Last Tuesday it was Safer Internet Day and this week of all weeks, ‘nimmastudent’ has chosen to post, on their Snapchat account, nude photographs of Nijmegen students (male and female) – all of them consenting participants. Should we be worried? 'No, it’s all part of their experience of sexuality.'
‘Tits out for Nijmegen!’ Under this motto, Nijmegen students were sending nude photographs to the Snapchat account of nimmastudent, which they then send on to all their followers. Every day brought a substantial dose of naked breasts, bums and even a lost penis or two. Judging by the number of reactions on the Jodel platform, half the campus is by now aware of the phenomenon. Earlier this week, nimmastudent themselves boasted of having reached one thousand followers. But, after local paper De Gelderlander got wind of the phenomenon, nimmastudent (temporarily) deleted their Snapchat account.
‘Sending nude photographs is part of sex life’
‘They always come up with something new, don’t they!’ laughs cultural psychologist Maerten Prins, whose Nijmegen mandate includes research on sexual behaviour. According to him, the phenomenon of sexting is completely innocent, as long as it is consensual. ‘Young people have been doing this for years – a bit of gossip, a bit of teasing. Social media have simply made it more visual and it spreads much more quickly. But I would certainly not call it a worrisome development.’
At the Radboud University gender studies department, Marijke Naezer investigates how young people deal with sex on social media. She calls nimmastudent’s account ‘interesting’. ‘In my research I see that nude photographs are primarily exchanged in private conversations. To me, what is happening now is a new phenomenon.’
‘Nowadays, sexting is part of how people experience sexuality’, she says. ‘It’s certainly not limited to exhibitionists of narcissists. Sending nude photographs is normal sexual behaviour for some people, it’s all part of the excitement. As long as these photographs are shared consensually, by the people themselves, I would certainly not judge it, it’s part of our modern cultural trends and norms. Perhaps students are posting such photographs to have fun or to fight boredom.’
‘Girls have a more negative self-image than boys’
It’s part of our culture to place a lot of emphasis on physical beauty, says Naezer. ‘People find it increasingly important to look sexy. In films, advertisements and magazines, we are bombarded with sexy images that create unrealistic expectations. You can see that this attitude is spreading among young people. And as a rule it’s rewarded with positive reactions.’
Prins thinks that especially women are posting nude photographs out of a feeling of insecurity. ‘This is how they try to present themselves in a more positive light. And girls tend to have a more negative self-image than boys, which means they sext more.’