So just how big is the ‘penis’ problem?
According to Olliers Solicitors, in the UK 41% of women aged 18-36 have received non-consensual sexual images.
According to Grazia magazine, in April 2019, dating app Bumble ran research that revealed the negative effect on mental wellbeing that receiving unsolicited male nudes had on women. The same research showed that men receiving unsolicited images of vaginas had no such issues.
According to USA Today, a 2017 Pew Research Center Study revealed that around a third of men and women aged 18-29 had received an unsolicited image.
According to The Guardian, 525 women reported accounts of men masturbating in front of them to the Everyday Sexism Project between 2012 and 2014
It’s sad then that Rosalind Beck, of the University of Wales, College of Cardiff, said in her report, ‘Rape From Afar: Men Exposing to Women and Children’, that many victims feel their experiences have been trivialised. Many, including the police, joke about the crime (which some women compare to being sexually assaulted).
In the UK, it can be an offence to send a message that is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character (Oliiers Solicitors).
And, thankfully, there are moves afoot to make changes to UK law to protect the recipient. (Keep up the pressure!)
However, in the USA rules vary from State to State, with an increasing number recognising online flashing as an offence.
And in the UK (as well as sometimes in the US), as our testmonies show, there is a tendency for police officers to be more than a little reticent to blame a guy for exposing his parts, and even less so to actually look at evidence presented.
Advice to men regarding sending ‘dick pics’ or livestreaming yourself
The only way to ensure that anyone wants to receive a picture of your genitals, or to watch you masturbating, is to ask them first.
It’s that simple. There’s every chance they won’t, so prepare for rejection, but yes, it’s that simple.
Come on!! If you’re brave and bold enough to take a picture of your intimate parts to send to the world, you’re brave and bold enough to ask the recipient whether they want it.
If they say no, it means no, not ‘persuade me’.
And if you don’t want to run the risk of being told no, why do you feel the need to send it to someone who doesn’t want it from the ‘get go’?
Amongst teenagers in particular, this appears to be an increasingly normal part of sexting and sexual discovery, especially on apps that remove images upon viewing (although of course, no-one can prevent a screen shot), but no-one should be coerced into sending or receiving, and neither should they be mocked for not doing so.
Respect other people’s boundaries.
Advice to women receiving unsolicited pictures of nudes
At the end of the day, it’s your choice, of course. If you want the picture, great; if you don’t, what next?
Only you know how you feel, whether you feel able to talk about it, whether you can face a police station, whether you just want to laugh it off and roll your eyes. You are a victim and there is no blame to be attached to reporting or not.
I’d encourage you to report to the police, if you feel able and/or feel supported.
In the UK, you can do this online to your local police force, and if the police follow up you can have someone with you as support while you are reporting.
Personally, I found this of great benefit as my frustration at the police not understanding why I was afraid as a result of what was being meted out on me (the livestreaming was just a small part!), came out as me crying and begging them to understand, after which they branded me as mad.
Name names if you can. If a name comes up repeatedly, the police may eventually join the dots, although there are barriers in the police structure to this happening – so you may choose to report to the perpetrators local police force, your own local police force, and the police force of wherever you were when you received the offending communication.
Don’t set expectations of sympathy, especially in the UK, and don’t expect them to take evidence without you pushing. And increasingly, I suspect, don’t expect justice. As you are giving evidence, the officer will be listening to hear what chances there are of an easy, successful prosecution.
But do push them to record and pursue, and if they don’t, file a police complaint.
You do not have to relinquish your phone, although they may ask you to later. IF this is the case, seek legal advice as College of Policing rules have been changing. (UK)
It is only by continuously reporting that we can get the message across – it’s not easy, it’s a time suck, but just as offline flashing often leads to rape when the perpetrators desires to shock/scare/dominate/humiliate are no longer met, there is no reason to believe that the same will not be the case online. By reporting you may help prevent someone from suffering from either the same, similar or worse.
Advice to police officers
OK, you’ll know the current official police advice.
But one thing is for sure, the world is becoming far more aware of both adult grooming and of online harms. Adopting a more mature attitude towards naked bodies, notably penises, will help you to relate better to victims who need to feel believed, and to present evidence in court.
In 2019, the Government made the following commitment in its update on VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls): “to explore issues of ‘online flashing’ and consider options for next steps. Online flashing is a form of sexual harassment whereby individuals send out explicit sexual images without the consent of those receiving it, including through sharing files on public transport with strangers. We want to consider this issue in more depth and develop an appropriate response.”
Wouldn’t it be great if the police were already there – ready with statistics and responses, and a healthy attitude towards victims, seeing it as the offence it really is?
(Please note that this article is based on research, and does not constitute proper legal advice.)
See results of our first year’s research: On the Police and Adult Grooming.