There was probably an influx of nudes sent over the course of this week thanks to love being in the air and everything. We'd like to assume that this was, of course, between two consenting adults.
It's also not rare on any other week for young heterosexual women to have conversations with friends about the sexy images they send to their partners and to even send them to said friends for approval first. And that's great.
The results of our Twitter poll - albeit the small pool of respondents - also serves as further evidence of this sexual autonomy, as the number of women who volunteer their sexy snaps was almost as high as those who simply send nudes to appease their recipients.
Taking and sending nudes to men is empowering for some, but some young women & girls have often felt pressured to do so.— W24.co.za (@W24_SA) February 13, 2019
Have you ever sent nudes when you didn't actually really want to? Why?
However, much younger girls feel as though they do not have the same experience of autonomy when it comes to explicit images they've shared with their male peers.
A study conducted by Sara Thomas of Northwestern University on 500 girls revealed that "less then 8 percent of girls shared explicit pictures because they wanted to; the rest did so because of a desire to please, acquiesce to, or avoid conflict with a boy."
The research also unveiled the fact that "boys are nearly four time as likely to pressure girls to [send nudes] so than the reverse." Furthermore, "if girls hesitated, some boys threatened consequences to the relationship," A Mighty Girl reports.
Even more concerning is how "boys also used existing pictures to pressure girls to send more by threatening to broadcast the previous ones."
In a New York Times article dissecting this study, psychologist Lisa Damour writes, "teenagers are drafted into a sexual culture that rests on a harmful premise: on the heterosexual field, boys typically play offense and girls play defense."
In adulthood, this game sometimes plays out in the form of revenge porn, which is a form of cyber bullying that warrants cyber legislation.
Abbreviated childhood of the girl child
This entire phenomenon is worrisome given the fact that the second girls hit puberty, they are hyper-sexualised and labelled "women" regardless of whether they got to wear their first bra at age 10 or age 16.
The problem with this is that it incorrectly deems the physical synonymous with the mental, assuming that a girl's first period renders her mature and discerning overnight, when the reality is that she is still a child.
Also take into consideration how girls today are going through puberty far earlier than we did.
An article in US News written by a pediatric endocrinologist confirmed this fact, stating that "in the past, having signs of puberty before age 8 was considered abnormal, but now we know that as many as 15 percent of all girls have breast development when they are 7, and 10 percent have pubic hair by then."
"By age 8, more than 25 percent are developing breasts, and almost 20 percent have pubic hair. These rates are higher for girls of African-American and Hispanic descent when compared to Asian and Caucasian girls. And it turns out that periods probably are not starting earlier; rather puberty may be taking a longer time," it further shared.
What this means is that girls are susceptible to "send nudes" texts earlier than they would have by teen boys who are older than them, due to their budding breasts and gradually widening hips.
This explains the reason behind what Sara Thomas refers to as their "confusion" when asked and subsequently coerced to send sexually charged selfies of themselves, as their maturity hasn't caught up with their bodies yet.
Sara adds that these young girls "seem to have no framework for what to do."
And because young girls fear they might get into trouble for sexting even though they did not initiate it, they feel that they cannot ask a grownup they trust for guidance on how to decline requests for nudes. Perhaps this is one of the many gaps Life Orientation could fill?
The "teach your boys while they are young" conversation also needs to include these kinds of matters - it can start with a simple "it is inappropriate to ask a girl for sexual pictures or to send her pictures of your private parts that she has not asked for," and the chat can progress from there.
During that conversation, you might find that the boys putting pressure on girls to send them pictures are also receiving pressure from their friends to "pull girls".
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