If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words does it take to never receive one again?
Isabel D. received three nude Snapchats from a boy she thought was only her friend. Crystal Nuno was texted a naked picture by a random phone number. Hannah K. has been bombarded by multiple dick pics from both familiar and unfamiliar senders.
Sending and receiving nudes has become part of the college student culture, so much that it’s hard to find someone on campus who hasn’t taken part in it. The act can be harmless if consensual, but with the practice so normalized, the line between acceptable and harassment has been blurred. While many women at Chapman are falling victim to unsolicited nudes, they are not taking further action to put an end to it. Dr. Dani Smith, rape crisis counselor and director of P.E.E.R. (Proactive Education Encouraging Responsibility), says that no student has ever reported a case of this to her.
Looking forward to a relaxing movie night, Isabel D., a junior studio art major, was anything but relaxed after opening an unsolicited nude on Snapchat. Unfortunately, this message was the first of many that night. After receiving three more inappropriate pictures, Isabel blocked the account.
“A random user Snapchatted me that I didn’t recognize,” Isabel said. “When I opened the Snapchat I almost dropped my phone at what I saw, which was his penis consuming my phone screen.”
Although turned off by the act, Isabel decided not to report it to authorities.
“One of the reasons that folks may not report this type of sexual misconduct is because they minimize the egregious nature of the behavior,” Smith said.
She believes that students tame down the experience. “It was only a photo,” or “I don’t want to get the person in trouble,” are thoughts she expects go through the victim’s head.
“This type of thought process can be an example of denial, minimizing the behavior and its impact. It is one way that folks cope with situations that are threatening and is used as a protective measure,” Smith said.
Sending unsolicited snapshots of a particular body part is not only barbaric, but very damaging to the recipient, says Smith. She believes that the person receiving the photo may also have strong feelings of shock and shame.
“When we are violated, we may not only feel powerless, but we may also feel humiliated because we weren’t able to defend ourselves,” Smith said. “This in turn, can turn to shame.”
Isabel decided not to report the incident because she wanted to confront the sender instead. She realized that the two ran in the same friend group, and frequently saw each other at parties. The anonymous sophomore business major explains why he decided to click send.
“I’m not that kind of guy. I was out of my mind drunk the night before and did things that I would not have thought of doing if I was sober,” he said. “I apologized to her and there is really no excuse for what I did.”
The simple act of sending a nude can, and has, ruined men’s lives. Universal Studios’ fired their Captain America actor James Alton after news broke of him sending multiple dick pics to a teenager. White House secret service agent, Lee Robert Moore, was arrested after sending one to a 14-year-old girl. Throughout his career as New York politician, Anthony Weiner was caught in multiple sexting scandals, eventually forced to register as a sex offender and sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Reputations have suffered and careers have been destroyed, yet men continue to send unsolicited nudes to strangers and acquaintances alike. In his article “Why Men Send Pics of Their Junk,” clinical psychologist Dr. David J. Ley shares his perspective on the issue.
“It’s most likely that this behavior represents an aspect of men’s misperception of female sexual interest,” Ley said. “Men love the idea of receiving such pictures from strangers, and they assume women do too.”
Through these messages, Ley believes men hope to turn women on and get a reaction out of them, even if it is a negative one.
“Men project their own sexual interests and desires onto women. Male mating strategies have always included an element of boldness,” Ley said. “The shock value is the way that men get attention and negative attention is better than no attention at all.”
There are stark differences between the male and female sexual personalities, according to Ley. He concludes that men need to be more understanding of what women actually want.
“This dynamic, silly as it can be, is not proof that men are disgusting perverts and women are prudes,” Ley said. “It is important that women and men understand that this behavior, even when it feels distasteful and rude, is not personal.”
It’s not just impersonal, it’s a widespread occurrence among young people across the country. More than half of millennial women have received nude photos, and one in four men admit to sending them, according to a YouGov Omnibus survey. Of those who were affected, only 24 percent of men said they sent the pictures without permission, yet 78 percent of women claimed they didn’t ask for them.
Hannah K. is no stranger to unsolicited nudes, as she has received more than five from unfamiliar senders.
“Random guys will send me dick pics or videos on Instagram and I’ll just block them. The same thing goes for Snapchat,” Hannah said. “I don’t even know how these people find me and it freaks me out so much.”
On more than one occurrence, Hannah has also gotten nudes from men she knows personally. Among them is a man she casually hooked up during orientation week. Anonymously, the student shared his perspective on the situation.
“I sent her a nude because I thought she was down to hook up and we had been flirting a lot over Snapchat,” he said. “I only sent her one and if I could take it back I would.”
After blocking him on Snapchat, Hannah told her friends about it but decided not to officially report the case.
“I was scared that he would spread rumors about me being a snitch or make something up about me,” Hannah said. “I also didn’t think it was a huge deal because this type of thing happens all the time.”
An anonymous sophomore public relations major D.T. shares her experience in receiving unsolicited nudes. The student was surprised to receive a picture from a man she had only met once.
“I had just arrived home when I received a Snapchat from a boy that I knew from a party at the beginning of the year,” D.T. said. “I thought it was strange that he Snapchatted me because we weren’t really friends at all.”
She opened the Snapchat expecting it to be a picture of food or a random animal. She would have appreciated a warning for what was to come instead.
“There were two Snapchats in a row. The first was a picture of him biting his lip like he was trying to seduce me and the second was just straight dick,” D.T. said.
After she saw the pictures, D.T. blocked her harasser on Snapchat. The images stayed with her mentally even though they were physically gone.
“I decided to confront him since I had his phone number,” D.T. said. “I asked him if he meant to send those to me and he responded ‘Of course I did babe’ with a kiss emoji.”
After that validation, D.T. blocked the man’s phone number as well. She never heard from him again, but couldn’t help but wonder if she would have if she didn’t block him.
“I guess I could have reported him, but my thinking was that if I block him there’s no way he could continue to send me those pictures,” D.T. said. “I also didn’t want it getting back to him that I reported him because then I would sound like I was overreacting.”
Social media platforms, Snapchat, and texting makes it easy for the predators to target their victims. Snapchat and Instagram allow anyone to send out a picture even if they are not friends with the person through the app.
Sophomore business major, Anne A., has received so many nudes from complete strangers that she claims it no longer phases her.
“Pretty often strangers will send me nudes over Snapchat. I have no idea how they got my Snapchat and I usually just block them or ignore the pictures,” Anne said.
In the past month alone, Anne has received three unsolicited Snapchat nudes, none of which she has reported.
Sexologist Dr. Carol Queen says that unsolicited nudes are a form of harassment in which the male is already aware that the image will offend or terrify the receiver. Females are less inclined to report the images because it has become such a casual routine between college students, she says.
“Women will think to themselves ‘What difference will it make if I report this picture?’ People think that it’s out of their control and no matter what, the unsolicited pictures will keep coming,” Queen said.
Junior health sciences major Crystal Nuno recalls two separate accounts of receiving unsolicited nudes. Both were from males that she knew personally, and both were a major shock to her.
“He was my ex-boyfriend and one day he just decided to send me a nude out of the blue,” Nuno said. “I didn’t ask for it and I was in class when I got it.”
Nuno remembers feeling violated and caught completely off guard. She decided to ignore it and go on with her day.
“Eventually I asked him why he sent it. I made it clear that if he was expecting anything in return it wasn’t going to happen,” Nuno said.
This wasn’t the last time Nuno would receive an unsolicited nude. While riding the bus to school, she was taken by surprise when a random number texted her.
“I was on my phone and I got a text from a random number. It turned out to be a guy I knew semi-well as a friend,” Nuno said. “The text message was a picture of him standing completely naked in the mirror.”
Nuno decided not to report it, and instead showed her friends. She found out that many of them had received the same picture, so Nuno again decided to shrug it off and move on with her day.
While some find it easy to just forget about what they’ve seen, by not speaking up, victims are enabling this behavior to continue. Smith says that in order to prevent this culture from further developing, students must stop ignoring the problem and report it instead.