A new study from the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University found that in an analysis of over 450 stories from teenage girls aged 12 to 18, over two-thirds of the participants reported being asked for nude photos.
The study used comments posted from 2010 to 2016 on MTV’s website A Thin Line, a website devoted to resources for navigating “digital abuse.” In analyzing the comments, author Sara Thomas found that girls reported being confused over exactly what to do when pressured to send nude photographs: they know there will ultimately be repercussions, but many of these teenagers also found themselves facing persistent requests or even threats from boys that can even escalate into revenge porn. As one participant quoted in the study wrote:
…I used to send out naked pics just for fun. 1 guy collectd so many dif [different] nudes of me on his phone tht he made a private myspace account for his friends to view them all.
Another testimony reads:
Recently, I have been involved with a boy from a couple towns over. He always asks me to get naked on video chat, so the other night I just took off my top. I didnt know at the time, but he took a picture on his computer and I’m now scared.
Some girls submitted to sending photos to protect a relationship or thinking it would get a boy to stop asking for photos:
I sent my boyfriend a naked pic after he insisted and was going to break up with me. Now he is threatening to send it to everyone if I don’t have sex with him, I’m only 15
In an article about the study the New York Times points out that other studies have found that boys are nearly four times more likely to pressure girls into sending sexts or nude photos. But putting an end to nude photos being sent at all, which can legally constitute as child porn depending on your state, is a pressure placed too often on the girls rather than nagging boys. Thomas tells the paper that just telling teen girls to not send the photos “ignores the complicated tensions they are negotiating on a regular basis.”
“Young women’s attempts to negotiate coercive situations on their own suggest that young women feel it is their burden to manage situations. This is a logical extension of policy makers, educators, and parents routinely holding young women as more responsible for sexual decision-making (particularly in the form of upholding abstinence),” Thomas writes in the study. “This study indicates that these messages have been internalized such that young men are not being held responsible for gaining consent or respecting the boundaries of their partners.”