Low on $$, need help deciding on doing nude photography...
April 5, 2015 4:42 AM   Subscribe

I've been unemployed for some time, receiving unemployment, savings dwindling. I got a seemingly lucrative offer to model for nude, specificly fetish-art modeling pics, and need help deciding whether to take it.

About me: I'm 32, single, no dependents, and unhappy with the career choices I've made so far (the non-profit sector). I've always found work, and am a bit public of a persona in my city's little left political circles bec of the nature of my past work. I've also been explicitly supportive of sex-work/workers, feminism, sex-positivity, and so on, so this work would not be shocking to most of my contemporaries...

What I'm most worried about is future employment, and the realistic potential consequence that nudes surfacing - under a pseudonym of course - would have. If anyone has any experience here I'd love to hear it.

I don't plan on ever working with kids or running for office. I could see myself maybe getting into trades - thinking electrician or coding, becoming an emt, or doing humanitarian work abroad, or maybe continuing in social media/event coverage.

Anyone have an idea of realisitic consequences of this, for work? I should add that I'm not concerned w judgment from friends, family, romantic partners...

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

If you would be doing this modeling under a pseudonym, maybe you should consider wearing a wig too. Hair makes a really big difference in terms of how recognizable somebody is, and a wig + a pseudonym would mean that somebody would probably have to know your nude body pretty well to see the pictures and be sure they were looking at you. Unless you have obvious identifying tattoos or something, I doubt anybody would recognize you. And if they did, I don't see how they could prove you were the person in the pictures. (If these are fetish pics, maybe you could wear some arty makeup or fake piercings or something, to make you even less recognizable.)

Perhaps I'm naive, but I don't see nude pictures ruining your chances in any of the fields you mention. The odds are slim that they would ever come up. If you are doing this modeling purely out of desperation and you expect to be ashamed of it later, don't do it if you can possibly help it. But if you feel OK about it and you need the money, I say go ahead.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:17 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think the smart thing these days (with the expectation of steadily improving facial recognition programs etc) is to just assume that the photos will eventually be seen by employers and others. Hopefully that's not the case, since most people don't care enough to search and the internet is swamped in nude photos, but making that assumption at the beginning is more realistic than believing that using a pseudonym will prevent it.

Whether or not that is an issue for employment will depend on where you are living and how conservative (or just publicly exposed) your job is. What might not be an issue for an entry-level employee could be a significant problem for someone who has worked their way up the hierarchy, for example. At my last job having the photos would have been a problem, but at my current job it would just get me teased mercilessly -- this is so context dependent that I'm not sure there is any clear, general answer.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:43 AM on April 5, 2015 [11 favorites]

It really depends on the pictures. If you are full vulva, not many people will be able to get that image our of their heads. If you are posing for tasteful nudes, full of shadows and lines, your only issue will be the few jerks who would sexually harass you even if you hadn't posed in the nude. You would be giving them more power.
posted by myselfasme at 5:45 AM on April 5, 2015

If you need to ask on MeFi and think of doing it anonymously, my take is that you are not ready.

More importantly, there's no such think as anonymity on the Internet so be prepared that this will pop up somewhere 3 or 30 years from now.
posted by Kwadeng at 6:31 AM on April 5, 2015 [19 favorites]

I don't think you should do it, only because it sounds like you wouldn't be okay with it if you weren't in financial hardship, and in my experience the money you receive will have little positive impact on how you look back on this decision.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:42 AM on April 5, 2015 [23 favorites]

I think that if your name is not connected to the works, and they are not exactly pornographic (I'd really have to see this photographer's previous work, that is, I'll know it when I see it), and you aren't concerned about backlash from family or friends, then I think it would probably be just fine. I knew women who did this sort of thing in college to make a quick buck and now lead lives as busy professionals, without, as far as I can tell, serious consequences. So someone sees it? How can they be sure it's even you? And if they are, so what? But again it's important that it be closer to the fine art than the fetish category of things (as myselfasme said, be wary of going full vulva).
posted by dis_integration at 7:00 AM on April 5, 2015

the realistic potential consequence that nudes surfacing

I suggest considering it probable rather than potential. The 24-hour "news" cycle takes no prisoners.
posted by headnsouth at 7:18 AM on April 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think you should consider how you would feel if you are in a very different place in 10 years. I don't just mean what your life looks like externally, but how you might potentially changge as a person. I'm basically saying consider every angle because it's not something you can put back in the box once it's out there.
posted by Aranquis at 7:45 AM on April 5, 2015

So I work in the sex industry. (Stripper.) Granted, stripping is different from fetish modeling, but I hope you won't be offended if I put it all under the same "sex industry" umbrella.

My personal experiences have led me to believe that, contrary to popular opinion, the sex industry does not spit up and chew out every person who enters it. It is a great fit for a ton of people. However, I am not naive and there are definitely people for whom this industry is very bad.

The people for whom this industry is bad almost always enter the industry because they need cash and are low on options. This is different from needing a job, because most people need jobs in life, and deciding that sex work is the best fit for your personality and current circumstances. (It is not clear to me from your question which of these you are. You say that you are "low on $$" but then go on to say that you've always found work in the nonprofit sector, though you don't like the work.)

People who need money think that they can try the sex industry out for money and then they can walk away if it isn't a good fit. But what ends up happening is that they find themselves without other options for this kind of money, so they stay, even though it isn't a good fit. Just a bit longer. A week, a month, a year, two years, ten years.

Regarding your identity: You have to assume that these photos will surface. You have to take every possible precaution against it, and know that someday, it will happen anyway.

I say this as someone who is successfully leading a double life. I take serious precautions and I still cannot believe that I have been stripping for as long as I have without getting caught.

There are so many moving parts to your individual life that even the all-knowing internet cannot possibly give you any sense of the risk that your photos will be linked to you. And, as I wrote about in this comment, acquaintances who learn that you are engaged in sex work feel inexplicably entitled to tell everybody.

So assume that these photos will come out. Your parents, siblings, current friends, past friends, coworkers, future coworkers, exes, future spouse, etc., are all going to know about these photos and probably see them. The degree of sucky-ness may vary, but this experience will almost definitely suck.

You say that you "aren't concerned with judgment." I don't know whether this means that you don't expect judgment from the people you care about or that you are one of those super-rare people who genuinely don't care what others think of them.

But if it's the former, you should know that even people who are supportive of the sex industry in general can be judgmental of you being in the sex industry. ("I think that the sex industry is fine, you know, I just don't think that girls should do it." "It's great, but I don't think it's great for you." "Of course I don't object to porn, but—but—you're MY DAUGHTER!" Etc.) Five years from now, you're head-over-heels for someone, and you have to tell them that there are fetish modeling photos of you somewhere on the internet. What does that conversation look like?

Do you still want to do this? I don't mean to sound all Doomsday, because that's not how I feel about the industry. I decided to do it. But these are things that everybody who is entering the industry should consider.

Best of luck, whatever your decision. Please feel free to follow up in the comments here via a mod, or MeMail me, if you have a response or questions.
posted by Peppermint Snowflake at 8:21 AM on April 5, 2015 [48 favorites]

I think Dip Flash makes a good point that consequences could be highly dependent on the culture of your area and industry and company (and your list of potential possible jobs isn't really narrowing things down enough to make general predictions.) I don't know that you would be explicitly and openly turned down for jobs or promotions due to nude photos, but you could find yourself on the wrong side of company politics.

So I think your primary concern would be that some of your future co-workers might view this negatively and react badly, rather than you having problems with official company policies.

Third-hand anecdata: A good friend of mine works for [Giant Boring Corporation], in an industry that tends to be fairly conservative. GBC itself is apparently a great place to work, though - great pay and benefits, lots of flexibility, dress/appearance code is very casual if you're not dealing directly with clients (so the company is fine with visible tattoos and piercings and weird hairstyles and facial hair) and both Official Company Policy and corporate culture is that what you do on your own time is your own business. So there's a surprising number of artists/musicians/creative types working for this company - again, in an industry that's almost the definition of man-in-the-grey-flannel-suit boring corporate drone.

It turned out that a couple of the women working there had done some nude shoots for Suicide Girls or one of the other "alt-girl" sites. (I don't remember if this was before or while they were working at GBC.) And when word got out, a few guys started harassing the women. I believe the guys were fired/reprimanded/demoted/moved to a different corporate campus (depending on how blatant/disturbing their harassment was), but not before one of the women quit because the whole thing was so stressful and awful. Part of the awfulness was that for all GBC's good intentions, they're still a bureaucracy, so it was a long process of documenting the problems and making official HR complaints and having the case wind through the process of gathering evidence and deciding on the consequences for the harassers.

IOW, it was a pretty bad experience, even in a situation where the women had support and back-up from the company and a lot of their co-workers.

The blame for this absolutely rests on the harassers and not the women, of course. But on a practical level, you might want to consider how comfortable you'll be with maybe having to openly stand up and fight back and say, "yeah, those are nude photos of me, it doesn't mean I'm an immoral person, and no, you don't get to treat me that way."
posted by soundguy99 at 8:50 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Model for your local University art department. Even that will come back to haunt you, if the students are good enough. Nude models can also work legit group private sessions, often for faculty and professional artists. Use a pseudonym, work in a town 40 miles away.

I once adapted a drawing to a somewhat edgy, but not great piece about woman as a target. At the open studio show, a kid came in with his parents and remarked, "Hey! Isn't that Julie's Mom?" (It was.) I put the work away after that.
posted by Oyéah at 9:05 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Only 10 years ago Youtube and Facebook didn't exist. Now both these are so much a part of our culture and Facebook is used routinely by employers and staffing professionals (I'm a staffing professional. We check facebook for EVERY potential candidate. We tend to find them on there even if they are using an alias. There are ways.). Then came twitter and instagram and vine, etc... And all this only in the last few years. A few years ago people did nudes like this not realizing that 3 years later their photos would be easily accessible by the new tech that suddenly popped up.

So I say- If you're going to do this, do it with the understanding that a few years from now there will probably be a face recognition app where someone can just scan any photo of anyone they know and the computer will instantly match those facial properties with gazillions of photos available on line and Bam- There you are. For all employers and staffing pros and your 12 year old nephew to see.

If you don't care about this that's fine. But the reality is that it will affect your ability to get work in many industries. I once called in someone for an interview, but with google we found out this person was a lingerie model. They were tasteful lingerie photos, but our clients still did not want this person representing their company so she got no work through us.
posted by rancher at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

"Because I need the money" is never a great reason to do something you otherwise don't want to do. In this particular situation, it sounds like there are a lot of downsides vs. simply taking an office job you don't like. In the age of the internet, I would assume these photos would get out -- pre-internet, you could do something like this and feel like it would never follow you, but that's simply not the case anymore.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:30 AM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think there are plenty of other ways to model to make money that isn't this. I'm all for nudity too. Surely you can see if there are other avenues to make quick cash modeling. Do you know anyone in the fashion or makeup industry? They constantly need models. Maybe check in to local sewing classes or fabric shops and see if there are any designers that need models. What about the local college? As someone above stated, you can do live nude modeling where they're drawing you. The schools generally have very good privacy rules as well - such as no photos, etc.

So I agree, if this isn't something you want to keep doing and have be part of your life, just don't. They're going to surface. Now if you were thinking of making this a career then I think many answers would be different.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:42 AM on April 5, 2015

I did nude modeling (non fetish, though) in my 30s, and I'm glad I did. My situation was similar to yours: I had always chosen 'good' nonprofit work over work that paid the bills, and was having a rough time transitioning out.

It was personally liberating, and I like looking back at the few copies I have and thinking: wow, that was me, once upon a time.

I did up running for office once, and was ready to have the photos resurface. I even had a little speech ready about freedom and personal rights and diversity, etc. But no one ever brought up the photos, and I was a bit disappointed that I never got to give my speech.
posted by kanewai at 11:08 AM on April 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

I would operate under the assumption that they could surface someday, especially with facial recognition software.

If you would be modeling in a respectful work environment, absolutely go for it. Any future employer that won't hire you because you modeled probably isn't offering the right workplace anyway.
posted by aniola at 11:20 AM on April 5, 2015

One potentiality that you might want to consider is that once these photos are taken, you have ZERO control of the context in which they're presented. So while you may approve of the initial concept/publication, basically until the end of time it is possible (probable?) that these photos will be used by other individuals in other contexts. So you may have posed for an "arty/fetish" concept that you dig but they may show up on a "filthy teen sluts are waiting for you" site or something else which grosses you out or portrays something you did not intend, and then your image is forever associated with that, you know?
posted by kapers at 12:44 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm imagining myself in this situation, because I kind of have the same attitude about the work itself.

I guess I'd be going around at my normal job for the rest of my life wondering if that look or remark from the other person was some kind of hint that they'd seen my photos. Or if when I was talking to them about work, they were imagining me in the fetish scenario.

I could be all "own my past" and "I have nothing to hide" about it once it's out there, but then there's this awkward middle time where it would be weird if I was the one to bring it up, but I also don't know if everyone else knows but isn't saying. Are they snickering among themselves in the break room? I wouldn't want that, even if I'm not ashamed of the thing at all, if you know what I mean.

I'd also worry about later potential employers being not crazy about the possibility of news stories about them containing things like "company X official [me, trying to be professional], who by the way used to be a fetish model on scandalous website Y, says..."

I guess what I'm saying is I wouldn't do it just for the money. I might be willing to put up with those minor issues if it was a yay, sex positive activism thing I actively wanted to participate in for reasons I might find myself having to talk about for years to come.

Notice how I'm assuming it's not going to be a secret? Yeah.
posted by ctmf at 1:18 PM on April 5, 2015

Agree with others who say you seem unsure enough that this is probably a bad idea.

But, if you want to do it and try not to be recognized, it would help to:
wear a decent wig that covers your hairline, brows, and ears,
wear a ton of black eye makeup to change your eye shape,
wear contacts that are a markedly different colour than your eyes,
change your eyebrow and lip shape with makeup.
Brows, hairline, makeup and colouring make a big difference on some people.
Also, cover any tattoos or scars that might identify you.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:14 PM on April 5, 2015

So, I've been on a few sides of this question: I've posed for nude photos, I've photographed nudes, and I've painted nudes.

When I posed — The best-known shots were for charity, in a calendar. Consequences: an awful lot of my peer group, and overlapping social circles saw the calendar. Friends, family, work colleagues… people I never dreamt would have even heard of the calendar or the cause saw the calendar.

It got a little disconcerting being recognized from the calendar by strangers. I did sometimes get harassed. I ran into a lot of judgment about it from people who were fairly liberal in general, but conservative when it came to me in particular. I had many people make assumptions about what else I'd do for money, so be ready for catty remarks from women and propositions from men.

It raised a few eyebrows at work, but 'tasteful nude for charity' is hardly moral turpitude, so my HR dept shrugged. I occasionally get the odd comment about it. The worst-but-funniest case of being recognized is when I realized during an interview that the guy I was interviewing to work for me had seen the calendar, and thus, seen me naked.*

When I photograph nudes — I'm very careful to not show faces/identifying features if asked not to, I make the model sign a release, and I let them know where I'll be using the photos and why. They have to agree to all of that, before I pick up the camera. However, in spite of that, one of the people I shot had a photo of himself discovered by his HR dept, and got put on administrative leave, investigated, and reassigned to another position where he had no contact with women. "Pariah" doesn't begin to cover it. Definitely do not model for anyone who doesn't insist you sign a release.

When I paint nudes — This is far and away the least problematic category. Nude figure drawing and painting's bog-standard at any decent art school, and, well, I'm an artist, so it isn't too shocking. Making the case that a nude's artistic rather than pornographic seems to go over much easier when you're using paint or charcoal to render the nude instead of a camera. Go figure.

At this point in my life, the main consequence is that I have a slightly risqué reputation at work and socially. There are worse things than having been considered damn sexy when I was younger.

*I hired him anyway. It's worked out just fine.
posted by culfinglin at 8:26 AM on April 6, 2015

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