Although her message seems to be that it is “empowering” for women to "share their body and sexuality" (she thinks it makes her #liberated) on the internet… other women (and men) disagree. Among them: Chloe Moretz and Bette Midler.
(Unless “white” is the Social Justice word “bad” or “different from my opinion,” I have yet to figure out what nude selfies have to do with race.)
Bette Midler responded with a joke:
AND asks Bette Midler for nudes as a way to insult and attack her.
So which is it, Kim? Empowering, or insulting? Because I’m having a hard time understanding how it can be both.
I think it’s obvious by now where I stand on this. I am all about loving your body. I identify as a beautiful woman, and encourage other women to #ChooseBeautiful. But it’s important to know that your true value isn’t just about sex and appearance. Based on the evidence -- including that provided by Kim herself -- nude selfies are neither liberating nor empowering.
Chloe Moretz is absolutely right -- it's important to have goals and values. It's important to know you have more to offer than sexiness.
As a psychologist, there are a million reasons why I think that, including:
1.It’s better for your self-esteem.
I absolutely hate stupid, lazy stereotypes about how “all women have felt fat” and “all women are insecure about their appearance.” Because you know what? I’m sitting here racking my brain, trying to think of a single time when I felt fat or ugly.
I can't think of one. Part of it is because comparing yourself to other women is at least somewhat of a learned behavior – and posting photos of yourself so everyone knows how sexy you are reinforces this toxic way of thinking. It's like putting yourself on the meat market.
The other part is that, sure, I love the way I look -- but that's not why I value myself. That's not why I want others to value me. I know I have more to offer. And when you value yourself for your kindness, sense of humor, intelligence and other non-sex things, other women will never make you feel bad about yourself. Even if they are skinnier or more beautiful than you, you’re not going to feel bad about it.
For example, I know I’ll never look or move as beautifully as Blake Lively. But I’m so excited about my work, my travels, my surfing and my songwriting, that it’s like, “Who cares? I’ve got so much going on, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!” She's pretty, I'm pretty, and we're both living lives we love. What could be better?
Yes, it is absolutely important to value yourself for real things, and not just sex.
2. It’s better for your mental health.
A while back, I posted Stop the Bullshit: Women Aren’t More Likely to be Depressed Than Men. It’s an interesting post that walks you through some of the fallacies behind the statistic that women are "three times more likely to be depressed than men."
However, bad science aside, there is one real reason why women may be more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men:
Men are more likely to value themselves for their contributions, accomplishments and abilities – things they have a lot of control over. Women are more likely to value themselves for their beauty, over which they have little control.
Sure, there is some very impressive makeup out there. You can buy hair extensions and eyelash extensions and shapewear and pushup bras. But there’s really only so much you can do to "improve" your beauty.
And that matters.
Happy and mentally healthy people are usually the ones who feel a greater sense of control and autonomy in their lives.
Fostering goals, values and a desire to succeed is one of the surest ways to have better mental health – especially for women.
Fostering a focus on appearance and pretending that being sexy is somehow liberating women... that only feeds into the depression and anxiety way too many women feel about their appearance.
3. It’s better for your privacy and security.
In American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, Nancy Joe Sales discusses the ubiquity of “slut pages,” or websites and social media accounts where boys re-post nude photos of girls from their school. According to Sales almost every high school – and every MIDDLE SCHOOL! – has a slut page.
It’s now fairly common for guys to ask girls – even ones they barely know – for nudes. And, apparently, girls aren’t certain if they should send them or not. (It seems like a no-brainer to me. If some dude who sits behind me in calculus asked me for nudes, I’d report him for harassment. But apparently it’s something today's teenagers struggle with.)
Now, the internet is full of feminists who believe that it doesn’t matter if you share nude selfies – if someone shares your nudes, they are the criminal and you are the victim.
This is a dangerous argument.
Because, sure, men(/boys) shouldn’t be setting up slut pages or sharing revenge porn. That absolutely should be criminal – in some states, it already is.
But do you really want to tell girls that they are helpless recipients of whatever boys do to them? If the boy asks for nudes, you should send them, because it’s “empowering” and "liberating" to have him and all his friends looking at your body… and then consider yourself the “victim” when the photos go viral?
No. I hate to say it, but if you send nudes, it’s at least a little your fault. You made a bad decision. It’s also the parents’ fault for not teaching their kids any better. And maybe it's part Kim Kardashian's fault.
It is not a good thing to encourage or normalize nude selfies. Especially considering that, sure, when Kim Kardashian does it, she makes a lot of money through her brand (which started with a sex tape), and nudes are how she markets herself.
But when you’re a young woman sending boys nudes… how exactly do you benefit from that? How exactly does it liberate you?
Middle and high school students aren’t typically sophisticated enough to know the difference. They just learn that nudes are normal and okay.
And then they end up on a slut page.
Maybe instead of teaching girls to post sexy photos of themselves... we should teach them to post photos of themselves playing sports? Trying new things? Recordings of their music? Links to blog posts they've written about science, education or current events? Etc.?
4. Role models matter.
Other than slut pages, you know what’s gotten ubiquitous? Pornography. And, according to Sales, girls are starting to "pose and act like porn stars."
You know. By sending nude selfies that go viral on the internet.
By spending tons of money getting their pubes ripped out because boys think pubes are “gross.”
By hypersexualizing themselves.
And, most tragically, by engaging in the kinds of sex depicted in porn.
For example, anal sex. In 2011, college health professionals reported a troubling rise in the number of female students suffering from "anal fissures caused by sex." A nurse practitioner at a large Southern California university confirmed that she'd noticed the same worrying phenomenon.
Research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine demonstrates a rise in the number of young people having anal sex -- but it doesn't measure how many young women are pressured into it. Anecdotally, many young women report that they've been asked repeatedly by boyfriends to "go to 5th base." Others say it seems like butt sex is a "constant expectation" now.
That’s really messed up. Buttholes aren’t designed for sex… but it’s in porn. So boys expect it. And girls just kind of acquiesce.
Just like they feel like they should acquiesce when boys ask for nudes.
Or, to use a more moderate example, internet pornography generally implies a some amount of force. “Teen pussy gets destroyed by huge dick.” “Tight pussy gets pounded.” And even "Brutal Threesome" and "Facial abuse."
You get the idea.
This teaches young people, who, again, are not experienced or sophisticated enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality, that sex is “supposed” to be a certain way.
(And, sure, some porn shows a guy going down on a girl. But all porn shows a girl going down on a guy.)
What this means is less satisfying (and, sometimes, more dangerous) sex for girls. It is probably at least partially responsible for the orgasm gap between men and women – as well as the lack of actual empowerment or autonomy so many women feel in sexual situations.
For example, in a study by Kate Taylor, many girls reported needing to be drunk in order to engage in “no strings attached” sex – and that, sometimes, the alcohol would wear off by the time they got back to the guy’s room. So instead of just saying, “Yo, I changed my mind, thanks anyway,” they get down on their knees and suck the guy’s dick – “so they don’t have to have sex with him.”
Instead of telling hookups and romantic partners, “I want this much/kind of foreplay,” they lie there while the guy thrusts, and then complain behind they guy’s back when they don’t have an orgasm.
The problem isn’t the patriarchy. The problem is lack of autonomy – and a lack of powerful role models. Women whose value and "liberation" comes from nude selfies aren't anything to look up to.
Why not encourage young women to choose role models like Sarah Blakeley or Amal Clooney, who are powerful and interesting and inspirational. Instead of someone who spends her afternoon taking just the right “spontaneous” nude and posing like a porn star.
5. Nude photos are degrading.
Part of being a good thinker is accepting facts, even if you don’t like them. And it is a fact that in our culture, nude photos are degrading, not empowering.
I could make an argument about the psycholinguistics or psychology that supports this. I could provide anecdotal evidence about how men talk about women who send them nude photos.
Or I could just repeat Kim’s perfect response to Bette Midler:
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