Only sluts love sexting: youth, sexual norms and non-consensual sharing of digital sexual images

Naezer, Marijke; van Oosterhout, Lotte
Journal of Gender Studies

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. This approach is problematic, however: it limits young people’s sexual freedom, encourages victim-blaming in case of incidents, and makes perpetrators invisible. This article contributes to scholarship that shifts the focus to perpetrators, by investigating young people’s motives for distributing other people’s sexual images without their consent. 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.