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Photo via dollen/Flickr (CC-BY)
Go behind the scenes of one of Reddit’s premier destinations.
Warning: This story contains sexually explicit material and is NSFW.
Natural_Red is married. Young brunette Samantha would stop if she got a boyfriend. Nina1987, a fan favorite, is a medical student. Some worry about being found out. Others have been recognized dozens of times.
All of them are naked on Reddit‘s Gone Wild.
These are the ladies of r/gonewild, an amateur porn community where “normal” women, like those at the grocery store or in English class, upload nude or sexually explicit photos of themselves for a grateful, complimentary (and occasionally rude) online audience.
The rewards vary. Some of the ladies are tipped in Bitcoin, the untraceable digital currency popular in the darker corners of the web, while others receive gifts in the form of Reddit Gold, a $30 subscription package for increased privileges on the social news site.
There’s the thrill of the moment—the rush that comes from baring something so private and provocative for the whole world to see.
But most are in it for what comes next: the support in the way of karma, Reddit’s way of favoriting content, and community interaction. It’s a simple, anonymous, and fairly innocent confidence boost.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, really,” wrote Natural_Red, whose husband sometimes contributes to her posts, in an email. “I had an OK view of myself, but wasn’t quite sure how others viewed me. It was more or less an experiment in self-esteem.”
These are the girls next door, and they’d appreciate your upvote of support.
Described as a “mature, low-pressure environment for true exhibitionists,” GoneWild (or GW) is one of the premier destinations on Reddit, with around 3,000 viewers at any given time. The community is overseen by a team of eight moderators, who help manage an average of 278 submissions and 4,779 comments per day, according to Stattit. Both men and women can post to GW, though women contributors far outnumber men. Photos are submitted regularly by users, so the posts update constantly.
GoneWild anchors Reddit’s much larger NSFW content, with offshoots that include r/gonemild, r/dykesgonewild, r/ladyboners, r/gonewildcurvy, r/gonewildcouples, r/lgbtgw, and countless others for nearly every imaginable fetish. (See this Reddit poem, where “Dr. Seuss” explains r/gonewild.)
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I’ve known about it for a couple years at least and used to peruse it every so often. I’d click through photos and wonder: Who are these girls? Are they like me? Go through enough posts and you start to wonder: Could I ever do this? A big reason I wouldn’t is because I have recognizable tattoos, but the element of “Fuck it” necessary to be a GoneWild girl intrigues me.
Natural_Red, a 24-year-old who works in advertising and design, came to the subreddit during a rough patch three years ago.
“I was kind of in a boring slump in my life, going to school and work, then coming home, eating dinner, and going to bed,” she wrote. “This was something new and exciting, so I thought, Why not?”
It’s a common reason for posing nude on r/gonewild. The six women I interviewed said they wanted to do something out-of-character, taboo, and “brave,” something to prove they were secure enough to show their bodies on the Internet. Some just wanted honest feedback.
Some, like Nina1987, have developed serious fanbases out of the more than 407,000 subreddit subscribers by being particularly hot and particularly generous with their bodies, varying their outfits and positions and taking requests.
One of the most popular women on r/gonewild, Nina1987 is also one of the few who shows her face. She said she’s been recognized by about 35 different people in her day-to-day life, including her older brother. Not that that’s stopped her from posting.
On Monday, she and I had coffee at a diner in New York City. In real life, she’s a normal-looking student. She wore a green dress, tights, and black flats and carried a book bag.
“I would have thought most of the men I know in real life wouldn’t be on GoneWild. They’d watch porn in a video,” she told me. “That’s why I was surprised by people in my life recognizing me. I don’t know what the benefit to them is.”
The benefit for men, besides the obvious, is porn with a personality.
These are real girls being “naughty.” Their fans can talk to them, get to know them, make specific requests: high heels, a tight dress, bent over in booty shorts. It’s like these are their girlfriends sending them “sexts,” not manufactured, removed, done-up “porn girls.” It’s the Girlfriend Experience with someone who could literally be the “girl next door.”Along those lines, Nina, who is 26, said her popularity comes from being a bit withholding, leaving something—if not much—to the imagination. Nina’s nudes are often silly and sexy—not extremely explicit or numerous. Often, after a few months, she’ll go back and delete old posts.
“You want them to wait for it, so I’ve been told to space [my posts] out,” said Nina, who often lets months go by between submissions. “You can’t saturate the market.”
One r/gonewild girl, Chelsea, who posts videos of herself masturbating with a hairbrush, said she was introduced to the subreddit by an ex-boyfriend. She watched the site for two months before nervously making her first post.
“I was hoping for any response at all!” she told me. “I had low expectations and I wasn’t sure if I was even going to respond to people! When the comments and PMs [private messages] started coming in, I responded without even realizing it.”
The men of GW prefer women who engage with their comments. In a recent post, a user raved that the model was physically attractive, but really, she was “winning the crowd by actively responding to comments and flirting with her GW fans.”
Initially unsatisfied with how limp the response was to her images, Samantha, a 20-year-old photographer and administrative assistant with long dark hair, started exposing her face to garner more attention—and it worked, with increased comments, private messages, and upvotes.
Samantha uses r/gonewild, which she found through another subreddit (r/funny), as motivation to stay in shape. She also sees it as a photography experiment, inspiration to take nudes of herself in different lights. She checks religiously to see what’s being said about her but hardly ever replies to comments or messages. (In contrast, Natural_Red has corresponded with several of her biggest admirers for years.)
One of the most memorable private messages Nina remembers receiving was from a divorced man who said he thinks about her every night as he falls asleep. In the beginning, she said, she felt pressure to meet with her admirers in person; now she keeps her distance.
“They’d say, ‘We’ll be friends.’ I’m an adult female. We’re not going to be friends because you saw me naked online.”
Reddit is not known for its tolerance. Quite the contrary, the site’s hands-off policy has led to some of most notorious Web scandals in recent memory. Creepshots and Jailbait, two subreddits that posted sexualized photos of unsuspecting, unconsenting, and often underage women, were recently shut down.
On GoneWild, there are, of course, crude, sexual comments (“stick your tongue out, I’d love to blow a load in your mouth”) and straight-up mean, scary ones (“Your tits are not as good as you think they are”). Once, someone asked Samantha if she was transgender, which hurt her feelings since she’d been called “boyish” before.
Natural_Red, who serves as a moderator, said when she first came to r/gonewild, it was a much smaller, more solely positive community. Now that the subreddit has attracted more attention, there are more “negative people whose sole purpose is to leave negative comments on posts.”
Frequently, though, the women are talked about on GoneWild with almost an art aesthete’s appreciative palate. If a poster says she feels unloved by her boyfriend, hundreds of redditors might discuss how they’d treat her better. If a poster says she dislikes an aspect of her body, they may lavish praise on that part of her.
There is also a marked difference between what the “real men” of r/gonewild consider attractive and what magazines and ads tell women is “beautiful.”
Most of r/gonewild’s favorite women are of a conventional weight or have shaved their pubic hair, but the body shapes and tones vary wildly. Some have maintained their bushes. Some have large nipples or stretch marks. Some are fit. Some are soft. Some have big hips. Some have small breasts. There are women of all hair colors, all styles of dress, all races.
The men tend to prefer smiling faces to “sexy” faces and playfulness to “trying.” These are real girls, not airbrushed models or actresses. They are not Vogue-perfect. The voyeurs of r/gonewild are happy to see boobs, but personality wins the day.
It’s sweet, if not a bit desperate, on both ends. The commenters are like a group of hunters surrounding a deer they don’t want to spook, like they can’t believe a woman with a full understanding of what she was doing would ever post to r/gonewild. Often, if a commenter is rude, he’s chastised by other users for scaring away potential naked girls. If someone is trolling, it’s not long before a knight in shining comment rides in to defend a woman’s right to express her sexuality in any form.
For some of the young girls, it’s the online equivalent of flashing at spring break. But the risks are more permanent. Nina said because they liked her when she started out, redditors helped her make her profile more secure. They told her what they could find out about her—where she went to school, her home address, etc.—and then told her what privacy settings to change to ensure the information didn’t fall into the wrong hands. Even so, she’s had photos end up in Craigslist scams and on revenge porn sites.
Some girls have tried futilely to delete their photos only to have them saved and reuploaded by redditors. Natural_Red said a few people have recognized her, but nothing particularly bad came of it because she doesn’t post her face or overshare on personal information. Recently, a girl posted who looked very young; one of the top-voted replies was someone telling her to be careful about revealing her face.
There’s also positivity in the way the r/gonewild girls treat each other. Like in a real-life strip club, r/gonewild has old favorites and standbys, and there are new girls, most of them in their early 20s, constantly coming through. Some become lifers, some only hang around for short stints. Recently, one of the community’s favorites, a user called thediggitydank, left amid a flurry of fond farewells, to “focus on being a better wife and mother.” The next day, a new girl joined who posed nude in front of video game posters.
“One of the best leaves gw… And another great girl joins… The circle of GW, guys!” wrote one commenter.
But instead of cattiness or jealousy that might be fostered by the competitive nature of winning male attention, r/gonewild women compliment each other generously, like something out of a teenage boy’s locker room fantasy. Nina once wrote on another girl’s post, “Each one of your boobs is like a separate miracle.” Another r/gonewilder titled her new post, “I want nina1987 in my bed!”
Chelsea said her favorite part of r/gonewild is getting to meet and talk to so many different people. “There is a lot more positivity than negativity.”
GoneWild exists because of a mutual, innocent (if not unhealthy) dependency between posters and commenters, a change in men’s porn habits and desires, and the equalizer that is the internet.
Judgment on either end seems a folly. There will always be more r/gonewild girls, as old ones fall down the infinite scroll and fade back into their everyday lives and as new ones age into legality. Both sides, like most people, are just looking for something to get them through the day.
“I think GoneWild is a great place for people who are looking for a bump in self-esteem, exhibitionists, and people who are just looking for a little something thrilling in their day-to-day lives,” Natural_Red wrote.
“It’s a win-win. You get a rise out of posting, and other people get boobs.”
Gaby Dunn is an actress, comedian, and blogger who covered YouTube for the Daily Dot. Since 2016, she’s hosted the podcast ‘Bad with Money,’ and operates a successful YouTube channel. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Vice, and Salon.