The criminalisation of cyberflashing: too little, too late

Cyberflashing has finally been criminalised in England, but is this enough to help women feel safe?

Annabel Hogg
28th February 2022
Image: Pixabay
It was announced earlier this month that cyberflashing, the sending of nude pictures without consent, is finally going to become a criminal offence in England and Wales. The criminalisation of the sending of unsolicited pictures means that those persecuted for cyberflashing could face up to two years imprisonment under the Sexual Offences Act, the same maximum sentence as for indecent exposure.

This move is certainly a relief to many women who frequently receive unsolicited nudes, and will hopefully make having an online presence feel a lot safer. However, when cyberflashing was made a criminal offence in Scotland over 10 years ago, the question remains: why on earth has it taken so long?

The worst part is, this tends to start the minute you get social media – for me, this was at the ripe age of 11

I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t received an unwanted dick pic at some point or another. There’s nothing quite like being sat on a busy bus or with your grandparents at Sunday dinner and opening what you presume to be something innocent, for it only to be quite the opposite. The worst part is, this tends to start the minute you get social media – for me, this was at the ripe age of 11 when all I wanted to do was listen to the new 5sos album.

This creates a dilemma for parents: dammed if they do, dammed if they don’t. In an age where social media is only getting bigger and bigger, kids feel left out if they can’t follow their friends on Instagram.  I remember literally begging my mum to let me get Facebook before the recommended age of 13, to which she responded with the typical “you’re too young, it’s not safe”. Of course, 12 year old me didn’t take very kindly to this and just wanted to be like the other kids. But, my mum was right, and if I become a parent I know I’ll feel exactly the same.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between being someone being cyberflashed when they’re underage and when they’re a grown adult. However, just because it’s another thing that women are forced to become indifferent to, doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us during adulthood, it just means it’s ever so slightly less sickening then when we were children. Ultimately, the possibility of being bombarded with unwanted nudes stops me from making real connections – worried that if I swipe right, I might just be greeted with an unpleasant surprise.

The amount of times I’ve thought someone was a genuine ‘nice guy’ only to meet the same sticky end is horrendous, and I know I’m not alone

A lot of the time, these images come from men that seem to genuinely take an interest in their victims, maybe even talking about their dogs and their family before leaving a picture in their DMs. This is the part that baffles me – why oh why do men think this is an attractive thing to do? The amount of times I’ve thought someone was a genuine ‘nice guy’ only to meet the same sticky end is horrendous, and I know I’m not alone.

When gender- based violence is rife, women are screwed either way in the dating scene. You feel unsafe meeting someone in broad daylight for the fear of getting murdered, and  we can’t even use Instagram DMs without feeling uneasy.

True, the criminalisation of cyberflashing is a step in the right direction. Though, like other instances of gender-based crime, I’m sure many women are wondering whether they’d actually be believed if they did come forward. I know many of my friends share the same sentiment about the situation, and that is, too little - too late.

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AUTHOR: Annabel Hogg
she/her| second year english literature student| relationships sub-editor 21/22

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