New research has found that certain attitudes, personality traits, and demographics are linked to a willingness to share another person’s nudity or sex image without their consent. The results, which were published in the Sexual Aggression Journalpoint out that myths related to blaming the victim or minimizing the consequences of such actions play a key role.
Sexting is a common practice. As many as half of young adults exchange sexual materials using smartphones and other devices. But sexting also has a dark side. Namely the non-consensual creation and distribution of images and videos, such as B. so-called “revenge porn”. The authors of the new study wanted to learn more about the trend toward non-consensual image sharing and the attitudes associated with it.
“In 2014, dozens of (mostly female) celebrities had their iCloud accounts hacked and their nude photos leaked across the internet without their consent,” said study author Vasileia Karasavva, a graduate student and member of the Peer Relationships in Childhood Lab at the University of British Columbia.
“I distinctly remember the time that whenever anyone spoke online about the images being shared without consent and that the incident was a massive invasion of privacy, they were gunned down with protests that 1) these women never revealed their nudity wanted pictures to be shared with everyone in the world, then they shouldn’t have taken them in the first place, and 2) all the targets were rich, famous women who’ve posed for sexy photoshoots before, so who really cares?”
“That kind of blaming and minimizing someone else’s pain really touched me,” Karasavva said. “It also concerned me that people seemed to think that consenting to a person seeing your nude or sex image while sexting was the same as consenting to your image being shared online for everyone to see. So I was really interested in getting to the bottom of all the myths about image-based sexual abuse that people believe and how they affect their view of the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.”
In the study, 816 undergraduate students completed a measure of acceptability of sexual imagery-based abuse myths based on the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. The questionnaire asks to what extent you agree or disagree with statements such as “Women should be flattered when a partner or ex-partner shows nude pictures of them to some close friends”, “Women tend to exaggerate how much it affects them when a nude or sexual pictures of them are posted online,” and “a woman who sends her partner a nude or sexual picture should not be surprised if the picture ends up online.”
Participants also completed an assessment of their willingness to share intimate images of another person without their consent, and they were asked to indicate how excited, amused, angry, and regretful they would feel after sharing such images. In addition, participants completed a measurement of Machiavellian, narcissistic, psychopathic, and sadistic personality traits.
About half of the sample (51.8%) said they would “no way” be willing to share intimate photos of someone without consent. But only 28.6% said they wouldn’t be at least a little excited or amused if they shared someone’s intimate photos without consent.
Researchers found that all four dark personality traits were associated with greater acceptance of sexual image-based abuse myths, and all traits except Machiavellianism were associated with greater enjoyment of non-consensual image sharing. Being a male and being straight have also been linked to greater acceptance of image-based sexual abuse myths.
Importantly, Karasavva and her colleagues found that those who supported more myths were more willing to share someone’s intimate photos without consent.
“In our work, we found that accepting myths that either minimized or excused the harm that non-consensual sharing of intimate images can do, or blamed it on the victim, predicted that it does not oppose that Sharing another person’s nudity or sex image without their consent,” Karasavva told PsyPost.
“These results are not necessarily surprising. It is all too common for victims of non-consensual intimate image sharing to be confronted with such attitudes. I want to urge people who see someone blaming another victim or downplaying another’s experience to speak up in the victim’s defense and correct assumptions of such harmful myths.”
Sexting and related behaviors are relatively new phenomena and there is still much to be learned about them, the researchers noted.
“This is an emerging topic in the literature, so there is still a lot to do, both from a scientific and a political point of view,” Karasavva said. “From what we know about face-to-face sexual violence, the people that victims and survivors often turn to can also minimize harmful blame or false beliefs that make the reporting process very daunting and often re-traumatizing.”
“I think it’s important to test whether the authority figures that a victim of non-consensual sharing of intimate images would address (i.e. police officers, therapists, campus resources) also hold similar views, and to examine how we do.” can educate about the issue so they can better support the victims.”
“A little reminder: if you’re someone who shared your nude or sex image without your consent, I’m sorry this happened to you,” Karasavva added. “It wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter if you were the one who originally shared this picture. It’s the fault of the person who broke your trust.”
The study “From Myth to Reality: Accepting the Myth of Sexual Image Abuse, the Dark Tetrad, and the Propensity for Non-Consensual Intimate Image Sharing” was authored by Vasileia Karasavva, Jessie Swanek, Audrey Smodis, and Adelle Forth.