Put the word “nude” in a headline, or even in a keyword tag, and watch the entire Internet respond. On one level, it’s an easy way to increase traffic to a website. Posting nude photos gets everyone’s attention. Ask Paper magazine, whose November 2014 issue featured Kim Kardashian proudly expressing herself. The Internet nearly crashed. So much for posing nude hurting one’s career.
At the same time, however, there are still a number of apps and websites, especially anything that is open to viewers under 18 years of age, where nudity is still a no-no. While we’ve seen some relaxation in the rules regarding established works of art, the general rule still is that anything hinting at a nipple is subject to censorship. When it comes to asses, it’s anyone’s guess as to what is acceptable and what isn’t.
I had this point driven home when I was working on the images in the gallery below. I was live-streaming on Watch Me Work, a website where creatives share their processes. The website uses YouTube and Google Hangouts to fuel the live streams. That means, in addition to Watch Me Work’s terms of service, which are fairly specific, users are also subject to YouTube’s terms of service, which are incredibly vague and open to biased interpretation. In setting up the stream on YouTube, I included nude as one of the keywords. I included implied immediately afterward.
My stream hadn’t been live five minutes before I received an email from YouTube saying that my stream had been age restricted. I immediately appealed that decision, making it clear that there was nothing in any of the photos that would violate stated terms of service. YouTube sent the following response:
After further review, we’ve determined that while your video does not violate our Community Guidelines, it may not be appropriate for a general audience. We have therefore age-restricted your video.
This is important because having a video age restricted means, among other things, that anyone who has Restricted Mode enabled or is viewing videos without being logged in to YouTube cannot see your video.
After that, I found it extremely interesting when actress Jenna Dewan, who you may know as Lucy Lane on the TV series Supergirl, or as Jen on CBS’ Man With A Plan, appeared on the cover of July’s Women’s Health magazine wearing nothing more than an ankle bracelet and a pinky ring. Women’s Health isn’t exactly known as a bastion of nudity so when that hashtag hit the Internet, people rushed to see if it was true.
The difference between Jenna’s layout and Kim’s is that the former managed to keep her photos under the genre of implied. Sure, she was nude, but you couldn’t see any nipples or genitalia. Therefore, it is implied that those body features exist.
Implied is very much the new nude in this age of faux sensitivity. On one hand, we want the freedom to express ourselves however we wish, including running about without the judgemental constriction of clothing. On the other hand, we don’t want to become victims of so-called “slut shaming” or risk having any of our social media accounts banned. Most importantly, from what I’m constantly told, we have to protect the innocence of children who don’t know how to properly respond to nude imagery.
Does it really matter whether someone’s 14-year-old comes across nude photos on social media? No, of course not. Why? Because they already saw them on PornHub and, for the most part, their reaction was to yawn. All that worry that exposure to boobs and butts would lead to increased promiscuity among teens turns out to have been misplaced. The Centers for Disease Control reports that teen pregnancy is at an all-time low and teens are waiting longer to have sex than their parents or grandparents did!
Let me rephrase that for you: the generation with the greatest access to nude and sexually explicit imagery is having less sex at a later age and being more responsible about it than the two previous generations.
Stop a moment and let that sink in. Perhaps our generalized response to nude imagery has been wrong all these years?
Still, we have to deal, for now, with backward-minded systems of censorship, which means one’s expressions of freedom and openness have to be limited to what’s implied rather than being open and honest. Not that an implied nude is equivalent to telling a lie, mind you. Rather, think of an implied nude as an incomplete story. One might be able to guess at the ending, but would rather the author had gone ahead and written it out.
When shooting nudes, and sometimes when intentionally not shooting nudes, we frequently have some implied shots in the mix. I don’t always publish those since that’s not typically the intent, but I went back through the archives and re-processed a dozen that demonstrates how flexible and expressive one can be without running afoul of social media censors. One can be just as open about their body and their expressiveness without getting banned from Instagram (heaven forbid that happen).
Take a look and then consider possibly booking your own implied nude session. Expressing yourself is good for your mental health, after all. Just as Jenna (read the article).
[As always, click any image to view the gallery full screen]
And if you’re really interested in that live stream, you can watch it below. Mind you, if you’re not logged into your YouTube account it may not be viewable.