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Science Advice Goddess: Bare Tracks

Amy Alkon on

My boyfriend asked me for nude photos of myself. I reluctantly sent him one. I feel very uncomfortable about sending it, and I don't want to send more -- though sending naked pics now seems very common. Am I paranoid?

--Online Privacy Fan

Unfortunately, "online privacy" is one of the more absurdo oxymorons -- a contradiction in terms on the level of "planned spontaneity," "working vacation," and my favorite: "civil war." (The warring factions yell "Thank you!" and "No, thank you!" across the trenches until more people pass out on one side than the other.)

Digital-world technology has made our lives vastly easier, more efficient, and more fun, but it can also cost us big-time -- on a scale previously unseen and even unimaginable throughout human history. Back in the Middle Ages, no one had to worry about some brainy malcontent hacking their "cloud" and releasing all their nudie shots to the Global Village. At worst, one other person might come upon a lone sketch of them in a state of undress or maybe a few slutty etchings.

In other words, you are far from unreasonable to say no to sending any further nudiepix, and it would not be unreasonable to ask your boyfriend to delete the one you sent him (explaining your privacy concerns). That said, he might find that request unreasonable, vis-a-vis how common it is for people to sext those they're dating -- or (when those people are guys) show random strangers on the internet their erect willy.

If he does find it unreasonable, you might feel bad saying no. Women, much more than men, tend to be on the high end of the spectrum of the personality trait "agreeableness" (first identified in the 1930s by psychologists Gordon Allport and Henry Odbert). High agreeableness manifests in a "pleaser" personality: being kind, empathetic, cooperative, and driven to have positive interactions with others (often to one's own detriment).

 

Understanding that you might have a predisposition to say yes can help you stand up for yourself. At first, announcing your boundaries -- saying no -- will likely feel bad. Be prepared to override that feeling and act in your best interest. Sure, many people share all sorts of naked 'n' crazy without having it exposed to the universe, but there's always that possibility. At a work retreat, your co-workers should not try to bond with you with: "Don't you find the Cool Whip requires too much cleanup?"

Mute Point

I'm a guy in my early 20s. I love my older brother and look up to him. But starting in high school, girls flocked to him, and he was crowned prom king, though I'm objectively more attractive. Recently, a girl I really liked and became friends with started dating him after I introduced them at a party. Neither knew about my feelings for her because I never told them, but I now feel resentful and envious of my brother.

--Bitter

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