The #AfterSexSelfie Is More Empowering Than It Seems

Last week Jezebel decried the terribleness of a new trend of sharing post-coital happy snaps with the hashtag #AfterSexSelfie. Samantha Eyler argues this trend offers a much-needed opportunity for women to show a bit of self-perspective on their own sexuality.

So apparently the new annoying thing in social media is the #AfterSexSelfie, a trend among digital exhibitionists who still haven’t gotten the Appropriate-Social-Behavior memo that Kelly Faircloth at Jezebel fired off last week.

Want to see an example of one such Instagram-filtered snapshot of a lovestruck couple under a post-sex halo? To get you started, check out the one of me and Migs up top.

[My God!—I can hear Kelly Faircloth gasp. How could you?!]

And she’s not alone in her severe disapproval of such behavior. No, indeed, she is joined by the blog NerveTIME magazine, and that bastion of stability-preservation the Daily Mail in finding the whole idea a bit nausea-inducing. These poor clueless selfie-takers, lost in “Peak Bullshit Internet Life,” are clearly unaware that no one has any interest in a) the fact that they have just had sex and b) doing so blissed them out on oxytocin so much that they felt some sort of urge to document their own disgusting happiness.

Now, you readers already know I live quite far out of the mainstream and so you should never let my opinion sway you on absolutely anything, but I am interested in seeing your #AfterSexSelfies. No, I’m not kidding. (In fact, if you tweet them to me and they’re any good, I’ll post them on my NSFW Tumblr where I explore female perspectives on sexuality.)

Now, if you’re one of those who dismiss selfie-takers as narcissists, you might as well not read on and refer instead to my column from last November where I discuss the socially and economically subversive power of the massive fuck-you that selfies represent in the face of capitalist beauty culture. If anything, the #AfterSexSelfie has still more subversive potential as a new form of documenting the self-perspective of people whose experience of sex receives very little attention in what Rashida Jones calls our “pornified” culture.

I’ve written before about tackling problems related to perspectives on sexuality after I started dating a male porn photographer, and that experience has inevitably shaped my opinions on the #AfterSexSelfie trend. Over our 18-month relationship, I have let my relationship pull me from a near-histrionic rejection, à la Andrea Dworkin, of the overwhelming misogynistic view of women in mainstream porn to a new fascination with any porn that aims to capture a female gaze.

Walking this road to enthusiastic porn curiosity was rocky and difficult for me, and involved facing depressionrelationship unsteadiness, and my own insecurities about my sexuality. And as made clear by the emotional angst in Kate Fridkis’s recent piece “There Are Sexy Naked Women Absolutely Everywhere,” I’m not the only woman who feels profoundly uncomfortable with getting any closer than our pornification-of-everything culture already brings us to ubiquitous, crude male views of female sexuality.

Tackling and critiquing the overwhelmingly male world of straight porn requires fortifying oneself against the gut-wrenching competitiveness and insecurity that all those sexy naked women can inspire. But having faced that dragon, I started to realize and champion the subversive power of authentic female sexual expression in feminist porn and any other social space where it can raise its head, however unconventionally.

Mainstream porn constructs straight women’s sexuality as something that exists to titillate and validate men’s sense of virility, and thus when women’s sexual expression appears for its own sake, it turns that male-ego-first construction on its head—and even more so when women train their frank sexual gaze on men themselves.

The #AfterSexSelfie trend is exactly that: selfie-takers (who statistics show are much more likely to be women, in the under-40 set at least) choosing the angle, frame, and aesthetic and emotional content of a photograph that has thus far been overwhelmingly framed for them by others, usually straight men, in our pornified society.

What’s not to love, then, about #AfterSexSelfies? Kelly Faircloth objects to their “bragginess,” but I see no need for selfie-takers to take too much responsibility for other people’s competitiveness. To my mind, opening up space for new expressions of sexuality is way more important than worrying about igniting your Instagram followers’ sexual envy.

But Faircloth does point out a thorny issue that anyone involved in creating any sort of porn will soon face: “Are these people boning for the sake of boning, or boning for the sake of Instagram?” This is actually a philosophical issue that plagues anyone who produces creative output, even when that output is as basic as a post-sex photo or amateur sex video: If the subversive power of expression comes from its authenticity, doesn’t the act of documentation itself make the perspective less authentic?

This is an important objection, and one, I’m afraid, that I still have few satisfactory answers to. But I do know that this problem of meta-authenticity of representation applies to all forms of expression. For instance, the 2013 film Some Girls addresses the same issue in the area of fiction, with its story of a writer who has dramatic flings with women just to write stories about them. This issue is not exclusive to #AfterSexSelfies, and certainly not reason enough to halt the search for new forms of visual sexual expression.

So if you tweet me your after-sex selfies, please do aim for authenticity over posing (though, like the blogger at the fantastic Tumblr Critique My Dick Pic, creative aesthetic forethought will be viewed with favor).

But in general, selfie-takers, please don’t be put off from tinkering with sexual self-expression just because both feminist bloggers at Jezebel and conservative agony aunts at the Daily Mail coincide in thinking you’re obnoxious.

If anything, that’s a good indication you’re pushing a social barrier that probably needs knocking down.

Samantha Eyler is a freelance writer and editor raised in Kentucky and London and now based in Medellín, Colombia. She has written about politics, immigration, Latin America, and social justice for publications such as NACLA and the New Statesman, and is one of the founders of the London Fields Feminist Book Group. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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