#ALC701 Sex, Law & Social Media

I recently asked a group of my girlfriends how many of them had received unsolicited “di*k pics” and was shocked when 4 out of 5 said they had- and often.  “It’s just part of the online dating thing, if you’re on these sites you kind of just expect it”, one said.   As someone who has been in a relationship for the past four years, I counted myself lucky for missing out on this dating right of passage.  That was until I opened my Instagram direct message one day to find the genitals of a stranger glaring back at me.   Many questions flooded my brain.  Did I display any behaviour that would make this stranger think I would be pleased by his message?  What kind of response was he hoping for? And also just general feelings of confusion and repulsion! (Sorry random internet man!)

A super accurate representation of receiving an unsolicited di*k pic on Instagram.

I essentially felt a little violated, and concerned that this was such a commonplace event, with little to no repercussions for the sender.  Let’s be honest- there is nothing wrong with two consenting adults sending and receiving these type of messages, and of course there are people who enjoy a surprise flash of genitals on their smart phone, but what is the go when it is completely unsolicited and unwanted?

After a little research I found I wasn’t the only one questioning this. ‘It’s essentially cyber-flashing, the real world’s online equivalent, and should be treated as seriously’ (Thompson 2016).  Thompson mentions that flashing in public can carry a sentence of up to two years in prison in the UK. However ‘cyber-flashing’ and where it stands in a legal sense is still up for contention.  According to the BBC, a woman in the UK reported an incident to police that took place on a train (Bell 2015).  Lorraine Crighton-Smith was sent two photos of a strangers genitals on her phone via the Apple Airdrop function.  The case was investigated but could not be taken further due to the lack of evidence considering Crighton-Smith did not press accept on the images.  So other than cases where there is a distinct lack of evidence to work with; why is it taking us so long to clearly distinguish where the law stands on this issue?

Dr Deb Waterhouse-Watson (Twitter on Trial: Digital Media and the Law 2014) explains that ‘Law is a heavy and slow moving creature, party because it needs to be.’ She goes on to say that the Law itself needs to take into account all the issues surrounding digital media to therefore make any changes or to put laws in place.

Some people are now beginning to take matter into their own hands, to hold those accountable for their online harassment, whilst the law struggles to catch up with the rapid growth of technology and digital media.

Clemintine Ford is one of those people. In 2015 Ford contacted a Man’s employer after he left a derogatory comment on her public Facebook account, which then led to his dismissal.  ‘There are basically no consequences for men who behave like this, so we have to start making consequences for them’, Ford explains (cited in SMH 2015).

fired by Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

But what happens when the photos that are circulating are of yourself and without your knowledge or consent? In 2014, the state of Victoria made it a punishable offence- one that could result in up to two years of imprisonment for perpetrators (Henry 2015). This online sharing of intimate photos taken by a current or ex-partner without consent -is essentially a crime of the modern age.  One that is greatly influenced by the rapid expansion of technology and social media.  Up until the last decade or so, it has been something we haven’t really had to consider, but now with the accessibility of photo sharing services, it is more common than ever.

The nature of technology is progressive- forever evolving and always thinking ahead, whereas the Law only changes when it needs to catch up.  Does this mean we just accept the odd moment of digital ‘harassment’ in exchange for freedom on the internet?



Thompson, L 2016, ‘#DickPics are no joke: cyber-flashing, misogyny and online dating’, The Conversation, weblog post, 3 February,  retrieved 1 August 2016, <https://theconversation.com/dickpics-are-no-joke-cyber-flashing-misogyny-and-online-dating-53843&gt;

Bell, S 2015, ‘Police investigate ‘first cyber-flashing’ case’, BBC, 13 August, retrieved 1 August 2016, <http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-33889225&gt;

Kosoff, M 2015, ‘How to use AirDrop, Apple’s incredible feature that lets you share pictures, video and more with nearby friends’, Business Insider, 18 October, retrieved 2 August 2016, <http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-use-apple-airdrop-2015-10/?r=AU&IR=T&gt;

Twitter on Trial: Digital Media and the Law 2014, YouTube, Dr Deb Waterhouse-Watson, 7 September, retrieved 2 August, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7b9xXw0ymg&gt;

Levy, M 2015, ‘Hotel worker Michael Nolan sacked over Facebook post to Clementine Ford’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 December, retrieved 2 August, <http://www.smh.com.au/national/hotel-worker-michael-nolan-sacked-over-facebook-post-to-clementine-ford-20151130-glc1y4.html&gt;

Henry, N 2015, ‘Factbox: Revenge porn laws in Australia and beyond’, SBS, 15 October, retrieved 2 August, <http://www.sbs.com.au/news/dateline/article/2015/07/13/factbox-revenge-porn-laws-australia-and-beyond&gt;




9 thoughts on “#ALC701 Sex, Law & Social Media”

  1. Great post Jess. I too have missed out on the pitfalls of online dating for which I am very grateful! With the advent of dating apps such as Tinder, the world of dating has, I fear, devolved into little more than a meat market.

    I do not believe women need to accept inappropriate behaviour from men no matter what form it takes. That said, I think one must tread carefully to avoid vigilante-style justice and/or social media vilification of the perpetrator, which may easily backfire. Whilst Clementine Ford may feel vindicated, unless the ‘d*ckpick’ was sent from a business device or office, did the perpetrator really deserve to lose his job?

    Great job exploring this issue. Hopefully the law will catch up to technology sooner rather than later.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Couldn’t press charges due to a “lack of evidence considering Crighton-Smith did not press accept on the images”. WTF? What happens if she hits accept? Doesn’t that imply consent? There needs to be better ways of dealing with this.

      This was a good read Jess. You’ve got a good and consistent voice which leads the reader on well. Structurally the post works nicely too; there’s good examples illustrating your argument and each point leads logically to the next. The exception is the second last paragraph about revenge porn; it struck me as a little out of place since it’s only peripherally related to your post and being as thorny an issue – if not moreso – deserves its own post. You’d be better served using the space to go into a little more depth on your core topic – perhaps any recent rulings or recent changes to the law.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great blog post – your picture made me laugh and caught my attention. Love the creativity! Your writing style is really engaging, you also covered heaps in there without dragging on. It was great to see some real life examples and a selection of evidence, I wonder if there were any journal articles? This is way too common, it’s creepy to think what might land on your screen one day! Molly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A nice read Jess. Whilst I have missed out on the adventures of dating as a whole for the last ten years (which I am extremely grateful for), I have experienced unwanted and unsolicited ‘material’ being sent to my iPhone so I can totally relate. The thought of accepting this as digital harassment because the law simply doesn’t know what to do annoys me greatly. However, I can say that I did go to the police and they were completely helpless and basically implied that they were too busying dealing with alcohol related violence! My view is that the law needs to catch up…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellently written blog Jess! The questions you pose throughout the blog make me – as a reader – curious to find out more. The tweets/images you use are positioned perfectly in the text and I found the first image so funny! I love how you started off humorous, with a light conversational tone, and then dived deeper into the discussion after that.

    For assessment, it might be better to wrap up your argument with what you discovered/think needs to happen, rather than a question. Also for assessment, we need to include two scholarly references (academia papers/ebooks). My last comment would be to remove #ALC701 in your title because even though it’s for assessment, if your blogs show that you’re not ‘just a student’, it can lead to greater opportunities! And Adam loves catchy titles, haha. Super good job and great topic. I’d love to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well-crafted blog. You have highlighted the need for the law to catch up with the technology development. When technology takes wings, the law cannot be it a snail speed. I don’t believe anyone should accept this as the norm of being on a dating site. Unsolicited, unacceptable images are not something you sign up for when being on these sites.

    You have connected the three spheres of social media, sex and law very well. I really appreciate your creative drawing, which was the first thing that caught my attention.

    There’s a good dose of real-world examples, maybe try to include some scholarly text on the subject if available to meet the assessment guidelines.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such an interesting topic Jess! Love how witty and fun your writing style is, it makes reading your piece very relatable. It’s great how you addressed the need for the law to keep up with the speed of technology and social media. It will be interesting to see how the law changes over time with this issue. Your creative artwork made me laugh! Great use of embedded Tweets and media but I would have loved to see more! Hopefully I see more posts from you in the future! ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey Jess!

    I’m really enjoying your blogposts, this one caught my attention since the nature between sexuality and the internet always stirs up controversy. I aswell never experience the world of online dating, kind of glad about that although sometimes I wonder if I did have the chance would I try or not. I agree there is nothing wrong with people who enjoy sharing these type of images, some even share them just to joke around but the question of how far should those who dont enjoy tolerate these surprising images. Even with privacy settings and content filters some still manage to get through. I do agree we should not accept, there should be a law that controls this.

    Apart from content, I love how you structure your posts! That gif image made me laugh, the light humour you add makes it easy and engaging to read. Your embedded tweets and links also gives a clearer insight to the topic and also your examples add more depth aswell. Probably like stated above I’d only add more scholary sources to support your arguments to meet up with assignment criteria. Other than that i’m a fan of your writings! Looking forward for more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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