Warning: Explicit content
Nudes, boob flashes, dick pics - they are the kind of photos we collectively laugh about.
We know people take them, but we never admit to taking our own. There's still something societally-sordid about photographing your own junk, isn't there?
We also often talk about nudes as being unsolicited – particularly, something horny men send to women without their request. Yet when I speak to people of all genders and sexual orientations, they reveal that nude photos are something almost everybody in the dating realm does nowadays. They're a modern courting device.
First of all, let's not pretend this is simply a smartphone-era phenomenon. Nude Polaroid's have been undoubtedly popular for the generations gone past – mostly for their instantaneous, one-off nature. In the days when you'd get a 35mm film developed at the chemist, I'm also confident your local pharmacist saw some racy photos of their customers.
Today, I have a personal theory of how the modern nude came about. I think it was all down to Apple releasing it's iPhone 4 circa 2010. See, before this particular device, phones didn't really have front-facing cameras. If you had, say, an iPhone 3G or a Blackberry (it was 2010, after all), there wasn't the option to see yourself on your screen while taking a selfie.
So that takes care of the "how": I put it down to the physical opportunity born out of new technology (thanks Steve Jobs!). Then begs the next question: why on earth do humans take nude photos of themselves?
Our need to physically connect with other human beings is a primal instinct. Both the body and the mind crave it. We are sexual creatures. The problem here with the 21st century lifestyle is, we spend our days in front of screens, physically disconnected from other people. We have less face-to-face meetings and more texts and e-mails.
We swipe apps instead of going to bars. So how do we try to satiate that desire? Nudes. We drop trou, take a snap, send it off, and eagerly await someone's opinion on it. This is the modern version of initiating that physical contact; it's digital foreplay.
The result of this send-and-receive engagement of nudes is feeling "seen" by another person. Not just in a sexual way; in that very human way that tells us we are important. To feel valued and desired are both feelings we all yearn for. Everybody needs validation of other people and nudes are a quick, convenient, easy way to get it.
Let's not forget the illicit nature of taking a quick, cheeky nude. Because it feels like something you shouldn't be doing, it makes you want to do it even more. Like the rush you might have achieved from petty shoplifting from the dairy as a kid, that sense of getting away with it is more thrilling than the end result.
As time goes on and Instagram makes more and more celebrities out of regular people, I think we as people are becoming more exhibitionist. We are less afraid of prudishness and more excited by our own bodies (as Ru Paul says at the end of every Drag Race episode, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love anybody else?"). Nudes are body positivity and self-love in their most explicit forms.
There are loads of warnings out there about why you shouldn't be taking nudes (hacking, revenge porn, body dysmorphia, etc.) so I won't go into them today. I just want to leave you with this: I am all for nudes, as long as you're both consenting adults. I think they're a fun way of self-expression – a channel to allow primal human instinct to converge with modern technology – and they are something nobody should ever be ashamed of.
If they ever come back to "bite you in the ass", as it were, I see no reason why you can't just acknowledge their existence. Everybody's got nudes. It's time to just own them.