A new study out of Northwestern University has revealed teenage girls’ experiences of pressure and coercion from boys to send nude images.
Researchers analysed 500 accounts from teenage girls, finding that two- thirds were asked to send explicit photos, with boys engaging in threats and harassment if they did not comply. In response, 20% of girls gave in.
The adolescent girls shared the immediate and long-term repercussions of saying no to boy’s demands, with boys getting angry and threatening to end their relationships.
Of 500 accounts, only 12 revealed there was no backlash from refusing boy’s requests for nude images. Girls described feeling trapped, stuck or scared of the consequences of both sending and not sending photos. One even reported death threats after saying no. Others found a compromise, sending a picture of their face or a photo they found on the internet.
None of the girls who sent photos reported feeling any relief or benefit, and expressed fear of photos being distributed and lower self-esteem.
“A guy sent a naked picture of me to the whole school including my principal and my parents then everyone who got it sent it to their phonebooks which resulted in about 300 plus people having my naked body on their phone,” one girl said.
From the Daily Mail:
Researchers found that the girls often felt the burden of the situation as their issue and not a problem with the boy.
“Young women’s language suggested that they did not problematize the boys’ coercive and threatening behaviour. Young men were not criticised or denounced for sharing young women’s (presumably) consensually shared bodies without their consent,” Thomas said in the study.
This research is consistent with our experiences meeting with young women in high schools around the country, who describe feeling coerced into sending sexual images and performing unwanted sex acts by their male classmates. An all too common refrain we hear is “How do I say no without hurting his feelings?”
In 2014, Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist recorded messages from teenage girls to be shared with the boys. Several of these messages touched on pressure from boys and the consequences girls faced when they didn’t comply with their wishes:
‘If we reject your request to send a sexual image, please don’t stop talking to us.’
‘If we say no, accept it, don’t try to persuade us.’
‘Respect our boundaries.’
‘Just because we don’t say no doesn’t mean we are saying yes.’