Our culture around sex is toxic, there’s no way around it. From TV shows and movies with overly gratuitous (and graphic) sexual material to social media content that borders on pornographic, our “liberated” mindset is to view sex as no big thing and to denigrate those who do.
And it’s changed the way we talk and interact with members of the opposite sex, too.
Once, we might have made a distinction between a creep exposing themselves in a public place and a dude you’ve just started talking to sending a raunchy Snapchat. But maybe we shouldn’t have.
Public Indecency Is Not As Antiquated As We Might Think
When we discuss topics like public lewdness or indecent exposure, we might think of certain notable comedians subject to the #MeToo movement, or just be overwhelmed in general by the legalese.
Many states require registering as a sex offender upon conviction.
It’s actually pretty simple. Public indecency or exposure is when an individual (a man or a woman) purposefully exposes their genitals in a public place with reckless disregard, usually with the intent to offend or shock others.
In most states, first offenses are misdemeanors, but many states require registering as a sex offender upon conviction. Sex offender restrictions are serious. As you probably know, many aren’t allowed to live or work in areas where children are present, and offenders have to notify the authorities every time they move or change jobs.
Indecent Exposure in the Modern Age
Sex crimes are taken seriously, that much is evident. So why is it our instinct to joke about or write-off unwanted dick pics?
After all, the intent is probably the same as acts of public lewdness — to elicit shock or anger, or to offend the receiver. When the sender and the receiver are underage, there are even more serious issues of child pornography at stake. Yet when the sender and the receiver aren’t minors, even if the nudes are still unsolicited, there’s apparently no issue.
78% of women have received unwanted or unsolicited graphic images.
Dick pics, for lack of a better term, are much more prevalent than you might think. A YouGov report from 2017 reports that 53% of women have received naked pictures from men. Just wait, there’s more. 78% of women have received unwanted or unsolicited graphic images. That correlates to one in four Millennial-aged men sending those images.
We might normally think of Snapchat as the culprit (and there’s certainly a market for that medium), but unwanted graphic images can be sent basically over any social media platform, dating app, text messaging, email, or even AirDropped.
There Are Already Laws on the Books
House Bill 2789 took effect in Texas last year. As the legal reasoning goes, indecent exposure is already a crime in person. Why not make online indecent exposure one as well? The bill makes unwanted transmission of sexual images a misdemeanor, with a $500 fine attached.
Although critics feared it would be written too broadly to be truly effective, state legislators (and even Bumble dating app CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd) all affirmed that sexual harassment and indecent exposure aren’t going to be taken lightly.
"Women, in particular, are expected to laugh this sort of thing off. But there’s nothing funny about it.”
Herd testified, “Lately, it feels like men and women are being told that this increasingly common problem is really no big deal. Women, in particular, are expected to laugh this sort of thing off. But there’s nothing funny about it.”
The Lone Star State is the first to introduce actual legislation criminalizing the act. Hopefully, they won’t be the last.
Sharing graphic images should be considered a sexual act, with or without consent to receive them. When consent isn’t given, the receiver’s trust and even their dignity have been compromised, whether the sender intentionally meant to take advantage of them or whether they genuinely believed it was acceptable to send. (Spoiler alert: it isn’t.)
While it isn’t just the question of the acceptability of nude photos that needs to change — it’s our entire cultural perspective of sex — putting actual pen to paper and punishing these acts could be the wake-up call younger generations need to sit up and listen.