I am a female, within a certain age range, and of a specific cup size. The combination of which attracts a particular kind of attention. That attention is not always unappreciated, in fact many times it has been flattering. However, as many people have experienced from the other side of a screen, this attention can often manifest itself in aggressive, verbally abusive, and sexually explicit messages.
When I have made similar complaints regarding these behaviours in the past, the influential factor in why I receive this treatment is deemed to be how I choose to physically present myself online. The common consensus is if I were to cover up, this would not happen. Let me state for the record, now and forever, that someone’s appearance does not determine their consent. My clothes, or lack thereof, does not control your actions.
Yesterday, I received a photo of a man’s genitals. To put this message into context, I have never spoken to this person, nor had I responded to the five previous attempts he had made since June 2018. We are not friends, and we have no mutual connections. Furthermore, if there were a sponsorship available, I would wholeheartedly be an ambassador for consensual sexting (keyword: consensual). So, my values are not against receiving photos of this nature in general.
After receiving this unsolicited photo, I began composing my reply. At this moment, you may wonder, “Why message at all? Why not just report and block” – and that is a valid question. I did report the photo, immediately. However, this is not my first rodeo, and I have trialled numerous response tactics throughout my years as the begrudged target of amateur anatomy photographers (including reporting, ignoring, and blocking). Reporting these photos, in my experience, is a waste of a click. Much like yesterday, no actions are enforced by the platform to reprimand the genital wielder. In fact, I once reported a particularly heinous message that accompanied a photo, and the outcome received was that the implied threat of rape, “did not violate the terms and conditions”.
Some perpetrators I have scolded and verbally annihilated, others I have posed questions about why they felt the need to send what they sent, but the majority I have point blank stated it is inappropriate and I did not consent to receive context of that nature. To all of these determent strategies, I have been told in simple terms, to lighten up. As a result, I responded with a new approach…
Thank you for your unrequested, unattractive, and definitely unwanted photo of your penis.
I’m happy you are proud of your genitals and want to display them to strangers who have never responded to you previously.
To assist you in your clear endeavour of showing your wang to the world, I have forwarded this to your mother Nicky. Your colleagues. My colleagues. And have posted it on three Facebook groups.
You are welcome.
I would like to make it clear, that I did not forward his photo to anyone aforementioned. Nor would I ever, due to the legal repercussions involved in redistributing photos without consent. What I did, was screenshot the conversation, blur out his surname and the lower portion of the photo, and pop it on my story. I envisioned it would serve as a warning to those who feel they are entitled to send comparable content, without fearing any consequences.
Unfortunately, that is where my story ends. My empty threat to exploit his photo landed me with an old fashion banning. Upon contacting Facebook support to resolve the issue, and enquire why I received a lifetime of social media exile yet the other party did not, I was informed “for safety and security reasons” they would not provide additional information and the “decision is final”.
While some readers will roll their eyes at the notion of complaining about one less social media platform, my issue solely addresses the fact that I was punished and he was not. I was disabled with no investigation or notice, for speaking out (albeit in a casual fashion) on sexual harassment, and a threat towards the wrongdoer that I never acted upon. Whereas the man who repeatedly contacted me without encouragement, figuratively forced his penis in my face, and who I reported for the harassment, still has an active Facebook.
I am not condoning my own behaviour in this situation, however punishing an unwilling participant in sexual explicit messages, and refusing to hold the offender accountable is part of a bigger sexual harassment issue that is prevalent in our society. Australian statistics show that one in two women, and one in four men, experience sexual harassment. With the ongoing development and creation of applications and networking tools, the mode in which to deliver inappropriate content becomes more accessible. The misguided sense of security that comes with sitting behind a keyboard, and the knowledge that this behaviour is somewhat expected online, will only encourage further acts moving forward if platforms do not take all reports seriously. If a person had walked up to me on a street and forced me to look at their genitals, they would be arrested. Make no mistake, a computer screen does not make a confrontation with your penis any less threatening.
I am by no means implying it is only males who are guilty of sexual harassment online. It is not. I am only speaking from my personal experience. I am speaking for those who have received messages or photos, and chosen to ignore them because they were expected to “rise above”. I am speaking for those who have decided to respond and endured the backlash of doing so because they should “learn how to take a joke”. I am speaking for anyone who has felt angry at the expectation they are to remain silent when someone enters into their world and exposes themselves, as any response back is believed to be “provoking the situation”.
More importantly, I am speaking to the social media managers who need to take accountability for the environment they facilitate and the behaviour they condone. Stop allowing and protecting people to hide behind the fabricated safety of a keyboard to engage in aggressive and intimidating actions. If I am held accountable for my part in the conduct violation, but the initiating party is not, that is validating their disgusting behaviour and condemning my right to defend myself.
Article By: JD Cox