Unsolicited images of male genitalia (or photos of cocks) are a form of sexual harassment. In a previous YouGov survey in the UK, it was found that 54% of the women (18-24) surveyed had received a dick picture and 47% of this figure was not required. This survey also found that 46% of millennial women who received these photos for the first time did so before age 18.
Currently, in the UK, it is classified as indecent and sexual offense if an adult man sends a picture of a cock to anyone under the age of 18 and it is classified as an illegal act for minors to produce pictures of themselves, as it is classified as child pornography. Despite these illegal restrictions, young people are still being sent these images, and the researchers published a study in the journal Sexual roles which investigates the experience of adolescent girls (11-18).
In the study, the researchers conducted seminars at seven different secondary schools in the UK. This allowed the 144 participants to physically explain and draw their experiences of receiving and sharing images on different social media apps.
It was found that 76% of the girls in the studio had received a fuck photo and 70% were asked to send nude photos – often this request was after an unsolicited fuck photo was sent to try to initiate ” exchanges “. Most of these images were often from unknown senders, however some were sent by peers on the girl’s network, “friends of friends” or peers known only online.
The issue with Snapchat was highlighted in this study: often the first time girls received this type of photo was on this app, when privacy features were not enabled. The app helps normalize this content as people can remain anonymous and the content is only available for a short period of time.
It is often easier for a young person to block senders or ignore any messages than to report them to the authorities. The girls interviewed described a normalization of the images as you “get used to it” and “laugh and carry on”.
In schools, there is stigmatism associated with sending a dick picture, and it is often assumed that people who receive a picture have participated in a commercial scenario and submitted a nude picture. This accusation and shame of the victims had had an emotional impact on the girls and further made it difficult for them to report the harassment.
In a small fraction of the girls, the photos were not viewed negatively, and receiving unwanted cock photos was seen as a sign of desire. Despite that, there were still some sexual double standards shown and when some girls asked for the pictures, they faced stigma and shame not shown to their male counterparts.
Overall, this type of research highlights the need for platform-specific guidance on privacy settings and reporting, but in such a way that girls who are sent the images are not re-victimized or responsible for managing their own harassment. Also, more education is needed as reporting was limited because many young people did not understand that non-consensual dick photos are a form of harassment.