What In The Everlovin' Areola
Oh Dear God My Kid Found My Nudes On My Phone
How do I explain this without embarrassing both of us?
So… My 7-year-old daughter found (tasteful, I swear) nudes on my phone. It happened in slow motion, and I immediately denied that they were me. It was an instinctive reaction, and I’m pretty sure she did not believe me. (I mean, they were obviously me, after all.) We haven’t talked about it since, but it feels a little like there’s an elephant in the room now and instead of turning my discomfort into an opportunity, I did exactly what I knew I shouldn’t do: I lied and denied out of shame. Is it too late to bring it up? And how do I explain the nudes without embarrassing both of us and scarring her for life?
First of all, I think we’ve all been there. Maybe not exactly where you are, but I happen to believe “getting caught” is as much a rite of passage for parents as it is for children. And our instincts to deny are just as common. Because who wouldn’t in that situation, honestly? I certainly have! One can pride herself on being honest with her kids and also know a boundary violation when she sees one and react accordingly. Not that your daughter meant to cross a boundary, but a boundary was crossed. And your reaction was valid.
It is one thing to prepare oneself to have that conversation and quite another to be caught, literally, with one’s pants down.
But before we get into that, I want to remind you (and everyone who is reading) that a tasteful nude is nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is a less-than-tasteful nude. All nudes are good nudes as long as they are consensual, empowering, and everyone feels good about sending and receiving them.
One of the thrills of modern technology is being able to take one’s own nudes without having, say, a middle-aged man develop them at a One-Hour Photo at the local drug store. The ease with which a person can shoot her own ass at multiple angles in portrait mode before lowering the contrast and filtering them in noir is something some of us now take for granted, which is why it isn’t uncommon for a phone thief (child) to stumble upon an album’s worth of you in compromising positions.
I think it’s important for our kids to know that we are not only their parents and that there are certain parts of our lives that are off-limits to them for this reason.
Of course, there’s also the receiving photos of other people’s asses at multiple angles. Or, if you’re dating people with penises, dick pics, which I feel like we need to talk about for a moment. Because most men do not know how to take them, which is fascinating considering how many they seem to enjoy taking and sending, often without warning. A word of advice: The POV, shot-from-above angle perhaps the unsexiest perspective, and I highly recommend putting a little effort into your nudes, dudes. Setting up a self-timer for example. Playing with light, perhaps. Or at the very least, cropping the dirty laundry out of the shot. IYKYK.
The most important thing to remember is that one should never send a pic (or sext!) without warning. This goes for women, too, of course. A simple “let me know if/when you’re alone and I can send you something NSFKids” goes a long way.
Speaking of kids, let’s talk about your daughter.
I’ve done a bit of thinking on this and sort of surprised myself in coming to the following: I do not think it necessary for you to bring up Naked Picture-gate with your daughter at this point. Not because it’s too late, but because she is probably just as embarrassed as you are and doesn’t necessarily want to do a deep dive into what she accidentally stumbled upon.
That said, if she does bring it up again, you can absolutely explain that, yes, those were nudes, taken because you wanted to celebrate your body privately. There is no reason to be ashamed of them, as they were taken from a place of self-love and empowerment. But shame and privacy are not the same thing, and while you are not ashamed of them, you did intend to keep them private. You can also apologize to her for lying and explain that you were unprepared and sometimes one’s defense mechanism is to lie.
That doesn’t make it right, but it does make it real. I am big into adults owning up to their sh*t in front of their children, and I think it’s important for kids to know that, yeah, sometimes parents lie too.
I also think it’s important for our kids to know that we are not only their parents and that there are certain parts of our lives that are off-limits to them for this reason. Which is, again, why I don’t think its necessary for you to bring it up at this point — unless she brings it up first. I’m all for radical honesty, but radical boundaries rule just as hard.
I do think, to your point, that this will (eventually!) present an ideal opportunity for you to bring up the topic of taking and sending nudes with your daughter. I just don’t necessarily think you need to bring it up quite yet. In a few years, when it’s age appropriate to do so, you can drop the ol’ “hey! Remember when you were 7 and you found nudes on my phone? Well, I think it’s time for me to come clean and tell you that those were me, actually.” You can tell her as little or as much as you feel is appropriate to disclose while also giving her some resources for navigating taking/sending nudes and sexting as a teenager.
Here are some resources for when the time is right:
- A great guide to teens and sexting.
- Another useful article on how to talk to teenagers about sexting.
- A smart, sex-positive story about when it is safe to send nude photos.
In the meantime, so this doesn’t happen again, here are a few tips on sending (and protecting) your NSFK photos in your phone:
Send (and receive) nudes with invisible ink.
First, you will need an iPhone as the invisible ink feature does not work on Android. To send photos with invisible ink, make sure your phone is updated to iOS10 or later. Then you will select your photo. Hold down the blue arrow as if you’re going to send and your screen will instantly say “send with effect” and give you effect options. Select “invisible ink” and then tap the blue arrow after selection. Your photo will send blurred, inviting the person on the receiving end to rub their finger on the photo revealing what is under the blur.
Store NSFK photos safely.
Click the (…) next to edit on the top of your photo. Select “hide.” The selected photo or photos will go into a hidden folder that you will need facial recognition to view. BOOM. You can read here for more.
I want to answer any and all questions you all have about the exhilarating, terrifying, and wonderful experience of dating and having sex with new people after becoming a parent. Send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Woolf writes Romper’s Sex & the Single Mom series. She has worked as a writer for more than two decades and is the author of two books, Rockabye: From Wild to Child and All of This: A Memoir of Death and Desire. You can subscribe to her newsletter, The Braid, for more. She lives in Los Angeles with her four children.