Does Consent Make Nudity on Social Media Acceptable?

As humans, we see at least one naked body per day: our own. Nudity is something that we are exposed to from day one; it is only the nature of said nudity that changes with time. The way that we can see naked people used to be limited to Playboy, Pay-Per-View Specials, or strip clubs, but now you can see someone nude on the Internet in a matter of seconds. Our society has transformed in a sense where we used to desperately search for nudity and now it is damn near impossible to avoid. While nudity and porn are adamantly against some for the community guideline regulations for social media sites, they still exist. Regulation against these unlawfully nude accounts has been very hit or miss in what is viewed as acceptable or not.

Nudity and pornographic material is now more accepted, but has our consensual desensitization to nudity made social media an acceptable promotion platform? A wise person would tell you that there are two sides to everything: light and dark, on and off, up and down, day and night, hot and cold. Social media is not exempt from this ideal; there are good posts and bad posts, best practices and worst practices, and good nudity and bad nudity.

Social media allows users to create a profile among many platforms and connect with people around the world via images or text. The use of the hashtag on social media has revolutionized marketing and created a specific niche of contact between people and consumer. In this specific case, the consumer is the person who creates a social media campaign to reach the masses. The two that are most notable are #BreakTheInternet and #FreeTheNipple.

Both of these campaigns are, at the bare minimum (no pun intended), used as a platform to promote the acceptance of nudity and to create a positive relationship with the human body in all forms. “To me, our bodies are just bodies. Both men and women are over sexualized and I don’t think it should have to be that way,” Khwatenge said. “It’s up to society if it will ever be unacceptable. I don’t think nudity will ever be rejected as a social taboo. Society is always trying to push the envelope.”

instagram-reportWhile consensual nudity is something that has become more widely accepted, on the other end of that spectrum there are forms of nudity that are widely disliked. Some say that you have to go looking for porn to really find it on social media and in most cases they are right. But in certain instances there are times when unsolicited forms of nudity creep up on your feed. “Instagram has expanded its no nudity rule, stating: “We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”

So if Instagram has attempted to create this fine line of what good and bad nudity is, why are there still so many amateur porn accounts? Or the other accounts that feature nudity that some users may find repulsive. Using words such as artistic and creative in nature leaves a lot of room for possible loopholes.

Nude modeling and amateur porn accounts on Instagram have follower counts on the rise. Some of the more popular being: Suicide Girls – 3.5 million followers, Suicide Girls Burlesque – 95k followers, Burning Angel – 54.7k followers, GodsGirls – 17.5k followers. The amounts of social media users that want to be featured on these sites are also in huge numbers. On Instagram alone the hashtag #SuicideHopeful has tens of thousands of posts. The creation and outright social boom of accounts like these are what has caused social media to surpass porn as the number one most view topic on the Internet.

Porn has done what all industries do: adapt. “It’s not just on porn sites. There are more than 20 million porn sites, but now there’s more porn on Tumblr than there is on some of these porn sites. We live in a world where the number one app right now for teenagers is Snapchat – an app that allows you to take a photo or video of yourself and send it to your friends and in 10 seconds, it disappears.” Apps like Tinder, kik, or Snapchat have a widely accepted reputation for being apps to connect sexually with others, either virtually or in a real setting. Social media has allowed us to fulfill our sexual desires almost entirely in the open and it isn’t necessarily frowned upon.

Both the consensual and the non-consensual sides of this argument are important and necessary topics of debate. And they pose the continued question: are we really okay with nudity or not? Equally importantly, are we allowing porn to have its stake in certain sections of social media or not? . I think the answers to both those questions are one in the same, unequivocally, yes. The line between awe-inspiring and offensive nudity is so thin that social media can’t really find a way to combat it. While there are little battles that social media has won along with way, porn has certainly won the war. More often than not you’ll see some form of nudity online. Whether it’s sought out or not, it’s there and I feel like a majority of the time society has turned a blindly accepting eye. This is the new norm. Just as porn and nudity has adapted, we must adapt in the ways that we keep our children and ourselves away from nudity that we do not want to see.

Madeline McDowell, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland 

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