Former "Teen Mom" Farrah Abraham has come out to confirm that, yes, she filmed a "sex tape" with James Deen, the world's most famous male porn star -- but she says she intended it for personal consumption only. (Unless someone wants to pay at least $2 million for the right to distribute it, she clarified.) Her story conflicts with that of her costar, who implied that the original plan was to professionally film a porno and then pretend that it was a homemade sex tape that had gotten leaked -- but whatever. What's more interesting is how she chose to explain her motivation for allegedly commissioning the film: "I wanted my own personal video made and photos taken for myself. When I am older I will have my best year to look back on." She added, "This is just something I personally needed for me."
Ah, the old "flaunt it while you've got it" rationale.
It's been used to explain everything from posing for Playboy to snapping naked selfies. I've seen this sentiment expressed by countless celebrities as well as close friends -- and it's the only part of Abraham's statement that seems honest and believable. I don't have a value judgment on "flaunting it" -- or, to put it another way, on deriving satisfaction from one's own physical beauty. But I can't help being bummed out by the idea of people desperately trying to preserve evidence of their youthful beauty and sexuality -- as though you inevitably don't "got it" after a certain age.
Then again, if I'm completely honest, I've found my own youthful snapshots to be pretty poignant.
I never took naked photos with a mind to preserving them for my future self to defeatedly look back upon. But like a typically myopic child of the Internet, I have documented my body at various stages in life for various boyfriends in my life, and I've kept all the evidence. It certainly would be safer to destroy the photos, given the current revenge porn climate, but they do feel meaningful to me -- and not in a self-flagellating or get-thee-to-the-gym motivational sense, either. Sure, I look back at these photos and see an ode to the particular beauty of youth -- I will even admit to thinking in an uncomfortably self-objectifying fashion, "Man, I had it going on," and even a wry, "Youth is wasted on the young" -- but I also see my naked 18-year-old self, a girl who unfavorably compared herself to big-breasted porn stars, and think with a warmth I never could have mustered for myself at the time, "Oh, honey." It's only with the passage of time that I've been able to see my body clearly -- not just in terms of the body that I had, but the body that I have now. (I'll take older and confident over younger and insecure, thanks.)
When I took to Twitter to ask people's thoughts on the idea of flaunting it while you've got it, the response was decidedly enthusiastic. One man wrote back, "Everyone should have a good set of nude photos done while young. Your old self will appreciate it." Another wrote, "Youth doesn't last forever." On Facebook, the response was more balanced. One female friend wrote, "i think that's sort of sad. i want to be sexier at 40 than i was at 20." Another wrote, "being able to reminisce about the things that bring you joy is legit. and so many folks think they're supposed to look back at sexual exploits with regret." So, depending on your perspective, it can be a sad concession to the cult of youth or a positive embrace of sexuality -- and undoubtedly a million other things too.
At least one thing is certain: As we increasingly document every aspect of our lives online, we have countless more opportunities to preserve our youth. It also simultaneously becomes harder to forget it.