Content Warning(s): Rape Culture, Misogyny, Non-consensual Sexting, Rape Myths, Excusing Perpetrators.
Please note that this post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you.
I saw this 2014 article by Jessica Roy at Time pop up on my Twitter feed today. It was posted by someone who genuinely thought it was a good article dealing with a troubling issue. But it manages to get something wrong right off the bat, with the asinine title: Non-Consensual Sexting: The Hot New Way to Make Someone Really Uncomfortable.
Hot, really? Before you even get into the meat of the article, Time is telling you that it's "hot", like the new single climbing the charts, or florals and fringe this fall. If they meant to say this phenomenon is becoming more common, they could have simply said it was an "emerging" trend. (Although anyone who thinks unsolicited dick pics were a "new" thing even in 2014 hasn't been paying attention.)
Roy then goes on to describe an unwanted sexual image as "disturbing," "jarring," and "upsetting" — which could lead you to believe that she truly understands the issue. Maybe the title was inserted or changed by an editor, which is hardly an uncommon practice. But just below that, we get this:
The non-consensual sext is the equivalent of a guy you've had sex with randomly grabbing your boob at a party because he thinks since you gave yourself to him once or twice or five times that you belong to him... whenever he wants. In real life, that might be classified as sexual assault. But what about when it happens online?
Let's start with "the equivalent of a guy you've had sex with" - this implies that unsolicited pics would only come from people with whom the recipient has had some sort of a sexual relationship and completely ignores individuals who have had nude images pop up on their phone or in their messages from coworkers, friends, or sometimes complete strangers.
Then "you gave yourself to him". Since this article completely ignores the segment of the male population that has been sent nude pictures against their will, this phrase perpetuates the idea of a woman's body or a woman's sexuality being "property" — something to be sold, bargained with, given away. Followed by "[i]n real life", as if unwanted sexual encounters online or over text message aren't "real", implying the impact is diminished somehow.
That said, those quibbles are actually quite minor compared to the following paragraph:
Many men probably find it flattering to dash off a photo of their junk as a sort of sentimental "look what thinking of you did to me" moment, without understanding how that photo might be received. They're not doing it to make you uncomfortable - they're doing it because they expect you to be down to receive inappropriate pictures as frequently as they are, which is probably "at any time, day or night."
In just a few paragraphs, Roy has gone from saying that unsolicited dick pics are disturbing to making excuses for men who send them. They just think it's "flattering" — what woman wouldn't enjoy a picture of a penis at any time? They just don't understand how upsetting it is. And they're certainly not doing it to make women uncomfortable.
Translation: look, it's not their fault. You know those allegations against Eric Bolling? He must have just really thought those three women wanted to see pictures of his dick. He had no clue it would be upsetting. Cut the guy a break! After all, men are super-sexual creatures who just want it "at any time, day or night" so they can't control themselves.
The idea that men can't control their sexual impulses is a rape myth. For one thing, sexual assault and harassment are motivated by anger and/or seeking a feeling of power, not sexual desire. Even if that weren't the case, the strongest arousal can't override someone's self-control.
The final paragraph is the last straw:
A girl can't blame a dude for thinking you want to sext with him again, especially if you've engaged in the act before. Plus, chances are your partner doesn't even realize he's engaging in non-consensual sexting — after all, our society puts pressure on men to always be the ones to make the move, and transposing that onto digital platforms can be a recipe for disaster.
Oh, really? A girl "can't blame a dude?" He "doesn't even realize?" Unsolicited nude pictures aren't a harmless mistake. They're an act of sexual aggression. Someone forcing images you didn't ask for and didn't want onto your phone or your computer screen. But this author wants to argue that women just need to go easy on men. It's just "locker room" behavior. Boys will be ... yeah.
I wish I could say that attitudes have changed drastically since 2014, but they really haven't. This article is still getting posted as a good piece of advice, when in reality it's a testament to rape culture at work. It frames "non-consensual sexting" as something that might happen accidentally within the framework of a relationship, utterly dismissing it as willful and malicious transmission of sexual images for the purpose of harassing someone.
I'm just surprised it didn't end with "stop getting your panties in a bunch, ladies."
If you appreciated this article, consider supporting the CSSN by buying Trickssi a coffee on ko-fi.com.