heart for a moment?

Women can stop reading this. I’m just talking to the fellas for a sec…

Online privacyThere’s a story in the news right now that is really annoying. The Armed Services are investigating a Facebook group dedicated to sharing nude photos of female servicemembers without their consent.

I hear your thoughts as you read this: “What the Hell, Stiefel? Nudity on the Internet. Big whoop. Who cares? And why are you siding against it? Are you gay or something?”

Look, I like looking at a beautiful woman as much as the next guy, but there’s something disturbing about taking photos that were meant to be private and slapping them on some web page for other guys to get an eyeful.

How would we like it if women were posting embarrassing photos or information about us online, telling each other we have small peckers that suffer from whiskey dick? We’d be pissed and feel vulnerable knowing the girls were laughing and judging us (this probably happens). We would want to do something to halt it immediately.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a dog in this hunt. You see, I LOVE it when a girlfriend sends me a risqué photo. Perhaps I am sharing too much about myself, but dammit, I believe in being authentic. I’m a flesh and blood man who likes how a woman looks. Shocker, right?

Most guys do like getting sexy photos from ladies. Men are visual creatures, which may be what some guys offer as a justification or defense of viewing nakey pics that we were never meant to see.

But every time there’s some instance of revenge porn (“You cheated and/or broke up with me so I’m going to share our naughty pics on the web”) or guys just being too careless with frisky pictures, it causes another woman out there to become more inhibited about sharing. She may ordinarily be game, but dammit if that risk assessment meter in her head is too far in the red, overthinking all the scenarios that could come back to humiliate and slut-shame her for the rest of her life.

Look, if you want to see naked people, no judgment here. The Internet’s full of porn. We even have nightclubs where you can see a perfectly lovely young woman gyrate with her full consent to ogle every curve and jiggle she makes as long as the dollars flow.

When it comes to your girlfriend or another woman you have the privilege of seeing in the flesh – especially one ubercool enough to use her iPhone to snap a photo of herself for your eyes only – I beg you to treat that with the respect and care it deserves. Otherwise, you’re ruining everyone’s fun.

Still not convinced it is in your interest to keep your R-rated treasure trove off the Net? Is it just too deliciously naughty to resist consuming the sight of other guys’ girlfriends?

Well, here’s a little something to factor in. Who’s to say that the young woman you’re gazing upon in her birthday suit is over 18 years of age? That’s right, you could be looking at kiddie porn snapped by a third party less concerned than you about following the letter of the law. Hope that doesn’t come back to haunt YOU. Chris Hansen coming to a nightmare near you. You’ve got to assume that you are no more guaranteed your privacy than the young women you stare at naked.

Remember that we aren’t talking about a victimless thing. These are lives being ruined, and not just men doing time like Christopher Chaney, who was rightfully sentenced to 10 years in jail after hacking the emails of dozens of celebrities including Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson, leaking their nude photos. What a dumbass.

As someone who has dealt with publicists who meticulously craft the public image of these stars, I can tell you that such a breach can be absolutely apocalyptic to their careers.

“It’s horrible,” said Erin Andrews, the gorgeous sportscaster who was filmed while changing clothes through a peephole drilled by a stalker who followed her to a hotel in Nashville. “Anytime I’m in a situation where I feel like I’m being stared at, I’m paranoid, I get defensive, I’m on edge. I’ve created this situation where I always wonder, Has that person seen me naked?”

A computer scientist, summoned by Andrews’s lawyers, estimated at the trial of Michael David Barrett that 16.8 million people had seen images from the video. Have you? Did you feel entitled to violate her privacy?

online privacyLast year, the private photos and videos of so many celebrities were hacked and leaked that it was given a name: The Fappening. Digital technology has clearly been disruptive, to say the least, but it is a Pandora’s box of shattered privacy.

Many years ago, I worked in a Wal-Mart Photo Lab. Tragically, I’ve seen what happens when children are exploited (we would call investigators in instances when it appeared that underaged people were being sexually abused). We would also occasionally get some naughty snapshots that a couple of consenting adults had taken while drinking or playing around and had forgotten about.

The protocol in those cases was to destroy the photos and put a condescending note in with the negatives. The subtext was “shame on you!” This was around the time when digital cameras were beginning to become affordable and popular for consumers. My manager wanted to embarrass them; I had a different idea.

I discreetly made them aware of the situation when they came to pick up their photos. I could tell the woman wanted to crawl under a rock. I assured them that there was nothing wrong with what they had done and showed them these neat new digital point-and-shoot cameras that would let them bypass the film processing gauntlet. Sold a digital camera on the spot and received their gratitude for having a laid back attitude about the whole thing.

If there’s one positive about the massive pile of amateur porn on the web, it’s that there’s so much of it –someone’s unexpurgated pics are a virtual needle in a digital haystack. The odds of someone you know in real life randomly stumbling upon the pictures of you specifically is astronomical. Not so much if a guy is cruel and twisted enough to tag her name on the image file or distribute in her social circles. There’s nothing lower than a guy who sends sex pics to his ex-girlfriend’s father; I’m pretty sure that’s automatic entry into Hell.

lingerie picturesFrom my experience, women generally aren’t automatically as modest as the times pressure them to be. The existence of Snapchat is a testament to that fact. Some simply want to protect themselves and create boudoir or nude pictures ON THEIR OWN TERMS. They want to be portrayed as beautiful and sensual rather than seen as spread-eagle chunks of flabby meat to be dehumanized and discarded. How would you feel if the girl in the stolen nudes was your sister? Your cousin? Your mother?

At least when they do a photo shoot implying or revealing nudity, there is the purity of intent to achieve something artistic and liberating. They may not want a boudoir photo to be passed around at church, but if it DOES become public, at least it is a defensible position, the strategic retention of taste and modesty with the caveat that it is meant as a beautiful expression for someone in a relationship with them who loves them and appreciates their sensuality.

A photo can actually be more “erotic” if sensitive body parts are concealed, leaving them to the imagination of the viewer. This is why supermodels and actresses are so alluring while those who disrobe and share all are generally less memorable.

To me, seeing photos that someone wanted to gift “my eyes only” is a major turn on; far sexier than taking a peek at some candid pic that I was never intended to view.

Have I guilted you into being a decent human being yet? Come on, be a gentleman. Or at least don’t be a scum-sucking perv ruining the fun for other guys lucky enough to date adventurous women.

P.S.: While we’re at it, let’s go a lil easier on the ladies’ appearance. They’re already 10 times harsher on themselves than we’ll ever be. Let’s not be someone’s reason to feel less than amazing and confident. Life’s too short not to cut someone some slack. Besides, a girl with a little jiggle who likes pizza and beer is damn sexy in my book!