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.
And so it continued:
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”.
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.
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.
And many social media users shared their shock and appreciation over the experiment.
If you’re a victim of online abuse you can contact NSPCC for a wealth of information and support.