Exhibitionists Are Flocking to Reddit's Gonewild Section to Show off Their Bodies -- Is It Kosher?
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Karen admits that users identifying the people in photos can be a problem. “It happens probably once or twice a month,” she says. “It almost always happens because a user has the same name on multiple sites, making it easier to track down personal info, or they have their name as part of their username; like their name is Jane Marie Smith and their username is jmsmith89 or something like that. There’s not a lot we, as moderators, can do to help these folks. We do help users if their pics show up on other websites, with filing DMCA requests. The only thing I can think of for these users to do is to have common sense and play it smart. Use alt accounts, don’t post face pics and don’t talk about specifics.”
One user, Hungfun, or Brian, had to deal with just such a problem. Brian is a 30-year-old engineer, student and exhibitionist. He posts hardcore photo galleries to Gonewild, often involving multiple people, and his posts have received millions of views. They became so popular in fact, that they were reposted widely across the Internet on many different sites. “I vastly underestimated how many people would upload and share the pictures,” he says. “My first reaction was to request takedowns and try to get many of them taken down. I eventually changed my mind, and now see it as a futile effort. However, I was angry that people were taking my pictures and re-uploading them, without mentioning me. And I did find pictures on various commercial porn sites, which I immediately attempted to get taken down.”
The other people in Brian’s photos started getting identified offline. “After that, they finally realized how huge Reddit’s audience is, and asked me to refrain from uploading any other pictures that would cause them to be recognized.” Brian’s friends weren’t angry, he says, and they have since taken part in other photo sets he’s uploaded, but the event illustrates how Gonewild, despite its do-it-yourself nature, can cause problems for users. Brian says the subreddit is like an addiction. “It’s likely that, if I were examined by a psychologist, I would be diagnosed with sexual addiction and sexual fetishism. Is this harmful to me? I think it likely is. I usually don’t encourage people to engage in this kind of lifestyle. I’ve actually tried to dissuade various people on Reddit from doing things that I openly talk about. Diseases, pregnancies and broken relationships are common amongst people I’ve met while swinging. If people are going to do it, I usually advise them to exercise extreme caution.”
Gonewild, then, is not without its flaws. Psychologist James Griffith of Shippensburg University, who has studied pornography and sexuality, believes potential downsides to using it do exist. For instance, the site’s age verification procedures and safeguards, Griffith said, may not be as stringent as those found in the pornography industry. And there is a potential harm in people linking their self-esteem with posting their naked photos, and chasing the popularity that comes with that. “Clearly if others approve of us, the majority of us like that,” Dr. Griffith said. “Thus, it is often the case that if we are reinforced for a behavior, we will continue that behavior. If someone posts nude photos that receive positive remarks, they will most likely enjoy that and the probability of engaging in that behavior in the future increases.”
“I do not know if negative ratings could damage one’s self-esteem,” Dr. Griffith said of the site’s upvote and downvote system, “although I am quite sure it would not boost it.” But, as Dr. Griffith explains, any effects – positive or negative – from posting to the site will depend on the psychological make-up of the individual. “If sexuality is a central part of one’s self-concept or how they identify themselves,” Dr. Griffith said, “then receiving positive feedback or comments from observers of their revealing photographs would most likely be linked to them feeling better about themselves in some way. If sexuality was not important in one’s self-concept, the feedback provided may not make that much of a difference.”