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Interventions aimed at preventing non-consensual sharing of digital sexual images among youth often focus on potential victims, who are discouraged from making and sharing such images. Based on interviews with Dutch young perpetrators, victims and bystanders of non-consensual image sharing, we distinguish different scenarios of and motives for this type of sexual violence. The analysis demonstrates that non-consensual image sharing is a layered, heterogenous problem that is deeply embedded in present-day social norms regarding gender and sexuality.

By disentangling the different scenarios of and motives for non-consensual image sharing as well as the gendered sexual norms and taboos that play a role, we hope to inspire the development of sex ting -positive, nuanced and diverse interventions for preventing this type of image-based abuse. More research is still needed, however, and in the conclusion we provide several directions for future research.

While consensual sexting can be considered as normal sexual behaviour that is an expression of sexual agency, exploration and expression Naezer, b ; Symons et al. In the Netherlands, where the present study was conducted, non-consensual image sharing was not explicitly punishable by law until , but it could be prosecuted based on laws against defamation belediging , slander laster , libel smaad or child pornography.

Interventions aimed at preventing non-consensual image sharing often focus on potential victims. With this article, we want to contribute to this shift by identifying the different scenarios of and motives for non-consensual image sharing among Dutch youth, and by analysing the role of present-day sexual norms and taboos in the experiences of young perpetrators, victims and bystanders.

Image-based abuse may take many different forms. Also, images that were made consensually may be stolen e. Finally, people may receive unsolicited and unwanted sexual images e. In most of the cases which we discussed with research participants, the images were originally made and shared consensually, but were then non-consensually shared with others. This sharing was done in different ways: by sending the images directly to a third party, by ing them to an online platform, or by physically showing them to other people on a phone or a desktop. In their international meta-analysis of 39 studies about sexting among youth under 18 published between and , Madigan, Ly, Rash, Ouytsel, and Temple found that the mean prevalence for sending and receiving sexts was Of these 39 studies, 8 provided information about non-consensual image sharing.

Madigan and colleagues do not specify the sex-distribution, but do conclude that the prevalence of sexting and non-consensual image sharing is not moderated by sex. They warn however that the samples of the studies they analysed were often small. Moreover, the percentages were described in articles dating from —, so considering the increasing social media use among youth, both the prevalence of sexting and the prevalence of non-consensual image sharing may have increased over the last years.

In the Netherlands, a large representative survey among Moreover, while present-day hegemonic cultural representations of ideal femininity encourage girls and women to perform specific types of hetero sexiness on the one hand, girls and women are at the same time discouraged from and punished for performing sexiness through moralizing, pathologising and slut-shaming discourses e.

Also, sexual double standards underpin victim-blaming responses to girls and young women whose images are distributed without their consent, with girls and women being made responsible for preventing the abuse of their images Burkett, ; Crofts et al. In the present study, we analyse how against this background, young perpetrators of non-consensual image sharing make sense of their actions.

In order to learn more about non-consensual image sharing among youth, we conducted in depth interviews with young perpetrators, victims and bystanders. This provided us with different perspectives on non-consensual image sharing, which was helpful in gaining a more in depth understanding of this type of abuse. Interviews lasted 52 minutes on average and took place between September and November In this period, the topic received extensive media attention in the Netherlands. One year earlier, a year-old Dutch boy had committed suicide after three other teenagers had non-consensually spread his nude picture.

The suicide and the following court case were extensively covered in different media in and , resulting in heated debates in online and offline media. We recruited research participants through our professional and personal networks as well as through snowball sampling. We aimed to include a diverse group of young people, in order to explore a diversity of perspectives, opinions and experiences. Our diverse networks, which include judicial and health care professionals, professionals working in schools and youth centres, and young people with different backgrounds, enabled us to recruit young people with different background characteristics and different experiences.

Of 4 bystanders, 2 were girls and 2 were boys. Both victims that participated were girls. None of our participants identified as non-binary or transgender. The incidents that we discussed with research participants took place no longer than three years ago, with the exception of one participant whose experience dated back five years. Because their experiences were still rather recent, research participants remembered them quite lively and were able to reflect on the feelings and emotions that had played a role. Moreover, no young people with mental disabilities or young people living in residential youth care participated in our study.

Several research participants had multiple experiences with non-consensual image sharing. In one case, we discussed two incidents, so in sum, 22 incidents were included in our study. In the interviews, we asked participants about the incidents: what had happened, what choices they had made and why, the consequences of these choices, the role of other people, and how they felt about the incident then and at the time of the interview.

We coded the interviews using both inductive and deductive coding Fox, , pp. In this script, produced for instance through media and scientific reports, a girl sends a sexual nude picture to her boyfriend, the relationship ends, and the boy shares the picture with others out of revenge. The dominance of this scripts makes other scenarios invisible see also Krebbekx, ; McGlynn et al. In fact, hardly any of the cases we discussed with research participants fitted the stereotypical script. Incidents differed widely in terms of context and motives for sharing, the kind of images that were shared, how and with how many people the images were shared, and the consequences for the victim.

With regard to context, the protagonists were sometimes ex-lovers, but they were also friends, acquaintances and people who were unknown to the maker of the image. Furthermore, perpetrators were not just boys, but also girls. In our study, 9 out of 15 perpetrators were girls for similar findings among young adults in the UK, see K.

Even though our study is not a representative, quantitative study, we consider this to be an important al that deserves more attention in present day discourse about sexting-abuse. In the Netherlands it was found that practically equal percentages of boys and girls 12—25 years old fall victim to non-consensual image sharing de Graaf et al.

Revenge may play a role not only in the classic case of a fight between two ex- lovers, but also in fights between former friends see also Krebbekx, , pp. In our study, this happened to two girls who were harassed by boys who sent them unsolicited and unwanted nude images. I was so fed up with it. In this case, the perpetrator was also a victim: she received the images against her will.

For many research participants, nudity and sexuality were new and somewhat scary. Research participants who received sexual images were often impressed, especially if they lacked sexual experience or if the image had been sent to them without their consent.

If you receive something, you share it with your friends. In scenarios where this motive plays a role, images are typically shared with a small of friends, not with the aim of hurting or shaming the person on the image, but with the aim of strengthening friendship bonds. It may result in more large-scale spreading of an image however, if the friend decides to forward the image as well. Yet another motive is related to discussing and learning about sexuality. One possible scenario where this motive can play a role is that of two or more young people who are talking about romantic and sexual relationships and want to discuss their own experiences.

Scenarios where this motive plays a key role are typically those where the images are spread on a large scale, sometimes even through special s on media such as Instagram. A final motive for non-consensually sharing other people's sexual images is to gain popularity. I think that to some extent, I did it to make him like me, so that I would belong.

Walker et al. This is not to say that the consequences may not be disturbing, but the general lack of bad intentions is an important nuance that helps to address the issue in a more balanced way. Scenarios differ not only in terms of their context and motives, but also in terms of the kind of images that are shared, how and with how many people the images are shared, and the consequences for the victim.

With regard to the type of material, images may be pictures or videos. This can work out in different ways, however. Research participants also distinguished between materials that were originally shared within a long-term relationship and materials that were shared outside of such a relationship. Scenarios also differ in how and with how many people the images have been shared.

Sharing may happen for instance by physically showing the images on a smartphone or desktop, by forwarding the images through media such as WhatsApp, or by ing them on media such as Instagram. In the first case, the other person can look at the picture, but not share it any further. In practice, the audience may be more limited, and consist for example of a small group of friends, or all students from a certain grade in one school. Finally, scenarios can be different in terms of consequences, for instance with regard to the amount of upheaval that is caused by the incident.

Sometimes, there is hardly any upheaval: It was just this one conversation [where I forwarded a picture of a girl to a friend], and that was it. The girl did not suffer any consequences boy, 19, perpetrator. Especially girls were often bullied, slut-shamed, judged, joked about, and sexually harassed see also McGlynn et al.

In most of the cases, the upheaval lasted a few weeks or months, but sometimes, the bullying continued for years. While scenarios of and motives for non-consensual image sharing differ, what stood out in our study is that in all cases, gendered sexual norms and taboos played an important role. One of these is the general taboo against nudity and sexuality.

Sexting is possibly even more taboo than offline sexual practices. Especially girl sexters were judged harshly: Some girls have lots of self-respect, and those are the good girls. But the weak, insecure girls who are craving for attention, they are less easily convinced that things can go wrong boy, 16, perpetrator.

Not only research participants, but also parents and other adults blamed and punished victims for making and sharing sexual images. She told me to send her the picture [of the victim] as well. You can expect this [non-consensual sharing] to happen. I was so surprised about that! But nothing like that happened. He just said: you can go home, have a nice weekend. For boys, there is no similar condemnation. To the contrary: girl perpetrators who participated in our study also felt like they benefitted from sharing the images in terms of the motives described earlier.

With regard to the latter motive however, that of gaining popularity, boy perpetrators profit from gendered norms that encourage heterosexual prowess and legitimize sexual violence against girls. Our study demonstrates that there is not one prototypical scenario for non-consensual image sharing: scenarios are different in terms of context and motives, types of images, scale of distribution and consequences. Protagonists may have different relations with each other and different motives may play a role.

Taboos that play a role are the general taboo against nudity and sexuality, and especially the taboo against sexting. This means that current negative attitudes towards sexting not only facilitate, but even encourage non-consensual image sharing. Our study confirms studies in pointing out that norms and taboos regarding sexting and non-consensual image sharing are highly gendered, and adds to this body of literature by empirically demonstrating how these gendered norms and taboos play a role in the experiences of young people who have been involved in non-consensual image sharing.

Moreover, they judged and shamed girls more than boys for making such images. In addition, gendered sexual norms provide a context where boys can perform hegemonic masculinity through non-consensual image sharing, which has come to be regarded as a marker of heterosexual prowess. Our analysis thus demonstrates that non-consensual image sharing is a layered, heterogenous problem that is deeply embedded in present-day social norms regarding gender and sexuality. For practical interventions aimed at the prevention of this type of sexual violence, it is crucial to take these complexities into .

With our analysis, we hope to inspire a sex ting -positive approach that involves a nuanced understanding of sexting and non-consensual image sharing, that is attentive to the different scenarios of and motives for non-consensual image sharing, and that is characterized by critical attention for the role of present-day gendered sexual norms and taboos in facilitating non-consensual image sharing.

While our study provides insights into one specific type of image-based abuse, future research may analyse whether similar or different dynamics play a role in other types of image-based abuse, such as the non-consensual creation of sexual images, sextortion, or unsolicited image sharing. Future research may provide more insight into such interconnections. Second, our analysis is based on interviews, mainly with perpetrators.

Future research can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding by including additional perspectives, such as the perspectives of parents, teachers, health professionals and police officers, and by using participant observation as a method, so that cases can be studied as they unfold, rather than in retrospect. Future qualitative and quantitative studies may explore this issue more in-depth. Both in major media outlets e.

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