Over half of all girls and young women have received dick pics

Over half of all girls and women aged 15 to 25 have received a “dick pic”.  This is a photograph of the male member.  The figure comes from an investigation into online sexual violence commissioned by Belgian equal opportunities secretary Sarah Schlitz (Francophone green).

The investigation homed in on digital natives, young people who grew up with the internet.  Many youngsters say they regularly receive online requests for sexual content.  37% of youngsters had received a dick pic.  In most cases the male member displayed an erection.  Among girls and women the rate rose to 51%.  The issue occurred more often among members of the LGBTQIA+ community aged 15 to 18.

“On the one hand we are surprised” says Catherine van De Heyning of Antwerp University, who headed the research together with Michel Walgrave in cooperation with the Institute for Equality of Women and Men. “International research shows there is a rising trend but the Belgian figures are even higher and are rising”.

Most respondents say they were “embarrassed”, “angry” or even “furious” after receiving unsolicited content of this nature. The practise triggers more intense feelings among women and girls than among men and boys.  Half the youngsters who had received dick pics had got them from people they didn’t know.  Among girls and women the rate was even higher.  Ten percent indicated the sender was at least 3 years older.

Youngsters often send such material to receive other sexual content in return.  23% of youngsters admitting the practices said they did so to intimidate or to be a nuisance.

68% of those quizzed say sending unsolicited sexual content should become an offence. They favour alternative sentences including courses on sexual violence or mediation or compensation.

The investigation conducted among 1,819 young Belgians in the 15 to 25 age bracket also looked at possession of naked images without the subject’s consent.  21% of young men and boys and 9% of girls and young women said they were aware somebody else possessed naked images of them. Of those quizzed who admitted possession of naked images of others without their permission nearly all were men or older youngsters. 30% of images were screenshots.  13% had been purchased on the dark web.

Three-quarters of those polled favour criminalisation of possession of sexual images of others who have not given their permission.

“We notice the practise on all social media channels, but Snapchat in particular plays an important role. Instagram has taken action” says Van De Heyning.  “There you can protect yourself against unsolicited images from people. The other platforms are doing little.  Armed with this report we can now approach them”.

“The most important thing that is needed is a change in mentality.  We need to make youngsters aware of the concepts of online consciousness and permission.  Frontiers that seem self-evident in the real world are easily crossed on the internet”.

“We also need to raise awareness of the opportunities various media outlets provide.  Often youngsters don’t know how to protect themselves or where they can ask for help.  Youngsters often discuss the issue with friends, the youngest also with their family, but that’s where it stops.  They often wish psychological or technical assistance”.

“The research reveals youngsters are confronted with sexual violence from a young age and that gender and sexual orientation have an important impact on the victim-perpetrator relationship” says Secretary Schlitz.

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