Sending Nudes, a collection of fiction and non-fiction stories and poetry, is the latest release from Guts Publishing, released January 15th. Guts Publishing’s slogan is “Ballsy books about life” and Sending Nudes unquestionably suits this brand. This independent publisher prides itself on being ‘the home to the freaks and misfits of the literary world,’ and magnifies the grittier and material side of human existence; bodies: what we do with them and how we pleasure them. Previous publications include Euphoric Recall (2020), Cyber Smut (2020) and Stories About Penises (2019).
Sending Nudes is a compendium of musings and ruminations on our bodies and their desires in the digital age. Indeed, for many of us during the past year of existing alongside the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting physical isolation, how we connect with others has taken place online. Whether it’s exchanging bread-making tips with acquaintances over Twitter, or supplementing an income on Only Fans, to more clandestine encounters over private messages.
There have been many analyses on the subject of sexting with legitimate research starting around 2009. Scholars acknowledge that digital media ‘have transformed how we initiate, maintain and terminate our intimate relationships.’However, methodical and controlled studies can only tell us so much (or so little) about why humans behave the way they do. For us book enthusiasts and humanities students, we find that art and literature reveal a much more insightful understanding in respect to human motivations and impulses.
Networking, shopping, and dating have become predominantly online activities, so it was only inevitable that sex should follow suit; sexting seems to be a natural progression in the evolution of cyber-society. Of course, sending nudes comes with risks. Events in Ireland illustrated this, when in November 2020 it was discovered that over 500 men were exchanging leaked nude images of Irish women and young girls on a Discord server. It is believed that as many as 140,000 images of women were stolen from private messages and personal cloud accounts. This repulsive assault on women’s autonomy and sexuality illuminated the necessity of making revenge porn a criminal offence, which had previously not existed in Ireland, although activists had spent years fighting for it.
Sending Nudes opens with a short note from the editor and the “guts” behind Guts Publishing, Julianne Ingles. She lists a number of provocations one might have for sending nudes; perhaps it is an innovative form of dating; something to stave off boredom (particularly germane to life in an endless lockdown) and forge a connection with a fellow loner. Each of these reasons are in addition to the obvious – “giving yourself a hand” (you know what I mean).
Early in the collection, Ellie Nova’s non-fiction story, “Send Nudes” tells a painfully familiar tale about a “situationship” that is palpably doomed from the beginning. Yet, against the author’s better judgement she participates in it in the hope that her efforts will be rewarded. This involves sending nudes to the antagonist of the narrative, Sam, as well as a number of extras. Nova writes that ‘I never send nudes from a happy place.’ The author feverishly craves a connection with someone, yet sadly this story is permeated with a sort of torment one could argue is characteristic of the Tinder age. There is an infinite selection of people just a simple swipe away, but ultimately this fact is a double-edged sword. “Send Nudes” illustrates one of many reasons for sharing nude photos; as a manner of connecting with someone when you’re feeling lonely.
Claire Askew comments that “Sending nudes is a new form of intimacy that can feel liberating, but it also makes a gift of our vulnerability. The act says, I trust you with this. I trust you.” Askew’s prose-y poem (is that a literary term? It is now!) “8 ways to lie in a hotel bed alone” abounds with sneaky wordplay. It is set during a ‘frigid March’ where the narrator’s bed is ‘hard,’ the football colours are painted on the ‘hard -/ board wall,’ the beneficiary of her nude has a ‘wet’ mouth from the ‘salt taste of the air.’ The speaker in this poem is bored, but there is also a touch of vulnerability here. She strikes a ‘Virgin Mary pose’ in her amateur photo-shoot, while observing her stomach and thighs which she hates. However, she presses send even though she tells herself ‘I’ll never actually,’ and the ode climaxes with the speaker getting off on the thrill of ‘holy shit I did.’
There is something for everyone in this anthology; from the touching story “Ender” by Molly McLellan about a dating app named Ender used by the residents of an elderly care home on which senior users exchange tasteful nudes taken by one resident’s granddaughter, to Emma Grae’s more whimsical “Turtleneck Andy.” Written in Grae’s Scottish parlance, this story is a witty telling of a young man’s fetish for turtlenecks used by middle-aged women and his short quest to purchase one.
It is with hope that 2021 is a year in which we leave shame around sex and all of its different configurations behind us. Sadly, when the news regarding the leaked nudes in Ireland was in the newspapers and social media, some were blaming the victims for taking naked images in the first place. Lynda Scott Araya’s poem “The Photography” opens with a quote from the author, in which she affirms that “it is the responsibility of us all not to judge those who send nudes; those of us who receive nudes or who enjoy pornography when it is consensual.” “The Photograph” features a woman with a ‘slackened belly / Slashed by the rites of motherhood’ and breasts that ‘drooped off her chest like molten lava.’ Although her mouth is a ‘lip-stick smeared sinkhole’ she still inhales the lust of men, like some sordid deity.
What is refreshing about this anthology is that sending nudes is not just a pursuit for attractive young people with perfect, perky bodies. It considers a more mature side to sexting, as in Askew’s, McLellan’s and Araya’s contributions. Indeed, Van Ouystel, et al. conclude their research on sexting with a note about older adults and how they have usually been ignored by studies and concerns around media literacy.
Are we any wiser about sending nudes after reading Sending Nudes? The rationales behind the act remain ambiguous, but the anthology is a compelling examination. When it comes to the world of sex and sexting, I’m sure we can agree that sometimes the journey is just as stimulating as the final destination. As Katy Haber summarises in the prelude to her poem “Digital Flesh,” ‘sometimes, words just aren’t enough.’ On that note, I’m excited for the future of Guts Publishing and how it will stir the literary world.
Edited by Guts Publishing
148 pages. 2021.
 Joris Van Ouytsel, Narissra M Punyanunt-Carter, Michel Walrave and Koen Ponnet, “Sexting within young adults’dating and romantic relationships,” Current Opinion in Psychology 2020, 36:55–59, p. 57.
 ibid., p. 55.