Last week, while I was brushing my teeth before bed, my phone flashed up with a voice note sent by a close friend. "Rachel!" my friend yelled down the phone with some urgency. "The days of the dick pic are gone. I can't tell you how many dick GIFs I'm getting."
The next day, I launched an investigation into whether or not people are *actually* sending "dick GIFs". What I discovered was this: people are sending Boomeranged solicited nudes to one another.
And it's not just dick pics. It's also butt GIFs, boob GIFs, and a veritable buffet of moving nudity. According to the people I've spoken to, a nude Boomerang offers something that a pic does not: a flirty bit of movement.
Boomerang — an Instagram owned app — allows you to create "mini-videos" by capturing 10 photos and sticking them together to create a looping GIF. You can use the app to create Boomerangs without sharing them publicly and you can save them to your phone and send them via a messaging app.
Ann (not her real name), who works as an editor, told me she started making nudes on Boomerang — Instagram's app which lets you make "mini videos that loop back and forth" — about a year ago. Ann says she feels that Boomeranged butt GIFs are "like the flirty wink of nudes."
"Most of my nudes focus on my butt and the light/mirror situation in my apartment isn’t great, so I was trying to figure out how to take better ones using the front facing camera," says Ann. She tried taking a photo by lying on her stomach and taking a pic of her butt over her shoulder.
"I was struggling a bit to capture the thickness of my butt because it looked flat."
"I was struggling a bit to capture the thickness of my butt because it looked flat," Ann continues. "And then somewhere along the line — trial and error! — I realised I could do a boomerang to get some motion."
She likes Boomerang nudes because they feel "a bit more playful" and fun. "I would feel like an absolute cornball ever taking a video, so Boomerang is like the perfect middle ground," says Ann. "They’re only like, what, five seconds long at most? So there’s not really pressure to nail a move or anything like that — you can just do something cute and silly."
A writer who'd prefer to remain anonymous says she's had nude GIFs made of her consensually.
"I’m not a big fan of videos being made of me because I think with sound and everything it can get really identifiable," she says. "But GIFs seem really fun and catch something sexy and short."
She says one of her current sexual partners has, with her consent, used Boomerang to capture "little moments" during sex. "I’m into kink and he has made GIFs of me being hit on the ass with a flogger, for example. Or a moment during sex.
"I’ve sent them on to others instead of nudes," she adds. "Like, you can’t see my face and people are always really into it."