Your phone buzzes, alerting you to a text from that girl you’ve been seeing. You open it, and damn: Stripper heels, legs spread, tousled hair, perfect makeup, cleavage falling out of her bra. What do you do?
If you’re anything like the guy who received this very real nude from Hazel*, you ignore the beautiful woman and comment on the toilet in the background. And then you become her ex.
In a perfect world, replies like this wouldn’t exist. But this is not a perfect world. It’s one in which there’s an apparent epidemic of men responding badly to nudes — at least if the flood of DMs I received when I asked about the topic on Twitter is any indication.
So today, in my ongoing selfless quest to help the straight men of the world do better, I offer some advice on what to do the next time you get a nude selfie. But first, we have to talk about all the ways you’re fucking this up.
The ‘Overly Casual’
Since her awful experience, Hazel calls it being “toiletpicced” — when a guy performs a kind of sly disinterest in response to a nude in order to seem casual. That means pointing out a random feature in the background, such as a toilet, as opposed to addressing the beautiful rack or ass on display.
Sadly, such responses aren’t limited to toilets. “One time I sent a nude and they just talked about my nail polish,” says 30-year-old Judy from Chicago. Mina, 25, also from Chicago — perhaps suggesting some kind of regional problem — once received botanical advice: “They responded, ‘The plants behind you need to be deadheaded.’” And 32-year-old Harsha from L.A. has received replies ranging from inquiries about the color of her walls to attempts to identify her tattoos.
The easiest bad response to understand, the “Overly Casual” likely stems from a fear of being seen as thirsty, dorky or lecherous. I get the impulse to play it cool, but it’s likely to backfire. By acting like the sender’s nude body is no big deal, you’ll probably end up making her feel self-conscious — and thus, less likely to want to send you nudes in the future.
The ‘Clever Boy’
Related to the “Overly Casual,” the “Clever Boy” can be distinguished by its attempt to seem not just disinterested, but funny, too. For instance, late 20-something Liz once received, “THE NSA CAN SEE THAT, FYI.” “Some people feel an urge to say a clever thing, which usually ends up rude and not that clever,” she offers as an explanation for the phenomenon. There’s a time and a place, friends.
Do you want to never have sex and also make the person who just entrusted you with their nude body feel terrible through a forced gesture of chillness? Have I got three letters for you!
The ‘What’s the Goddamn Matter With You?’
“One time a guy requested an ass pic from me, and after sending him the pic, he replied, ‘Um, no, not like that,’ and sent me his own ass as an example of the style he wanted,” 19-year-old Steph from West Virginia reports. Similarly, 21-year-old Ali from Germany received this remark: “Artistically these pics are pretty crappy. Composition’s not nice.”
Sometimes, though, the worst response is no response at all. Carrie, 28, can attest to that: “One time, my ex just ignored the pic and replied, ‘My mom got me new socks.’”
What could explain these outrageous replies? As I see it, there are three possibilities:
- They’re calculated moves in the vein of negs, in which case these men are walking disasters and may God have mercy on their souls.
- These guys are so far up their own asses that they don’t know how terribly they’re coming off.
- They desperately want to avoid having sex, and this is the only way they know how.
Okay, Now That That’s Out of the Way, Here’s How to Do Better
Listen, I sympathize, okay? Reacting appropriately to a nude photo combines all of the stress of receiving a lap dance with the difficulty of conveying nuanced emotional expression over text. But I promise that it’s possible to do better.
Alongside their tales of woe, some of my respondents mentioned replies they’d enjoyed receiving in the past. Judy said that a simple “perfect” was nice to hear, as was the recipient informing her that he was going to masturbate to the photo. Liz offered a slightly more offbeat example in which someone replied, “I have died,” which she said felt “silly yet fundamentally appreciative.”
The thread connecting all of these responses? They’re fundamentally compliments, albeit presented in different ways. Whether simple and direct (“perfect”), lurid (announcing your autoerotic plans) or silly (“I have died”), they all appreciate the fact that someone has gone to the trouble of sending you a sexy photo of their body, rather than trying to play it off, joke about it or ignore it altogether.
Allow me to suggest a few other possibilities here as well. Use them wisely based on your relationship with the sender, the context and your personal style.
Are you an emoji user? There are plenty to work with — sweat droplets have been more or less completely reappropriated as cum, in case you weren’t aware. I’m also a big fan of the fork and knife, which suggest your intentions regarding the sender in a slightly more subtle way.
Speaking of, you’re probably thinking about sex when that pic hits your inbox. If you’ve got a relationship with the sender, why not just say what’s on your mind? Here I’m thinking of going past announcing your intentions to jerk off and telling the sender exactly what the photo makes you want to do to her.
Finally, don’t underestimate good ol’ fashioned expletives. A simple “fuck” can speak volumes: Awe, captivation, lust and so on and so forth.
As with all things, read the room. And remember: When you get a nude, another human being has taken the extraordinarily vulnerable step of sending you an image of their naked body. The least you can do is say that you’re going to rub one out in earnest appreciation.
*Name has been changed to protect the innocent.