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Author: Claire Meehan

The internet has facilitated and exacerbated men’s intrusions through the ability to send unsolicited ‘dick pics’ (DPs) to women. To understand how young women negotiate the gendered context in which they live their digital sexual lives, the research reported here sought to explore how school-aged young women in Aotearoa New Zealand made sense of unsolicited DPs. Unsolicited DPs were strongly differentiated from wanted images, in terms of consent to receive, when/how they were received and the content of unsolicited images versus wanted images. These young women often used humour as a distancing tool, a conscious and sub-conscious form of safety work to protect themselves from men’s normalised intrusions into their lives. While unsolicited DPs were often portrayed and accepted as a joke, the impact on women was minimised yet their safety work increased. The ubiquitous, ‘always on’ nature of the internet alongside the blurring of on/offline boundaries ensured this safety work became all-encompassing as young women endured additional emotional labour to avoid being targeted or violated. It is only through conceptualising unsolicited DPs as an image-based sexual abuse that we can challenge it.

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