• Some are leaked for clout, others by accident, others out of malice by a jilted lover
• Showing face, background or bodily features like tattoo comes back to haunt one
It has happened again and will continue happening because people, somehow, fall into the temptation of sharing nude images of themselves with their lovers. Is technology pushing people to get naughty?
The latest in a long list of prominent personalities whose nude images are out on the Internet is gospel artiste Mary Lincoln. A widely circulated video showed the musician and mother of three bare it all on a video most likely taken from a mobile phone.
Public nudity is obviously bad for a celebrity specialising in Christian music. Mary later took part in a repentance and forgiveness prayer session at a church in Kiambu county. "Our God is merciful and offers those who repent a second chance to resume service to him," Mary said.
Mary Lincoln can take solace in the fact that she is not the only prominent personality whose privacy has been violated on the Internet. Musicians, socialites, governors, religious leaders and corporate bigwigs have been victims, too, especially with the growing prevalence of social media over the past 15 years. Cabinet ministers, legislators and heads of international organisations have also had their nudes exposed to all and sundry.
WHY THE LEAKS?
Nude images are usually leaked by individuals with a grudge against the victim, such as ex-lovers, disgruntled employees, political rivals and business competitors. Blackmail is an important consideration, too, when people with the victim's intimate images demand money so as not to post the photos or videos. The images are released if the victim fails to comply with the demands.
There are credible allegations that certain celebrities leak their nude images to get public attention. To these individuals, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Falling into a scandal is much better than not being talked about.
Revenge pornography, or revenge porn, is a phenomenon where a bitter ex-lover posts nude images of the victim. Evelyne Wanjiku, a Kenyan researcher who has studied the subject extensively, explains that revenge pornography includes the circulation of images obtained without consent (such as hidden recordings) as well as images originally obtained with consent but distributed without consent. Harmless social photographs of victims might be stolen, copied and uploaded onto pornography sites.
"Revenge pornography is a phenomenon that disproportionately affects women. In fact, researchers argue that women are the second-most vulnerable online group after children," Wanjiku wrote in the Journal for Communication Studies in Africa in an article published last year.
"Sharing nude images or other information with a confidant should not be seen to mean that one has waived all privacy expectations. Such information is shared on the basis of an understanding that it will remain private between the parties involved."
Media organisations (and bloggers) latching onto trending topics are inadvertently promoting revenge porn on their digital platforms because they are giving it an audience. Indeed, most of us get to know about leaked images from online news platforms.
If you watch wildlife documentaries, you will notice that animals engage in certain behaviours when trying to attract mates. One of those behaviours is showing off their bodies as proof of fertility. Is sharing nude pictures a deep-seated primal instinct that remains stuck in human psychology despite all our claims of being civilised? Do those lurid images serve any purpose other than mere arousal?
According to data published in Cosmopolitan magazine, people who exchange erotic texts and images with a romantic partner reported a greater sense of satisfaction with their relationships. In a study of 870 adults carried out by US-based Drexel University, 88 per cent of respondents said they sexted within a committed relationship. 43 per cent of the respondents said they sexted in casual relationships, too. Perhaps unsurprisingly, men were more likely to be satisfied with sexting compared to women.
Additional studies on sexting show that persons who are reserved or who generally avoid intimacy tend to send more nude photos to romantic interests. Husbands anxious about the relationship they have with their wives also reported higher rates of exchanging nude or semi-nude images. Older couples do less sexting compared to younger couples probably because older persons were courting long before digital technology appeared.
Not everybody is comfortable taking nude pictures and videos of themselves. The ongoing cases of leaked images confirm such fears. The biggest drawback to sharing nudes is that the sender has no control over what happens to such images afterwards. Even if the intended recipient does not have bad intentions, the nude pictures and videos might be seen by other people. Remember that once you send a nude picture, you cannot take it back. Furthermore, hackers have software that can recover digital images that the victim thinks were deleted.
Sometimes, people share nude photos by mistake. This exact scenario played out back in 2016, when a couple in Nakuru county shared pictures of themselves enjoying intimate moments in a hotel room. The problem is that both the man and woman were married to other people. The man mistakenly shared the photos in a county WhatsApp group. The pictures went viral as they were seen across the world.
There's also the matter of falling under pressure from a lover or some other person to send nude pictures. It is OK for someone in an intimate relationship to request nude pictures, but it is wrong to exert pressure on an unwilling partner. Couples should agree on whether or not to share such images among themselves to avoid conflict.
Critics often question the point of romantic partners exchanging nude images when they have already seen all there is to see for real. One of the commonly cited examples justifying sexting is of couples forced by circumstances, such as work, to live far from each other. The nude pictures help fill that intimacy gap.
If you really must share intimate pictures of yourself, the Washington Post has a set of easy recommendations on protecting yourself from possible leaks. First, never include your face in the photo or video. Second, make sure the background in the photo cannot be easily identified as your home or workplace. Third, cover or omit personally distinguishing features such as birthmarks and tattoos.
These tips make it easier to disassociate yourself from the images should they get leaked to the public. As pop star Shaggy sang in his year 2000 hit song, you can say, "It wasn't me."
From a legal standpoint, it is worth remembering that any nude or sexual images of an individual below the age of 18 are considered child exploitation material. Anyone sharing such images is liable to face serious criminal charges.
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