Prove your humanity

It’s 12:03am, my phone vibrates on my nightstand. Dreary-eyed I roll over and assess my phone.

The advanced technology packaged in the latest iPhone show every grizzly detail of a penis, unsolicited: a ‘dick pic’.

For many young men and women across the globe this phenomenon is seemingly a new trend in the courting process.

The receiving of nude images via technology has happened to most, if not you then it’s likely happened to someone you know.

A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology in November 2015 found that nearly 70% of adults surveyed had received a sexually explicit image or video, and that almost 60% had been the sender of such content.

But back to the midnight dick pic, the phantom shaft swooping into the DMs in the dead of night, the bell tower ringing in the new day, it inspires a tragic thought that must occupy the forefront of all our minds; gosh the human penis is unattractive.

The unsolicited dick pic represents a growing issue amongst teenagers and young adults (maybe your mum too but let’s not think about that); the proliferation of sexual images being exchanged digitally.

But is the exchange of intimate content necessarily a bad thing?

“The research tells us that people sext consensually to flirt, for fun, and as a type of sexual communication.” University of Colorado Denver Communication Assistant Professor, Dr Amy Adele Hasinoff says.

Dr Hasinoff delivered a TED talk in February this year about sexting and how to maintain your personal security.

“Most people are worrying about the wrong thing; they’re trying to prevent sexting from happening entirely, ” she said in her talk, “what I do think is a serious problem is when people share private images of others without their permission. What I think we need to do is think a lot more about digital privacy.”

One of the key things that Dr Hasinoff spoke about was the role of law makers in protecting people from the kinds of negative effects that sharing nude images can have.

“All three of these areas: laws, individuals, and industry came together over time to help solve the problem that a new technology causes. And we can do the same thing with digital privacy.”

This year in Western Australia amendments came into effect from the Restraining Orders and Related Legislation (Family Violence) Amendment Act of 2016.

This change will see distribution of ‘revenge porn’ a cause for someone to obtain a Family Violence Restraining Order and could see perpetrators serve jail time for breaching the order.

This in combination with existing laws, for example; extortion, bullying, stalking and harassment, could also culminate in jail time for those distributing ‘revenge porn’.

Despite this there is still a lot of debate surrounding the issue as to whether we should have a specific set of laws to deal with revenge porn.

“The increasing ability of electronic media to intrude into people’s private lives, along with the immediacy of any publication, its potential wide dissemination and impossibility of the recall of any publication, makes it increasingly important to address an individual’s entitlement to privacy.” Shadow Attorney General, Minister for Commerse and Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Legislative Council) Michael Minchin said.

“There are good arguments to craft a specialist set of offences that can supplement those existing offences and facilitate their prosecution and proof, and provide remedies for the victim.”

It seems that the sexting has a dark shadow looming over it and to engage in it would be mad, so why do the statistics show that more than half of adults are sexting?

“It creates another avenue in which one partner can initiate the teasing or arousal that is typically associated with foreplay,” Director of Clinical Sexology Australia, Dr Elaine George said “The phone is another vehicle that partners can use if not physically present with each other.”

So why is sexting all of a sudden such an issue? Sexting has existed in various forms throughout history.

“People have been using the media to talk about sex for a long time, love letters, phone sex, racy polaroids,” Dr Hasinoff said in her TED talk “there’s even a story of a girl who eloped with a man that she met over the telegraph in 1886.”

With all this in mind it seems the only difference is the dissemination of such information digitally. The lack of privacy laws surrounding the sexting air space as well as the impossibility of retracting any leaked images or information could make you feel like you’ve been left out in the cold. Dr Hasinoff covers some of the ways which you can secure your own privacy but also suggests that people demand change in the form of law reform and technological development.

“If people demand change it can happen, but it takes commitment and coordinated effort.” she said.

Snapchat as an example, ground-zero for sending ‘nudes’ as the images pull a disappearing act after a set amount of time up to ten seconds. Yet with the screenshot function of any modern phone the self-erasing photo is a redundancy. Even more concerning is that fact that Snapchat’s terms and conditions allow them to collect and store everything you send. If we as consumers of technology demand better, then app-makers and tree-shakers will be forced to adapt and react or be forgotten as other platforms offer the privacy we want.

When thinking about safe sexting the discussion is often hinged on the people sexting yet as Dr Hasinoff suggests, law and industry must be considered in combination with individuals to solve the problem of privacy in the digital world.

Unfortunately for now it seems the onus is on the individual to protect their own privacy.

“People need to protect themselves and be aware that there may not be any guarantee that images can reappear a decade later – so be aware and be careful.” Dr George said

Have fun out there!