It’s something many women have experienced online and, although Hewson tried to make light of it she was left feeling shocked, and quit the site.If you’re feeling brave (warning: graphic content), then take a look at Bye Felipe or visit Anna Gensler’s Instagram account for her artistic approach to dealing with the deluge of sexual suggestions and images she receives.This particularly affects men, whom research shows initiate contact almost 80% of the time on dating sites.Add to that the heightened amount of control that women have over online conversations (politeness norms can make it more difficult to assertively deflect romantic advances in face-to-face conversations, nudging women toward showing greater politeness than they might otherwise feel) and you have what social psychologists might call “a masculine identity threat”.When it comes to the internet, it seems common sense to think that the physical distance and anonymity the online world provides allows, even encourages, people to do things they wouldn’t normally do “in real life”.If you don’t believe your actions hold any consequences for you, then there is no fear of the social ramifications which might normally keep certain behaviours in check.
A hypothesis I’m exploring concerns men’s responses to rejection on dating sites.
Perhaps they should have taken note of a survey by which concluded receiving “sexts” is a turn off for women who use online dating – presumably because there is something very unsexy about ignoring the requirement to obtain consent first.
But to assume that these “misguided” attempts at seduction explain the rise and rise of such cyber-flashing tells only half the story.
John Suler called this the “online disinhibition effect”.
Put simply, if an online suitor can send an image of a disembodied penis to someone they don’t have to face, they are much more likely to do so than, for example, exposing themselves in public with all the social and legal consequences that might bring.