Behind the Lens of Women’s ‘Nudies’


Nishita Jha in The Wire (image ‘Nudes 9’, by Erin M. Riley (2013)):

For a lot of women my age, our first encounter with what ‘young girls were like’ came in 2004, when a now-infamous MMS (multi-media messaging) clip of a 17-year-old Delhi schoolgirl giving her classmate a blowjob went viral. Back then, very few of us owned camera phones, and the internet was a place we visited for only a few hours a day. We had little to no awareness of child pornography, or that ideas like consent applied not just to our bodies, but also to the photographic and video documentation of them.

Despite this, something about the story felt very wrong. A boy had filmed a girl in a private moment, but screen grabs of the clip, with the girl’s face clearly visible, were splashed all over the news. The video was also made available for sale on (India’s version of eBay), and everyone across the country seemed to have seen it (disclosure: I haven’t, and I suggest you don’t either).

This was clearly an outright violation of privacy, but the outrage in our homes, schools and newspapers was focussed on the fact that children from ‘good families’ (read: upper class homes) were having oral sex — and worse, they were filming themselves while doing it. Though the act itself was consensual and there were no legal consequences, there were other, unspoken punishments that taught us who was really at fault. The boy, who held the camera but whose face we’d never seen, missed his next cricket match. The girl left school, and eventually, the country.

Several years later, a Hindi film used the MMS ‘scandal’ as a backstory to explain why its female lead grew up to become a sex worker, adding a scene in which her father kills himself after learning his daughter was caught having sex on tape.

This, then, is the lesson we learned: as young girls, our sexual pleasure was always illicit. If caught, we would be shamed and punished for our desires — in ways that boys were not.

More here.