STOP NOW. JUST STOP.
Are you the reason teenage girls are saying things like this?
“Every single guy I meet online and start texting always asks ‘do you send nudes.’ I say no of course. But they won’t stop bugging me. It’s like I can’t have a real guy friend or a real boyfriend without them asking for gross things.”
-Anonymous Teenage Girl
If you’re one of those guys, we can cut to the chase and sum up this article in one word. In fact, we already did, in the title. But we used four words. ICYMI, re-read them:
STOP NOW. JUST STOP.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, you’ve noticed something happening in our society: women are fed up with being sexually harassed, abused, coerced, and disrespected. They’re sick of being treated like objects, sick of dealing with groping men, and sick of having to pretend it’s just part of life they have to deal with.
They’re sick of it.
And they’re standing up and saying something.
Because let’s be clear:
It’s NOT okay to be harassed, abused, coerced, and disrespected. Nor is it okay that women have to pretend it’s part of life and they have no choice but to deal with it.
Now let’s flip that around and take some ownership:
Guys, it is NOT OKAY to harass, abuse, coerce, or disrespect your female peers.
That goes for asking for nude pictures via text, IM, DM, Snapchat, or email.
They shouldn’t have to deal with it.
By ownership we mean that guys – grown men and teenage boys alike – have to take responsibility for their part in this terrible situation. Because for every one of these adult women and teenage girls who feel harassed, there’s a guy on the other end doing the harassing.
And let’s face it: if guys weren’t doing it, girls wouldn’t have to be dealing with it.
It’s really that simple.
Here’s another thing that’s pretty simple: if you’re a teenage boy right now, you can be part of the cultural shift. You can help change the norms in our society. You can be one of the guys to stand up and do the right thing, You can help change the present, guide us toward the future, and make the world a better place.
Current Events, Powerful Men, and the #metoo Movement
It’s hard to know where to start. There are so many cases to choose from: from Bill Cosby to Harvey Weinstein to Al Franken to Russell Simmons, over the past two years, scores of powerful men have been held accountable for the way they treat women. And we do mean scores. You can count them in multiples of twenty. Here’s a link to a New York Times article – After Weinstein: 71 Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct and Their Fall From Power – documenting seventy-one cases of sexual harassment or impropriety that led to the men in question being fired, taken to court on criminal charges, or losing their business empires.
All because women stood up and said something. And once one woman had the courage to speak out, women around the country found their collective voice. If you don’t know already, that’s what the #metoo movement is about: standing up and telling the world enough is enough.
Here’s a lesson you – teenage boy – need to learn today: they shouldn’t have had to stand up and say something, because what happened to them never should have happened in the first place. Before you counter with, “Hey, girls do it, too!” don’t bother. We know girls do it – but not nearly at the same rate boys do it. There are plenty of verifiable statistics to back that up. Another New York Times Article – Teenagers, Stop Asking for Nudes – points out that in our culture, in the heterosexual dating world, “boys typically play offense and girls play defense.” That means that boys do the instigating, and girls do the reacting.
A New Normal is Coming
The dynamic is baked into our culture.
No real problem there, overall. It’s the way boys play offense that’s the problem, though. Not that they play offense. A recent study that analyzed the responses of over 500 girls age 12-18 about their experience with texting and sexting revealed the following statistics:
- Over 67% had been asked to send explicit images
- Less than 8% stated they wanted to send explicit images
- About 24% experienced coercion related to sending images. Boys said things like:
- “Good girlfriends do it.”
- “You’d send me a pic if you loved me.”
- “You’d send me a pic if you trusted me.”
- “All guys have nude pics of their girlfriends.”
- Around 8% said guys resorted threats, anger, or violence if their requests for pics were refused. Boys said things like:
- “I’ll break up with you if you don’t.”
- “I’ll spread rumors about you if you don’t.”
- About 12% reported being constantly harassed by boys about pics. They used phrases like “all the time” and “totally bombarding me” and “relentless.”
Guys, we’re not saying you’re the one doing this. But someone is doing it. If you see yourself in these statistics, then it’s time to step back and re-assess what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, the effect it has on the girls you’re harassing, and the long-term effect it’s going to have on the way you treat the women in your life.
WSID: What Should I Do?
Almost all the teenage girls who responded to the study had no clear idea how to handle all the picture requests. And these 500 girls were not alone. In responding to a forum created by MTV called “A Thin Line” (ATL), most girls who spoke their experiences included the question WSID? in their post. They’re all slightly different, but they all had a common theme: they were unsure of what to do and confused by the situation they found themselves in. Most read like this:
“Some of my guy friends and I am only 14 and they want me to send naked pics of me and I don’t want to send them…but like idk wat to do cuz they said if I don’t send them tht their going to spreads roumours and helpp me out plzzzz….”
We chose one at random as an example: there are hundreds more where that came from. The point here, guys, is that we’re coming to the end of a long, dark era during which it was accepted that men in power manipulated women for sex. It happened – and it still happening – at every level of our society. From the infamous “casting couch” in show business to Senators and Congressmen in Washington to Governors in state houses across the country, men have abused their power constantly and without consequence and without fear.
Not any longer.
Don’t Be Part of the Problem
What does all this have to do with asking a girl for naked pics?
Because when you engage in incessant harassment and insist on receiving nude pics – or else – what you’re doing is taking baby steps toward full-on harassment. If you’re one of the boys who does this, you’re putting girls in an awful position. They feel powerless. They feel ashamed and afraid. Guys, you hold the cards in the situation: girls send pics, and you have them to hold over their head. If they don’t send pics, then some of you make up rumors about the girls.
It’s lose-lose for them, and you don’t have to deal with any consequences at all. It’s just like the women before the #metoo movement: they were manipulated into doing something they didn’t want to do and should not have had to do, and the men got away scot-free.
And news flash: if you say anything like “Good girlfriends do it” or “You’d send me a pic if you loved me” or “You’d send me a pic if you trusted me” or “All guys have nude pics of their girlfriends” that’s called emotional blackmail – and it’s one hundred percent wrong.
WSYD: What Should You Do?
The answer is clear: if you’re asking girls to send nudes, you need to stop. Right now. If any of your friends are doing it, they need to stop, too. You also need to stop allowing this stuff to happen on your watch. Don’t let it be normal – because that’s how we got where we were before the Weinsteins and the Cosbys of the world got outed for their reprehensible behavior. If your friends are doing it, tell them to stop. If they send you a nude pic of a girl, deleted it. Immediately. Then ask them not to send you more. They may call you names, they may try to bully you, and they may threaten to ostracize you if you don’t play along. That’s just a small taste of what girls have to go through every day.
You get the idea now?
One last thing: we heard there’s a new movement out there – the #youtoo movement – where women are outing the men harassing them, and teenage girls are outing the guys who are constantly hounding them for pictures. They post their pics on social media with the #youtoo hashtag so everyone knows exactly what they did.
Will it be effective?
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, if you’re one of the boys pressuring teenage girls to send you nude pics, we have four words for you:
STOP NOW. JUST STOP.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA. He writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.