Although apps like Tinder set out to make dating easier by putting hundreds of options only a swipe away, they also carry a greater risk of non-consensual interactions and new opportunities for perpetrators to target and abuse victims. Whether it’s an abusive message waiting in your inbox or an unsolicited Airdrop from a complete stranger, “surprise” dick pics are an all too common form of sexual harassment.
But yesterday, it was announced the Home Office is taking preliminary steps towards criminalizing “online flashing.” In its “Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)” report, the Home Office proposed 10 commitments it believes will help protect women and girls in the UK — and it’s backed with more than £100 million in funding over the next five years.
By law, it’s considered “indecent exposure” to flash your naked body on the street — and it shouldn’t be excused online. In the UK, 41 percent of women aged 18 to 36 have reportedly received non-consensual sexual images. Earlier this year, “upskirting,” or taking sexually intrusive photos under people’s clothing without their consent, became a criminal offense in the UK. Now, perpetrators will now face up to two years in prison and placed on the Sex Offenders Register.
One of the commitments promised by the Home Office will be to “explore issues of ‘online flashing’ and consider options for next steps.” Currently, it’s unknown what these “next steps” entail, but the government has promised to work with online dating services to “raise awareness of VAWG at an earlier stage in the relationship.” It will also commission research into the links “between consumption of online pornography and harmful attitudes towards women and girls.”
Promising a legal review of unsolicited dick pics is a step in the right direction, but, like with upskirting, this really acts as another example of how the law is failing to keep up with tech’s advancement and the risks that come with it.
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