Unsolicited Photos and Being Okay with Saying No

A couple weeks ago I was in my room watching Youtube videos waiting to be tired enough to sleep when I received a hello message from an old casual friend from middle school via Snapchat. I was reluctant to open it despite being interested in how he was doing because, well, I have not had the best luck chatting with old friends from high school,  middle school or even elementary school.
Just last summer I was asked to send pictures or video chat in a sexual manner after just a few messages back and forth. I wasn't interested in sharing these thing with someone I hadn't seen since I was 11, so obviously I declined, to which he responded by stating that he was "obviously joking." I stopped responding after that.

While I can appreciate someone being direct and to the point with what they want and I have no issue with any consenting adults sharing their bodies' over whatever platform to other consenting adults, I am not interested and have been quite disheartened over the years to see how many times an incident like this has occurred to myself and to other women (and I know it happens men also). It's not the curtness of asking for the photos that bothered me, it was the persistence. I had said no and that I was not into sending pictures and he still persisted. So with this in mind as well as the other instances not worth mentioning, I hesitantly responded to his hello. I messaged my sleeping boyfriend after this initial message to my old friend because I was still texting him anyway despite him sleeping. Mainly I was sending him messages of things that I thought were funny while watching Youtube and I knew he wouldn't see the messages until morning. I also messaged my best friend in New York about it, telling her my prediction of the trajectory of the conversation and kept her posted throughout the following conversation.

The conversation with my old friend was pleasant at first, we just caught up, asking about school and work and just general small talk. We got on the topic of sweatpants and how much he loved them and how I didn't. He was talking about how he needed new sweatpants soon and then sent me a very suggestive photo of him in white sweatpants. I ignored the suggestiveness of the photo and talked about how bad of an idea I thought white sweatpants were because of dirt, how often white is transparent and biological factors. He "haha'ed" it off and we returned to normal conversation for about 2 minutes before he started talking about showering and asking if I was interested in joining him, shortly followed by a very explicit, very nude photo of himself below the waist. I laughed at myself for falling for this again.

I typed up a message quickly, turning down his offer and that I was uninterested and that would not be interested on account of my very happy and serious relationship. I laughed it off for a couple of minutes and gave my boyfriend and my best friend the play by play of the conversation. Then I was a bit upset. I was frustrated that this was something that happens so often that I knew it was going to happen with the first message. I was annoyed at myself for responding but ultimately I am thankful that it happened. I know that I shouldn't be particularly thrilled by receiving unsolicited photos but I was happy that I felt confident enough to say no in the way that I did. I have said no in the past but it had always felt like I had to be polite about it, tiptoeing around the topic as not to come off spiteful. But let me tell you, being sent sexual photos that you didn't ask for or want, or being pressured to send them is not very polite either. In fact, it is sexual harassment. And while I wasn't going to go out of my way to sue anybody over this, I realized that it isn't okay. That the only thing that was okay about the situation is my confidence in saying no and ending the conversation. I am grateful that this happened to me at this particular time in my life when I know myself better, I was more confident with myself, and that I am growing up at a time when we can have conversations like this.

Things of a sexual nature between two people should be a conversation, and while these incidences may not seem significant because it wasn't in person, it is significant and these common occurrences are important to talk about. If you don't feel comfortable with something, don't let someone pressure you into doing something that you feel is not okay. If you want to engage in sharing photos with someone as a consenting adult to another adult, ASK! Get the consent before you bombard someone's device with your naked or partially naked body. Don't assume that the other person wants to see what you want to send. And lastly, trying to pressure someone into something they don't want to do, is not cute, funny, or romantic. It is rude and disrespectful. We live in a very unique time where we have so many different means of communication. We should all feel comfortable to use these means without fear of harassment via unsolicited photos or being pressured to send photos. Don't be afraid to say no because you deserve to make your own choices with your own body and you deserve to engage in communication without fear of seeing something that you did not ask for and did not want.

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