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Dear Girls Who Sent Nudes, Thank You

What leaking of nude pictures says about betrayal of consent and privacy.

 When I was 15, I made out with a boy (it wasn’t my first time or anything.) My mistake(?) being that this boy had a friend who liked me. The events that would take place still come back to me on some days, and today is one such day. The friend- let us call him Kooldoodh69- had a claim that to him seemed very reasonable:- I must date him. Imagine my audacity when I asked why? And his “it’s so obvious” answer? Otherwise I will tell your sister that you made out with my friend. 
In a bid to escape, I quickly told him that my sister said I should not date him. Kooldoodh69 took it to heart and sent my sister a long message asking her why she was coming in between. My sister in turn gave me an earful. I was not to be dragging her name into my rendezvous’ with various boys. I remember being scared, feeling stuck, since it seemed like I had lost my freedom to choose. It had not occurred to me yet that I was being blackmailed. 
Studying in an all-girls school in Dubai means that certain topics are taboo. An unspoken understanding hangs in the air that any talk related to ‘private parts’ was bad. And yet, it was only such stories that were notoriously smuggled in, pedaled during free hours or snorted quickly under the teacher’s nose, leaving addicts like us in a high that would last an entire school day, maybe two if it was your first time. 
This mirage-like veil of morality seemed to vaporize when a girl's nudes got leaked. And almost every other girl had this ‘shameful’ photo in her phone gallery- a girl sitting in front of a mirror, her legs spread apart, and her tongue out, or just a pair of breasts, and if the boy had been especially good there was a face involved too.  If some unfortunate girl decided to date someone’s brother, sneaky smiles from his sister(s) the next day was proof enough that it was no longer just an intimate photo to “prove that you love me.” 
From 8th grade onwards, stories about the girl who shoved a pencil inside her vagina, the Head girl who gave a ‘head’ to a boy or even the girl who slipped ice into her white shirt so that the boy could fetch it out, were teaching experiences. Each of our faces creatively displaying emotions ranging from shock and disgust to wonder and amusement, all the while making mental notes about this new seduction tactic we had just chanced upon. Sitting on staircases during our Games period, we would eagerly wait for that one girl with ‘chill parents’ who could interact with boys to declare, “let the ‘shareef bacche’ play, come I’ll tell you gossip.”
Nobody held the boys accountable for serving these steamy stories, nobody wanted to, nobody was used to it.  
The last time I would take part in these acts of double standards was in 12th grade when a classmate had sponsored one week’s worth of scandal: she had openly proclaimed that she masturbates. In return she got disgust-filled glares. Nobody spoke to her or wanted to shake her hand for a week or more. But there was something different about this incident. None of us relished this as much as we did the other stories; no creative expressions, nothing but pure disgust. In fact, we wanted to know how she even thought of sharing such information with us. Why couldn’t she just keep quiet? Almost as if, dare I say it, we couldn’t accept a girl having power over - and  pleasure in- her own body.
All through school, any girl who remotely expressed any kind of sexual feelings was discussed, and intense judgments were passed on her character. Never was she ever seen the same way after something got out. Sometimes I wonder if they had anyone to talk to- someone who wouldn’t blame them? Not their girl ‘friends’ for sure- they were too busy spreading the story.
But enough throwing sympathy. What about those boys? The ones behind the big wall, throwing over small chunks of meat for us to share and feed on? Why did they never have to face any repercussions? 
Because Boys will be Boys, and girls let them be boys. 
I often wonder how different things would be if we all had begun calling out the pathetic boy who decided to profit off of a body; or maybe if the girl in question had begun circulating the conversations that preceded the photo- the “please”, “if you love me”, “I never asked for this na”, “please please, please”, “if you won’t send I won’t talk to you”, “why you wont send?” “You don’t love me?”  “Why you’re being such a bitch?” type chats. 
But Economics is a way of life, and where there is demand, there will always be supply. We needed these stories you see, we needed good girls who turned bad at night, we needed the nudes. Imagine our surprise when we realized all breasts did not look the same, but were equally attractive anyway! We needed these bold girls in a country where porn was blocked, girls who introduced us to distant concepts like oral sex and masturbation. These girls made us feel morally superior, we were better, smarter even- or so we thought, while covertly lapping up the vicarious sexualness.
As for me now, I owe it to these girls. Phenomenal that they were, coming to school every day knowing what everyone thought about them, but just not giving a damn, continuing to drop the sexiest photos (not for any Kooldoodh69 types) and do the sexiest things.
Most importantly, they taught me how to deal with my personal Kooldoodh69 – Ignore him, watch him talk to himself in my DM’s, laugh at him- all as I owned my own body and wondered what it could do for me.
Anika Eliz Baby is a student studying in St.Joseph's College (Autonomous), Bangalore. When not making memes, she is passing awkward jokes and fangirling over anybody that is not her. Read more of her writings here.
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