Welcome to The Baffler’s agony corner, YOUR SORRY ASS, where Amber A’Lee Frost dispenses bossy, judgmental advice on how to live your life fairly, kindly, and with good humor. Send us your rants and pleas, please: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Your Sorry Ass,
Recently while on vacation, I posted a blurry photo on Instagram of me skinny-dipping in the ocean—with a funny caption, of course. Soon after, I was surprised to see that it had been reported for nudity and that Instagram had actually taken the picture down. After bringing it up with my boyfriend over the phone—he was not on vacation with me—he admitted that he was the one who reported it! His explanation was that it made him “uncomfortable.” This isn’t the first time he’s mentioned his discomfort with me posting nude-ish photos of myself on Instagram, but I’m annoyed that he didn’t ask me to take it down personally before reporting me to “the man.” Am I right to be upset, or should I be more attuned to his feelings of discomfort?
Signed, Nude and Annoyed
Despite my own “allegedly” libertine lifestyle (oysters are high in B-12 vitamins, and three fur coats is hardly indulgent with these winters!), I am highly sympathetic to personal commitments to conservative living. And I really do mean personal commitments. As long as the lifestyle guidelines that inform such commitments don’t become prescriptive, quaint and anachronistic concepts such as modesty strike me as charming eccentricities, often quite sweet—and sometimes even kind of sexy.
But Nude, I must say, I am aghast that someone dear to you would sabotage your exhibitionist joie de vivre! And without even coming to you first? Nude, that’s poor behavior on your boyfriend’s part and I would be most upset by the betrayal—minor though it may be.
What you are dealing with here is an incongruity in values, which sounds intimidating, but it’s something that happens in absolutely every relationship. The only way through such interpersonal quagmires is via communication and compromise.
I know: Ew!
But I’d say that, as the one transgressed against, it’s on you to make the opening move. Explain to him the inappropriateness of his censorship; it was repressive in a way you find politically and aesthetically troubling (come on—nudity on a personal Instagram account should not be bowdlerized in this day and age). What’s more, it was personally hurtful, even as a petty little ruse. Why go behind your back like that? It sounds like you’re willing to have a conversation about this, so let him know this is absolutely the sort of thing you’d be willing to discuss, but it has to be discussed. You deserve an apology—or at least some professed remorse.
From that point on, you’re likely going to want to get to the root of what makes him uncomfortable about your Instagram frolics. Without addressing the root of the situation now, this will likely happen again, and eventually begin to breed resentment. And I need hardly add that resentment is absolutely poison for a relationship.
Still, in spite of your own totally understandable annoyance, it is worth it to try and see things from his perspective. A great deal of cultural precedent, after all, can be invoked to explain why someone might feel more comfortable with modesty—most especially when it involves the person that a partner is most often nude with. He should be able to articulate why it bothers him, and you should be able to explain why you find a bit of Internet nudity trivial (without making him feel like his actual feelings don’t matter to you).
From the perspective of my own depraved values, I’m not sure what modern guy would really be opposed to cute pics of his unclad beloved frolicking in the waves. Instagram is already full of nudity, and so long as you’re not a public figure, it’s unlikely that any of these images would have an adverse effect on a user’s personal life. I would also argue that your funny caption keeps the context rather light. Nudity isn’t inherently pornographic, and I think it’s usually worth it in these situations to make your argument aesthetically, as well as morally and interpersonally.
Is it possible, dear reader, that your boyfriend’s discomfort had more to do with your vacation away from him? That’s no excuse for the reporting, but the jealous mind is an irrational one, and we’re all a bit more prone to small-minded slights when feeling alone or forgotten.
Ultimately, you both need to decide how important this is. Does your Internet nudity really bother him that much, or was something else on his mind? And if it does really bother him, are you comfortable adjusting your behavior to suit his comfort level? It would be a compromise on your part to agree not to expose the whole of your corporeal beauty before the camera, but would it be the sort of compromise you would feel coerced or bullied into making? Do you, dear Nude, feel that agreeing to cover up before the lens would be a betrayal of your principles in order to please a partner? Because that would actually be a problem—and again, the sort of disagreement that breeds resentment.
If all of this sounds rather heavy, fret not. Couples who truly care about each other tend to work through these things pretty well, and with increased speed and efficiency as relationship skills develop. This is very likely something that can be cleared up with a brief but frank conversation about boundaries, bodies, and the joys of the bared ass. Good luck!