Ask your girlfriend. Ask your sister. Ask – horrifyingly – your teenage daughter. Research by Professor Jessica Ringrose from University College London found that 76 per cent of girls aged 12-18 had been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men. (And that study was carried out in 2020, before the pandemic intensified online harassment many times over.)
Ask a woman in her teens or twenties or thirties if a man has slid into her DMs and asked her to send him videos. Ask if she’s ever had an image sent to her phone via AirDrop by a stranger sitting nearby on the bus. Ask if she’s ever got chatting to a guy on a dating app, given him her number and suddenly been deluged with pictures of his penis – without even having gone on a date. The answer will almost certainly be yes.
If you’re over 40, however, you might well be blithely unaware of the extent of the issue. Less because, as members of my fortysomething book club commented the other night when I did a straw poll on the subject, “Nobody wants to AirDrop their dick to a middle-aged woman,” and more, I believe, because our demographic – too old to be digital natives, or even confidently to know how to turn on their AirDrop facility – simply spends far less of their life online. Those female friends over 40 with prominent public and social media profiles – and who are therefore more digitally accessible – are, in fact, bombarded with images and abuse.