Literary slut, visual prude

It occurred to me this weekend that I have a complete double-standard about sharing stuff online. And not just for me—which would be fine, you know, setting standards for myself—but I find myself getting all Judgy McJudgerson about other people, which is quite frankly both exhausting and probably just bad karma.

And yes, I know that everyone has their own boundaries. Everyone has to decide what they can live with, and what makes them comfortable, and if it makes ME uncomfortable, I am free to look away, and blah blah blah BLAH let’s sing Kumbaya! I get that. I do.

Nevertheless, I realized this weekend, when I found myself face-to-face with someone’s naked boobs, that I am much more tolerant of the written word than I am of photography. Specifically, I am not bothered by an entire post about your breasts (particularly if it’s funny) (I think I’ve written a couple of those) (at least, I hope they were funny), but I’d rather not be ambushed by a giant picture of them.

It’s not you, it’s me. Your breasts are lovely. I mean, I assume they are. I really have no idea, on account of I never, ever want to see them except when they are covered by your clothes. And if you (or they) have a story to tell, SUPER.

But if I am reading along on your blog which is about your busy life as a working mother, or whatever, and suddenly HI, NIPPLES! Well, I’m sorry, call me a prude if you must, but that’s not okay with me.

I know it’s stupid. Am I afraid of or offended by breasts? Not really. I have two of them, myself. I just don’t want to look at yours. Even though I will happily read a long, detailed story about them, just so long as I don’t have to actually look at them.

On the other hand, I’m okay—maybe even delighted, at times—to read detailed accounts of personal things. Just so long as there are no pictures.

I have no idea why that is. I suspect it doesn’t make any sense.

Further evidence of my double standard:

Good: Trashy, slutty novels if the sex scenes are relatively well-written. (This would exclude the words “heaving” and “throbbing,” in case you’re wondering.)
Bad: Pornos. I am too busy being embarrassed for the actors and/or wondering who actually wrote the ridiculous dialogue to, uh, get into it.

[Side note to my father: I just made that up. I’ve never seen a porno in my life. Also, I didn’t inhale. Love you!]

Good: Funny story about your husband’s underwear malfunction.
Bad: Picture of your husband’s junk. NO THANK YOU.

Good: Cringeworthy retelling of that time one of your kids walked into the room at a very inopportune moment.
Bad: Picture of your vibrator inside a box of Saltines, or whatever other “solution” you later fashioned. Sure, I’d like to hear all about it. But if you’re taking pictures, I need a blindfold.

Keep in mind that I’m talking about the kinds of blogs I usually read. If you write an “adult” blog or whatever, have at it. It’s not my thing, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m talking about people I read who probably take coupons to the grocery store and go to PTA meetings who write about their day-to-day lives and then *BAM* there’s suddenly naked pictures in your face. And not only does it irk me, I’m left wondering WHY? Why would someone suddenly decide that was an appropriate thing to share with the world (if that wasn’t the level of sharing all along, of course)?

Is it just me? I mean, I’m aware that I’m a little strange. But I can’t be the only one who feels like a picture is worth a thousand winces, can I?

48 Responses to “Literary slut, visual prude”

  1. 1
    Leandra November 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    Well, I’m the world’s worst prude, so I’m probably not the best one to ask, but honestly, seeing someone’s boobs might not bother me if the situation and/or context were right (and don’t ask me what that situation/context is because I have no idea). But I never, no never want to see a picture of anybody’s junk. Never. Nuh uh. No way, no how.

  2. 2
    Kathy November 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    I am in full agreement with you. And I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  3. 3
    Paulla November 10, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    I totally agree with you on this. If someone is going to go naked on me, at least warn me first so I can look away and/or gag, lol.

  4. 4
    Stacy November 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    I totally agree. I will read just about anything, but that doesn’t mean I want to actually see it. I don’t think that makes us prudes though.

  5. 5
    Summer November 10, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    This post is brought to you by the letters “NSFW” and the phrase “after the jump.”

  6. 6
    Wendy November 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    I whole-heartedly agree. Funnily enough, the same holds true for me for books turned into movies. I just would rather read the book and leave it all to my imagination. People think I’m weird because I won’t go see the Harry Potter movies… but the thing is that I enjoyed the way my mind brought them to life and I don’t particularly seem to enjoy the way Hollywood’s mind creates the images. So. It holds true across all sorts of written medium for me. I like my imaginary version of whatever it is over the visual version. I also end up tying my shoes during a lot of sex scenes in movies… “oh, excuse me. it is IMPERATIVE that I lean over right now, bury my face in my knees and tie my shoes here in the dark of the movie theater because I wouldn’t want to trip. You know. while I sit for the next hour not walking. DANGEROUS!!” heh.

  7. 7
    Nicki November 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    I second that. I’ve been doing a little research on Craigslist and dating. (For purely educational purposes…really…it has nothing to do with my new status…really) Well, anyway, imagine my surprise to discover a site that I just can’t look at during work…complete with all the photos from Craigslist in a HUGE SCREEN FILLING COLLAGE. I was gasping and choking and X-ing out as fast as I could. Close one. And I still don’t know if there were any words on that site to help me in my research. In fact, now, I will never know.

  8. 8
    Brigitte November 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    Heh, I’m like that in true life too. I can be a total Pervy McPervyson so long as it’s all talk and all just theoretical . . but don’t start telling me EVERY intimate nitty-griity detail of what you ACTUALLY did last night with your boyfriend and your trapeze set. For example.

  9. 9
    Half Assed Kitchen November 10, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    Yes, we need a warning or a spoiler alert or something before those pics. And now I’m so curious about what blog it was that I may spend my free time today looking for it. :)

  10. 10
    Heather November 10, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    I hate it when Blogher does the little teaser for a post on someone’s blog (like yours!) and it turns out to be Shape of A Mother which is a perfectly great blog but I don’t want to see someone’s post-pregnancy full frontal nekkidity AT WORK. And it has no NSFW tag, which annoys me.

    Now I think you should punish that blogger by letting us all know her URL. Just for educational purposes…you know.

  11. 11
    Sheila November 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    I don’t even like to look at MY husband’s junk. Eyes closed, that’s me.

  12. 12
    Nelson's Mama November 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    After I nursed two kids for a year each, I must say that boobs truly became just another body part to me. Boobs, feet, ears, whatever.

    I think it’s hilarious that Facebook actually removes pictures of moms and babies breastfeeding; we’ll show or allude to practically anything on primetime television, but they feel duty bound to protect America from naked boobies and babies!

  13. 13
    bob November 10, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    so, how do you feel about breastfeeding in public?

    We are taught from birth to hide our bodies and it teaches us shame.

    A breast is just a breast. Why be ashamed of it?

  14. 14
    Mir November 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    Bob, I nursed in public for years. No shame necessary.

    That (to me) is very different than telling a story on your blog and posting a nude photo of yourself purely for shock value. Is it not different to you?

  15. 15
    Em November 10, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    You are making me very afraid to click on Faster than Kudzu.

    (KIDDING! I know Joshilyn Jackson is a lady and is probably writing a book that includes a scene with heaving bosoms – without using those words – and has no time to post pictures that inspire posts about how uncomfortable they make people.)

  16. 16
    dad November 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    Maybe I’m old but…I find this all hilarious. They are all just bodies and someone once said “parts is parts!” Pictures of livers, spleens or pancreases may be a real turn-off but pictures of boobs just make me smile (in a totally non-lascivious way, of course).
    I don’t believe you have never seen a porn film although I don’t doubt for a moment that you spent most of the movie shielding your eyes and singing “la-la-la-lah I can’t hear you.” As for “never inhaling:’ that’s my line…and oh, your grounded.

  17. 17
    Tracy November 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    Was it behind a cut? Because I don’t mind boobs, as a concept, but there’s got to be some warning. Otherwise that’s boob-assault, and that’s just not nice.

  18. 18
    Heather November 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    Haha I’m just like you, on that, too! And like Brigitte – as long as it’s hypothetical, I’m good.

  19. 19
    andi November 10, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    A picture is worth a thousand words… I’ll stick with the thousand words thankyouverymuch.

  20. 20
    bob November 10, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    I don’t want to hijack your comments section with a dissertation; shame was not the primary emotion I would ascribe to what you described as feeling – I wrote two paragraphs, deleted most of it, and that what was left.

    We are taught from an early age that nudity is wrong, because I think our society conflates nudity with sexuality. Why should nudity be relegated to adult blogs, adult movies, the shower, or the conjugal bed? I’m not arguing that we should all walk around naked, but if the mood strikes, why not?

    I think we tend to condemn things that make us uncomfortable instead of addressing the reason for the discomfort.

  21. 21
    mamabird November 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    Tell me a story about your boobs. Don’t show me a picture, although I’m sure they are lovely.

  22. 22
    Headless Mom November 10, 2009 at 3:22 pm #

    It makes perfect sense to me. Words can be crafted and the visual left to our own imagination. With a picture? No such luck. I don’t think it has anything to do with being prude. You read certain blogs and they will ‘tell’ you where your expectations should be, and when they suddenly change the rules it is shocking. Not in the nudity way, more in the, “Hey, I totally wasn’t expecting THAT” way.

  23. 23
    Celeste November 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm #

    Mir, I agree with you. I know the reason I feel this way is because my computer is totally out in the middle of things at my house. Anything I look at is likely to be seen by one of my children. Yes, they know women have boobs. But they don’t want to see them either.

  24. 24
    Katie in MA November 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

    I think – for me at least – it’s that I can stop reading very quickly when I have an idea where a story is going (if I so choose). A picture – you can’t unsee that. (Or, unfortunately, forget about what you saw!)

  25. 25
    mamaspeak November 10, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    I think it has everything to do w/context in which it was used. If unexpected & “in your face” it sounds like the pix was out of context.

  26. 26
    Burgh Baby November 10, 2009 at 5:15 pm #

    I’m taking a pic of my boobs tonight and posting it just. for. you. I suspect that after you see how magnificent they are, you will forget all about this little hang-up. I’m sure my father-in-law will also enjoy it.

  27. 27
    meghann November 10, 2009 at 5:15 pm #

    I’m sure there’s a field day for a psychiatrist in my answer, but here goes:

    I’m totally fine with a stranger’s boobs. You know, whatever. But someone I know, yeah, that would make me uncomfortable.

  28. 28
    Megan November 10, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Heh. Actually brings to mind when I was in Germany and all the newly arrived ‘Merkin guys would get all thrilled with their naughty selves as they were going to A Nuddie Beach that weekend. Poor little loves came back all scarred and shaken because they hadn’t realized that nude beaches in Germany are FAMILY places – meaning 65 yr old gramps happily dropping his y-fronts and his 60 yr old wife sunning her nipples. Ah, innocence.

    S’funny, I think for me it’s the unexpected bit. I have no trouble with nudity (well… okay, dangly bits not so much if I’m honest) but it has to be EXPECTED nudity. So while I wouldn’t (and don’t) post pictures of my altogether on the internet and I don’t really quite get the urge to do so, so long as I know what’s there and why I don’t get concerned. However, some lurking nipplage suddenly leaping out after the jump? Dude! You could put someone’s eye out…

  29. 29
    Priscilla November 10, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    ditto!! I must say in my years as a nurse I have had to see plenty that I would have preferred NOT to see. Makes me glad to be working in an office and calling patients for follow up, although some of the stories I hear…….

  30. 30
    jess November 10, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    I’ve had a similar discussion with other teachers about this, but it was in a different context. I think we are like this because if I’m reading about x-thing (nudity, sex, etc.), I can imagine in my mind whatever I want to and stop myself if I want to. If the image is presented to me *bam*, then I have no control over what image is in my head (and my brain tends to go about three or four steps further than what I actually see). For example, the main discussion we were having pertained to a rape scene in a book. We were discussing at what age we felt it appropriate for students to read that particular book simply due to the graphic rape scene. During the discussion, we realized that we would definitely allow a student to read the book at an earlier age than we would allow him or her to view the image in a movie, because the image doesn’t leave. Words can haunt you via imagination, but actual images can haunt you for life with little or no recourse. (Does that make sense?) There is a difference between reading translating to our imagination and having something directly in our view. (We read about murders and the like all the time in books and short stories, but who really wants to see that?)

    I don’t see it as a double-standard, but self-preservation on the mind and mental images.

    I really hope that all makes sense…

    jess

  31. 31
    wilma ham November 10, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    I like your humor but it is you!
    Well you asked.
    I come from Europe where naked breastes on any beach is normal.
    Some countries cover up their whole body and even their hair cannot been seen and causes shock.
    It is all what you are used to.
    Boobs are as familiar as your nose or you hair to me.
    Now do not show me your hairy armpits, THAT would put me off.
    So it is you and it is me, just different levels of experience to exposure.
    I love your dad and do you know that you are grounded?

  32. 32
    Tam November 10, 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    I have a warning on my blog before you click in to say that it contains adult content. This is not because i have photos of my boobs, or my husbands “junk” on the page, but because it deals with a lot of things people find uncomfortable. Death, Loss and so on, can be upsetting to people. So i leave a warning.

    If i clicked into your blog and found boobs, well, I probably wouldn’t keep reading! Tell me all about them, but i grew out of the SHOW part of show and tell when i was a kid.

    PS. Your dad rocks.

  33. 33
    Mare November 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    Your dad is awesome. At least when you ground Chickadee, you can both be grounded at the same time.

    Onward. This definitely goes against the status quo here with only a couple of exceptions. To me, nudity is just another thing. It’s natural. Our societal obsession with covering enough to be tempting to the consumer has sexualized, particularly the women, the body to a point that I just don’t pay attention.

    We are no longer women. We are objects. It is the reason that breast-feeding is such an issue. It ruins the “sexiness” of the breast which is meant only to be enhanced, enlarged, engorged, and strictly for selling. To see the breasts that nurse a newborn child is like a complete antithesis to the commonly held belief that boobs are only sex.

    As for the expected nudity that is marked with NSFW as opposed to the implied nudity found in books or blogs, that was merely discourteous of the original writer. If you’re going to post pictures of your boobs anywhere, especially nude ones, it is common inter-quette to warn readers that their eyes may roll back in their heads from horror. Common sense and a scold to the writer who blind sided you.

    And on the other hand, it’s a boob, a breast, a bazonga, a baby feeder, an attractive ankle ornament, whatever you call it, women have them. Some are more blessed than others, but so what. If I had boobs as spectacular as some of the air-brushed boobie queens on the covers of the magazines, I can’t say that I wouldn’t be ripping off my clothes at every opportunity as well. No, I’m not jealous, I’m just saying.

    Hooray for boobies and the boon they offer our infants!

  34. 34
    Leila November 10, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

    This time I’m actually howling. You’ll have to excuse me because I must go to the bathroom or I’ll pee in my pants. No pictures will be provided.

  35. 35
    Amy November 10, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    I’m a bit old fashioned, but I don’t even like to see cleavage much. Nobody needs to see my unclothed body parts, and I would prefer the same courtesy extended to me. However, I can read as much or as little as I like. For me, I think it’s because I can compartmentalize (and turn on or off) what I think of when I read but not what I see.

  36. 36
    Flea November 10, 2009 at 9:47 pm #

    Hm. Ditto on the whole “I can stop reading, but can’t get that image out of my head” thing. I’m right there with ya, Mir.

    Technically, I don’t think your dad can ground you if you’re not living in his house.

  37. 37
    Shannon November 10, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    I know what you mean, if the nekkid pictures are purely for shock value, uh, no thanks. And how can you read a perfectly good blog at work if people are posting pictures of “junk”?
    That said, I have a picture on my blog of my boobs. But it doesn’t show a whole lot. And it’s of my son breastfeeding. I love the photo and I’m so glad I have it. That said, if I had seen it on someone’s blog before I was a breastfeeding mother I might have thought it unnecessary.
    http://expectingamiracle.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/breastfeeding/

  38. 38
    Jo November 10, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    Couldn’t agree with you more on the no naked thing. What’s next: video clips? Come ‘on Mom bloggers…if you’re trying to go for higher ratings with shock value…audition for HBO. But motherhood is pretty sacred territory…or should be…”the stronger the families, the stronger the nation” right? Let’s err on the side of our gut…and veer sharply and quickly away from the smut. You are so talented and have so many other options…use them. You can actually bless millions of tired stressed out (many new) mothers for good. They don’t need more confusion (with it’s stress by-product)…they need your laughter, encouragement and love. Honor your calling!

  39. 39
    angie November 11, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    Frankly, I find boobs pretty amusing, whether it’s a funny story or a photo. As are butts. Gotta love a good butt photo. I actually have a coffee table book full of nothing but photos of butts. (Junk is even more amusing. I mean seriously, why are men so proud of how those things look?) Mare wrote it well… as long as it’s tagged so those who don’t want to see it don’t have to, it wouldn’t bother me a bit. But blindsiding one’s readers for shock value just isn’t nice. If you came to my house, I’d put my book away.

  40. 40
    Joshilyn November 11, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    Hey lit-slut. Every stinkin’ TIME I try to comment here it grows to 2K and I just go post it as a blog entry.

    J

  41. 41
    ChristieNY November 11, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    I completely understand. For heaven’s sake if they haven’t shown pics like that in the past, they should have at least made it a link or something where you have the option to click on it or not so we can choose NOT to view it!

    I’m also a hypocrite though, I don’t mind pictures of breastfeeding women or seeing a woman breastfeeding, if their child is – say – under the age of 3. I can tolerate reading about extended breastfeeding with no problem but pictures of obviously much older children breastfeeding gives me the “ugh this is not okay” feeling. Go figure? lol

  42. 42
    ChristieNY November 11, 2009 at 9:44 am #

    PS: your Dad’s comments always crack me up – the exchange between you two is very entertaining! ;)

  43. 43
    Susan M. Boyer November 11, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    I have never been ambushed by boobs on the internet before. I’m obviously not reading the fun blogs. (Not that I have a desire to SEE boobs–I don’t–not at all. I don’t even like looking at my own.) But a anyone who does such a thing would have to possess a wild abandon that might prove entertaining… unless nudity was a regular feature, in which case that wouldn’t be my thing.

  44. 44
    MamaChristy November 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    Boobs are okay. Nipples are not.

    Funny story, since you said you like them. Right after I had my first child, my husband took a photo of me breastfeeding my baby in the recovery room. It was all lovely and very “Madonna and child” in an ugly gown. A photo that I like having for family viewing. And my wonderful, sleep-deprived husband who was proud of his wife for providing nutrition for our baby send it to our family, friends, his co-workers and mine. Sweet. Except I think you can see where this is going. Yeah. Nipple. Totally showing. I was MORTIFIED.

    Nipple are NOT OKAY unless, like Summer said, “NSFW”. :)

  45. 45
    Suebob November 11, 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    I love your dad.

  46. 46
    Lori B November 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    I’m with you on the context thing. Seeing a boob pop up while reading the morning blog, not okay. Having my best friend show me (pre children) that yes, Viriginia, your areola do grow to the size of small dessert plates when you are 9 months pregnant, frightening but okay. It’s all about which boobs I am seeing and why. Now, if one of my friends could just show me what her boobs look like after they’ve had a lift and can give me the name of her surgeon, that would be awesome!

  47. 47
    Jodi November 13, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    I’m a librarian. Enough said, right?

  48. 48
    Jodi November 13, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    (although I can’t resist checking the People of Wal-Mart site..)

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