WITHOUT thinking, I tapped on WhatsApp to open up the video that had just pinged into my messages. It was from a guy I’d been chatting to for a few days after meeting him on the dating app Hinge.
He worked in finance and seemed nice enough, and I was definitely up for meeting in real life if he asked. But then the video started to play. It was a clip of him masturbating while pleasuring himself with a sex toy. As I quickly shut it down, I felt horrified and violated.
Just last year a YouGov survey found that 53% of millennial women had received an explicit picture, and, worse still, 78% of them hadn’t consented to receiving such an image.
The same survey also revealed that over a quarter of millennial men admitted to sending a picture of their penis to a woman, and 24% of them did so without asking permission.
“Some men are naive enough not to understand that these images, especially sent without consent, are actually revolting to women,” says behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings.
“They believe that by sending them, they will receive one back. While it’s OK if these images click to read are sent consensually, it’s a different ball game when a woman is speaking to a man she doesn’t know on an app.
“In some cases, sending unsolicited d**k pics is a show of dominance and aggression. It’s as if they’re saying: ‘OK, you think you’re smart? Well take a look at this.’
“It’s done to shock and silence women, and is the modern equivalent of flashing – except now men are able to do it from behind the safety of a screen instead of on the bus.”
What’s even more sinister is that nearly half the men who admitted sending intimate pics knew that women might find them “distressing”, while 44% said they were fully aware women would feel “threatened” by them.
When I received that video while sat on the sofa watching TV one night in August, I was disgusted that this man thought it was acceptable.
Pictures of male genitals – AKA d**k pics – are hardly a new thing when it comes to dating apps
Of course I’d received the odd d**k pic in my time, which I had always ignored, but this was taking things to a new level.
I immediately told my housemate, who said I should block him. But I was too scared it might annoy him so much that he’d try to find me on other social media platforms – Hinge reveals full names, so he knew my surname.
However, the next day I woke to another pic, this time of him lying in bed naked with an erection, saying he was feeling lonely.
Each time my phone pinged I felt increasingly uncomfortable, and eventually that evening I messaged him again to say I really wasn’t interested and to leave me alone, to which he responded with another obscene video of him masturbating and using a dildo.
He said it was a shame, as we “could have had some fun”, then blocked me so I couldn’t respond even if I’d wanted to.
I was left furious and frightened, as it felt like he’d conducted the seedy experience on his terms, and that night I couldn’t sleep.
I’d been on dating apps for five years
From the chats we’d had, we’d realised that we lived just around the corner from each other, which made me worried that I might see him in the street, or that he might somehow track me down if he was determined enough.