“Can I ask you a huge favor? I accidentally sent you a Snapchat that was not intended for you to receive, so could you please not open it? Please don’t be mad I know this is so stupid and was irresponsible and will not happen again. I’m really sorry I feel really stupid can you just please not open it?” - Me, trying to salvage my dignity in a text to my mother. 9:59 PM. June 24, 2018.
My demise began with a bathroom mirror selfie. “Nude” might be a misleading word for the photo I took. It was tasteful—as I try to make all my nudes—and it wasn’t actually showing my nude body. But it was certainly a scandalous photo, and certainly not something I wanted my mother to see. I couldn’t tell you what happened when I went to send it, because I’m not exactly certain. All I know is that somewhere between selecting my partner’s name and hitting the send button, I also hit my mom’s name. And then I saw my life flash before my eyes.
To save you some time: no, Snapchat does not allow you to unsend a snap that’s already been sent. According to my frantic research, it doesn’t matter what you do. You can block the person, delete them as a friend, and delete your entire account, but the snap will still be sent.
The fact that my mom is even on Snapchat is probably a good indicator of the type of mom she is in general. She is, however, a little too curious. In response to my late-night panicked text in which I respectfully asked her not to open my Snapchat, she said, “Ok. I will not. Can you tell me who it was intended for?”
I breathed at least a small sigh of relief because if she knew who it was intended for, she would probably know what it was. But at least she wouldn’t see it. Then, however, she said, “Ok I just saw it. I’m a liar.”
To make what feels like a very long, never-ending story short, my mom opened my nude. And, because she’s a cool mom, she wasn’t too upset about it. She did tell me, “Please don’t continue to post revealing pics of yourself on the internet,” which to me is kind of funny because that’s not exactly how Snapchat works. But in the long run, she mostly understood. She even said—unnecessarily—that if they had this kind of technology when she and my dad were dating they would’ve been sending this stuff to each other too. It’s gross, but also probably true.
That sparked my interest. Not in a creepy way (believe me), but I thought it was really interesting that my mom did not have the high-and-mighty attitude toward my generation’s integration of sex into technology that many of the people in her generation had. She admitted what many millennial critics never want to even think about: that the cavalierness with which we take and send nudes may not have anything to do with our collective generational personality, but that we were just in the right place with the right technology at the right time. Any other generation would have done the same if they had access to the same resources we do.
So if any generation would have done the same, why is our generation so shamed for it? Why are nudes so demonized? And the biggest question of all: how do we deal with this shame and stigma?
The short answer to that question is: I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows. Sex and sexuality have been stigmatized all throughout history, so any expression of them—i.e. nudes—carries that same shadow of shame. But hopefully it won’t have to forever. And if my mom's response to my nude photo is any indication of where we’re headed in terms of being accepting of sex and sexuality, I think we’re on the right path.
Annie Walton Doyle