This Filipino Artist Protests Digital Violence By Drawing Tasteful Nudes

Whether it’s for self-expression, empowerment, or their partners’ pleasure, sending explicit pictures to someone unfortunately doesn’t guarantee that they’ll keep it to themselves. And when these private snapshots get leaked, people always hold the wrong individuals accountable.

Lalandi-landi ka kasi! Bakit ka nagsesend ng mga ganyan?!” is the god-awful line we hear way too often in response to nude leaks. It’s given nude leakers a free pass way too many times and has permanently nailed victims onto the wall of shame. So much for serving justice, right? 

In fact, when many of these women apply for jobs, a single Google search of their name will have their nude photos resurface. These acts of digital violence have, in some cases, caused women to take their lives. But one artist is fighting to take back a woman’s authority over her own body by reframing how nudes are made and shared. Meet Christa Vega, the 30-year-old who’s here to do just that through her #SecretNudes project. 

Photo by Christa Vega.

The Early Beginnings of a Lifelong Feminist Battle

Christa’s advocacy for ending digital violence against women dates all the way back to her days as a visual communication undergraduate at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. She shares that she was tasked to devise a visual communication tool for any issue she deemed important.

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A post shared by Christa Vega (@slothbender)

“I wanted to pick something that was really relevant to me as a person. At the same time, I wanted to find a problem that was so real that it didn’t even need a lot of data. And so I wanted to put it [like], “O, sige, dapat pambabae ‘yung problema,” Christa told Esquire

The next thing she knew, she already had her manuscript for her thesis titled Selfiewareness. She spent much of her time studying the psychology behind nude leaks and why nudes are taken in the first place. 

“I learned that it’s just an extension of already existing carnal practices we’ve been doing since the paleolithic age. Except it’s accelerated by technology now,” Christa explained. 

Beyond this, the alarming key discovery from her research was that nude leaks shared the exact same elements as rape, except it happens on the web: it’s non-consensual, there’s victim-blaming, and there’s slut-shaming. With that, she rallied for more discourse on the matter, but it wasn’t going to be easy in a conservative country like the Philippines. 

For one, though she went on to snag the Best Thesis Award, Christa’s thesis was initially received with some hostility. Her use of lewd visuals alone already got her some scandalized reactions from the panel she pitched her proposal to because they didn’t quite understand why nudes aren’t “just photos.” What more if she actually pursued this project on a larger scale? Unsurprisingly, she did just that and never looked back. 

Going Full Send With #SecretNudes

Since drawing her body was something that she had gotten used to over time as an artist, she first started out by selling some stickers of a drawing of her body to her office mates. When a male co-worker purchased one and stuck it up on his corkboard, Christa said that it was her. He took it as a joke and brushed it off, not knowing that she was being totally serious. Then and there, Christa began to see art’s magical safeguarding abilities when it came to the female body. 

“It was so empowering that it’s my body but I’m protected by my art. Malinis siya, kulay lang ‘yan, linya lang yan, picture lang ‘yan. Kung lagyan mo ng malisya ‘yan, sa’yo na ‘yun. But as it is, that’s a drawing,” she said. 

The concept of drawn nudes is accentuated by essential components that leaked nudes will never have: The power to consensually evoke a woman’s self-love, her full bodily autonomy, and her utmost empowerment through the layer of paint that represents her bare skin. Most importantly, it shatters the old-fashioned notion that women merely display their sexuality for male pleasure. #SecretNudes recognizes that the female gaze exists—and women can bask in their own unclad beauty for their own satisfaction and not anyone else’s. 

Staying true to her burning advocacy for protecting women from digital violence, Christa officially started her #SecretNudes project in 2020. “I tried to put up [an Instagram] story about it, na kung gusto niyo magsend ng mga picture, ddrawing ko. Lumawak na siya, especially when I took it to TikTok,” shared Christa.

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A post shared by Christa Vega (@slothbender)


Christa was doing it full-time at the start of the pandemic before returning to her 9-5 in advertising. In the first month alone, she drew a grand total of 100 women and capped off the year with 150 drawings of women who partook in her empowering project. Today, that number has already gone up to over 300. 

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A post shared by Christa Vega (@slothbender)

Until now—and not unexpectedly—Christa still receives negative comments about her work. “Ang sagwa naman niyan!” or “Ano ba ‘yan, ang baboy!” they would say as if human anatomy were an entirely new thing to them. But Christa soldiers on. 

“The way society sees [my art], I will never have control of. And that’s also something you lose as an artist—the meaning of your work,” Christa expressed. 

Despite this, she always finds a way to circle back to the very essence of her advocacy. Spoiler alert: it really just isn’t about bodies. It is not about encouraging people to take nudes, but enabling them to recognize the harsh reality that nude leaks happen and can destroy a victim’s life. This is why #SecretNudes being a safe space for women to embrace their bodies is so vital in the first place. 

New Members of the Club

But Christa wanted to welcome men to this refuge, too. It was only in 2021 that she realized that men also have their own share of insecurities that are just as valid as that of women. They definitely aren’t exempt from digital violence; thousands of men have also had their nudes shared publicly without their consent. 

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A post shared by Christa Vega (@slothbender)


“It made me want to share that feeling of liberation with them, that feeling of magic,” she said. 

During a time when men sharing random women’s nudes in their group chats has become highly normalized, #SecretNudes managed to find allies in the men who actually see the importance of shielding women from this type of violence. 

But for every ally, there’s another harasser. She mentioned that when more people found out that she had started drawing men’s nudes, she received a number of unsolicited dick pics, the cancer of the Internet. Fortunately, this has only motivated Christa to make allies out of men who advocate against the grave privacy breaches women are subjected to online. 

Given how well her #SecretNudes project has been received by a great majority of individuals, especially those part of Generation Z, Christa is not stopping any time soon. If her project calls us to do anything, it’s to openly talk about the alarming reality of nude leaks. Only then can we finally flip the script and shame the leakers, not the senders. 

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Juno Ileana Reyes
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