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Exhibitionists Are Flocking to Reddit's Gonewild Section to Show off Their Bodies -- Is It Kosher?

Reddit's "Gonewild" pages, where users post naked photos of themselves, raise ethical questions.
 
 
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Reddit is one of the largest websites in the world, used by tens of millions of people a month. One of them is Barack Obama, who posted a Q&A to the site in September 2012. And another is naughtylittlenurse, who posts naked photos of herself to r/gonewild, a subsection of the site where hundreds of people a day upload their nude photos, not for money, but for the valueless Internet points known as “upvotes.”

In real life, naughtylittlenurse is a 21-year-old “pretty typical girl” we’ll call Amy (not her real name). A few months ago she posted a picture of herself naked but for a pair of green underwear. It received 142 positive upvotes, the points that determine the popularity and visibility of posts on the site. “It actually didn’t do very well, and I was disappointed, but I figured I’d try again,” she says. “I like the site because something about other people getting off to me gets me off. I have had a sort of exhibitionist streak for years and this is a really fun way to explore that. It’s always a huge confidence boost when a post does well, and I try to make all my posts creative and fun instead of just boring mirror shots.”

Amy has since posted 58 times to the site. Her first post has been viewed more than 46,000 times and her most popular post has 305,000 views and 2,772 upvotes.

Reddit has thousands of subsections, known as subreddits, that cater to niche communities: atheists, news junkies, soccer fans, marijuana users, marijuana users who like to upload naked photos of themselves. That last one, treesgonewild, is one of the many offshoots of the main Gonewild site, which range from a subreddit for the larger exhibitionist to one for BDSM enthusiasts.

These sites are all highly trafficked but pale in comparison to Gonewild, which has nearly 438,000 subscribers and is one of the most popular parts of Reddit. Hundreds of photos are uploaded each day, from tame iPhone shots women have taken of themselves to 20-picture galleries of people inserting large things into various small places. The diversity of the content is what differentiates it from other, smaller amateur porn forums online. The content is effectively no different from that of an industry porn site, but while professional porn comes with a host of moral quandaries for the socially conscious, Gonewild may be somewhat more palatable.

“None of it is acting,” says Natural_red, or Karen as she will be known here. “Most people who post do it because they enjoy the thrill and earnestly want to. No one who posts to Gonewild is being blackmailed or forced against their will to post. No money is being made, either. Users post solely because they want to.” Karen is a moderator on Gonewild, and a poster herself. Along with a few other users she keeps the site ticking along. “We make sure there aren’t any minors posting pics, no one is posting photos that aren’t theirs – photos of exes, pornstars or random Facebook pics, etc. – and we try to cut down on the negative comments and things like that.”

Gauging the positives and negatives of the porn industry is a difficult thing to do — research into its effects has been sparse, and its conclusions mixed. “Men who view pornography… are more likely to believe rape myths,” says a 2011 report in a journal on sexual addiction. “Pornography is not as big and bad a wolf as we thought it was,” said the author of another report, which found pornography use and sexual behavior to be only modestly linked. The potential harm of pornography can be hard to quantify. But Gonewild skirts most of the objections to pornography. There is no financial inducement, as users post for pleasure. There is no industry to manipulate or take advantage of the users. No naïve 18-year-olds are getting involved with the hope of fake and a movie career on the horizon. The posters themselves have complete control over what images they make and all posters are required to provide verification that they are indeed the subject of their photos.

 
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