Photo-hacking, unsolicited explicit images, stalking, misogyny – there are many forms of online abuse.
From social media platforms to text messaging, many of us experience abuse daily, which is why one woman wanted to highlight the problem in a very real way for her husband – getting him to pose as a woman in an online forum.
Predictably, he was overwhelmed by “hundreds” of explicit messages within minutes, including full-on, unsolicited dick pics.
Jessica Eaton, a speaker, writer and researcher in sexual violence from Staffordshire, asked her husband, Alex, to conduct the social experiment.
After setting up profiles as both a man and a woman in the same chat room, the differences were startling.
Male and female profiles were created with generic names. While the male profile didn’t receive a single message, the female profile experienced the complete opposite.
“I got him to enter a generic non-sexual forum as an 18-year-old male boring chat name and guess what? NOTHING HAPPENED,” Jessica wrote on Twitter.
But she reports that “within seconds”, the ‘female’ user had received an explicit picture.
3. Within seconds he had 8 inbox messages from men and the first one he opened was a full pic of a guy's dick— Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) 24 August 2017
And so it continued:
4. The other men were asking him if he was really 18 or if he was a child and then started asking him to do sexual stuff— Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) 24 August 2017
5. One account sent him porn gifs relentlessly— Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) 24 August 2017
Jessica pointed out that her husband quickly became overwhelmed, but that the experiment had “opened his eyes”.
His experience was far from unusual for women. According to a 2016 report titled Online Harassment, Digital Abuse, and Cyberstalking in America, carried out by the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, “young women under 30 are more likely than young men or older adults (both men and women) to experience certain types of harassment, as well as the fallout from it.
“For instance, 20% of young women ages 15-29 have been stalked online (compared with 8% of all internet users), and 41% of women ages 15-29 self-censor to avoid abuse.”
Jessica’s husband found the whole experience to be “horrible”.
7. He then turned to me and said 'this is shocking - this has opened my eyes Jess, this is horrible'— Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) 24 August 2017
One social media user tweeted to ask Jessica to clarify the number of men and messages, and she said there were at least 40 men contacting the profile within half an hour.
Question: how many creeps (approximately) sent the messages ? Did he get those hundreds of messages from 8 guys, or from hundreds of guys ?— Mathieu Bernier (@mathbernier) 25 August 2017
It was hard to keep up but from he was contacted by about 40 men as they sent hundreds of messages / he was only on there for 30mins— Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) 25 August 2017
10. He learned a valuable lesson tonight and eventually his phone actually died from the amount of messages blowing up his phone— Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) 24 August 2017
11. My husband actually said to me 'oh my god babe there's so many dicks' and he *dreaded* opening the next msg or photo— Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) 24 August 2017
Many people responded by saying they wanted to test it out for themselves, and reported that after doing so they were met with similar levels of abuse.
Just done this. No images on the site I chose, but some appalling messages. Got nothing on male account.— SteⓋe (@sdmolloy) 29 August 2017
Did this experiment with some mates in 2004, it is fascinating/startling I agree.— Thomas Ross (@mrtom28) 25 August 2017
I've already done that. When I called myself Molly I received misogynistic replies . Not so with Mutley.— Mutley (@Ouch1953) 24 August 2017
Well that was shocking, did the same thing, kinda knew it could be bad for women, I had no idea,— Richard Walton (@BemusedMoFo) 27 August 2017
Seems some men are truly disgusting, 😮🤬😧
And many social media users shared their shock and appreciation over the experiment.
As a father to a 14 year old girl, this horrified me. As a man, it leaves me in despair. As a human being, deeply disappointed.— Craig (@bipolarcraig1) 30 August 2017
You inspire me to do the same thing in order to start a discussion with my husband on how to raise our sons. Thanks for doing this.— Ayunda Meitida (@ayundamei) 27 August 2017
Thank you for this info. That is a great lesson for us guys.— Hiriuku (@hiriuku) 25 August 2017
If you’re a victim of online abuse you can contact NSPCC for a wealth of information and support.