Vulgar messages and unsolicited explicit photos from total strangers are unfortunately becoming more and more of a regular occurence on social media messaging apps. At times it may feel as though little can be done to put a stop to the irritating and uninvited advances made (mostly) on women every day. But for Arizona University student Madi Kohn, the key to solving the dilemma is taking action.
Rather than simply blocking the men from whom she had received explicit messages via Tinder, Kohn updated her bio warning users that any unwanted nude photos sent to her account would be forwarded to the sender’s mother.
So after receiving X-rated images from a user named Ryan whose online advances she had ignored several times already, she resolved to do exactly as she had threatened. Using the full name published on his profile, she tracked down Ryan’s mother over Facebook. In the message she proceeded to send, she specified that she had never met or spoken with Ryan, and asked the mother to speak with her son about the incident.
She wrote, “I have never talked to or met (your son) but he has sent me this picture … can you please tell him not to send unsolicited pictures to women?”
Shocked, Ryan’s mum apologised for her son’s misdemeanour, and Kohn found the response “super nice”, despite being “tired” of having to deal with receiving messages like Ryan’s regularly.
And they all lived happily ever after.
As amusing as the outcome of Madi’s experience is, if you think this means the issue has been dealt with definitively, think again.
The humour on the surface of this issue evidently masks a deeper underlying injustice: the fact that women are expected, and by society’s standards, ‘supposed to’ ignore or simply block users who send unsolicited photos of their genitals.
Is this a trend mirroring the way we are expected to ignore catcalling on the street, leering or even sexual assault?
As women, society tells us we have no choice but to quietly disregard dick pics sent to us by strangers, and move on with our lives – as if our irritation and disgust are the problem. Those on the receiving end of uninvited sexual pursuits are expected to turn a blind eye, sweeping the issue under the rug, while those who send unsought nudes face zero repercussions.
Women like Madi Kohn are highlighting the need for public acknowledgement that sending explicit photographs is just not on – no matter who you are or how you judge the recipient.
Bluntly put, the problem is that when it comes to issues like these, the public’s eyes are trained on the women targeted and how they react, instead of considering the perpetrators answerable for their inappropriate decisions. Using a search engine to read about other cases like Kohn’s produces over a million hits, with most websites providing linked images from girls’ Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder accounts. Even as victims of what certainly should be known as a type of offence, photographs of these women are plastered all over the internet, almost subliminally inviting judgement as to whether they were ‘asking for it’.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what you post, or what you wear. No person, (regardless of whether you are a man or woman) should have to deal with receiving explicit photos from strangers.
While our laughter in response to Madi’s actions post-dick pic reflects our agreement that Ryan deserved his fate, in the eyes of many there were certain things she could have done to ‘prevent’ this from happening to her.
Sure, she could have kept her Instagram profile (on which she received the images after ignoring Ryan on Tinder) on private mode. She could have blocked Ryan right away after receiving messages from him.
But approaches like this seem to infer that dick pics are a norm – albeit unfortunate – that women just need to learn how to ‘deal with’ or ‘preempt’.
Rather than normalising the sending of explicit photos and pathologising women who are open about their lives and looks on social media – like Scottish lingerie photographer/model Rebecca McGregor – society needs to clue in to the real issue.
It shouldn’t fall on Madi to protect herself from unwanted explicit messages from total strangers. It should fall on all of us to raise our children to know that making unsolicited advances is inexcusable; and to use not only our laughter, but our own voices, to hold those at fault accountable.