When Angie Varona was 14, she had a boyfriend. Taking her cues from the media, she took a bunch of pictures of herself looking hot, and sent them to her boyfriend. Angie in her new sunglasses. Angie and her cat. Angie in a bikini. Angie happens to be really cute. And most of these pictures, while not really pornographic, are intended to look “sexy”. They were, after all, intended for her boyfriend. And they all prominently feature her very prominent bazongas. On some level, this is the same thing that girlfriends of boyfriends have been doing since the dawn of time, or at least photography.
The difference now is that the photos are digital. So rather than delivering, say, a single photo of herself in a locket, Angie sent her boyfriend a link to her private Photobucket account. But somehow, the account was hacked. The photos meant for Angie’s boyfriend became accessible to the entire internet, where Angie Varona, age 14, became fodder for the masturbatory fantasies of millions of grown men.
Angie and her father tried to take the photos down, but it was too late. Angie had gone viral, as you can see if you Google her name and check out the 356,000 results. Even the FBI couldn’t control the meme. Angie’s fans began culling and posting her photos from Facebook.
In this age of obsessive self-documentation and slippery privacy settings, parents of teens are faced with some possibly impossible challenges: persuading their teens to reel themselves in when they want to splash themselves all over the planet, trying to get their children to think of themselves as vulnerable when a sense of invincibility is a definitive part of the teenage experience. Add this to the overwhelming message that being identified as sexy is at the top of a girl’s to-do list, and you’ve got a recipe for situations just like Angie’s.
Stories like this make me shudder, not just as a parent, but as a former teenage girl. I don’t even have to question whether I’d be dumb enough to take sexy pictures of myself and email them to boys. I know I would have. I did the equivalent– accidentally leaving a roll of suggestive photos on the seat of an NYC bus. At the time, I worried that I’d turn up someday in some silly magazine. But only for a minute. The avenues of distribution were just too unlikely. (Also, my boobs weren’t that big). When my parents warned me that the provocative things I said in zine interviews “might come back and haunt me someday,” I laughed. They could barely come up with a scenario where the information could get into the wrong hands. Now, it’s harder to imagine how the information could be prevented from getting into the wrong hands.
Can parents stop their daughters from wanting to share their images with boys they like? Is the risk of photos leaking out enough to discourage them? Angie tells her story in the video below. Might not be a bad teaching tool for the girls when the time comes. I think we can count on the indelible internet archive to keep it around until then.