Cyberflashing is fine as long as it’s meant as a prank, new UK legislation suggests – Screen Shot
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Cyberflashing is fine as long as it’s meant as a prank, new UK legislation suggests

Presenting as female online is no easy feat. From unattainable beauty standards to rampant misogyny flooding our social media feeds, it sadly doesn’t come as a surprise that one in three women have received an unsolicited nude image while at work.

This shocking new data has been collected by dating app and regular watchdog of sexual exploitation and harassment, Bumble. The insight goes on to divulge that over one in four women received such images while on public transport. The sending of unsolicited dick pics, or cyberflashing, is a traumatising and unpleasant reality for women trying to navigate the digital world.

So, what exactly is being done to combat this rising trend? The UK has proposed new legislation in its updated Online Safety Bill (OBS) to help combat the injustices women face online on a daily basis. As of 17 April 2023, the bill has cleared the House Of Commons and is currently at parliament’s House Of Lords committee stage.

While a step in the right direction, there is a glaring flaw, in that unsolicited nudes are only punishable if they were sent based on “harmful intent.” What this means is that only pictures sent out of malice, or with harm in mind will face legal consequences. Essentially, anything someone claims was sent as a “joke” won’t face criminal repercussions.

This oversight in the new legislation is a huge blow to the bill, one which many hoped would implement firm protection for women who are so frequently the recipients of these disgusting images. ‘Boys being boys’ are likely to go unpunished as a result of the proposed legislation, and thus the UK’s culture of misogynistic and laddish behaviour is not only socially reinforced, but politically protected.

The primary issue here is that intent is incredibly hard to prove and so this legislative flaw essentially will lead to the bill beginning to protect the predatory individuals who participate in cyberflashing. The onus shifts almost entirely to the victim to somehow prove the flasher’s intent when reporting the crime.

Why is the UK leaving it up to the traumatised recipient to have to relive the unpleasant experience and fight for justice? Furthermore, with trust in the British police at an all time low, it begs the question of will any individuals even feel comfortable fighting for protection and recognition of wrongdoing?

This is a step back for believing survivors says Claire Barnett, the executive director of UN Women UK, who went on to tell Bumble that the bill needs to put forward “a definition of sexual harassment that is about unwelcome behaviour, rather than the intention of the perpetrator.”

The OBS not only fails to protect women, but has also caught flack for attempting to put a stop to end-to-end encryption, essentially removing even more of our already limited privacy on the internet. End-to-end encryption allows for your conversations to stay private—it’s what WhatsApp uses to keep you safe, and the proposed legislation would give the UK government free access to take a peek at all of your private messages.

Once again, the UK government appears to take one step forward, and then another two back. This is just another drop in the bucket of recent failure to adequately protect marginalised groups as well, much like parliament’s recent attempt to block Scotland’s landmark progressive Gender Reform Bill.

Incelism and the ‘manosphere’: research proves Andrew Tate’s misogyny is just the beginning

For as long as there has been extensive progression within the feminist movement, we have witnessed an equally powerful masculine backlash. Armed with misogyny and violence, swathes of disenfranchised boys and men have fought back against the advancement of women, pedalling ultra-conservative ideas of gender roles and strength. These ideologies thrive within online forums, social media platforms, and even political arenas.

Inside these movements, certain public figures emerge. They become icons and symbols of what masculinity supposedly should look like. And for the past year, one man in particular has embodied this sentiment to such an extent that he is now considered the face of the ultra-masculine archetype, and that is Andrew Tate.

Who is Andrew Tate?

The former kickboxer and alleged rapist has made a living off of championing controversial sexist perspectives. Masquerading as simply another social media influencer, Tate has utilised platforms such as TikTok and Twitter to successfully peddle his highly problematic and dangerous opinions to thousands of young impressionable minds.

As encapsulated by The Guardian, Tate’s content “included videos of him saying women are a man’s property, rape victims are to blame for their own assaults, and talking about hitting and choking women, trashing their belongings and stopping them from going out.” Even when Tate is seemingly ‘praising’ women for their qualities, his admiration is solely reliant on them fulfilling specific toxic beauty standards.

Despite having been repeatedly banned from numerous online platforms, Tate has managed to build a worryingly loyal following. What’s even more frightening is how the controversial figure’s content is being deliberately propped up by some of the biggest social media site’s algorithms. In an attempt to accurately demonstrate this, one of SCREENSHOT’s staff writers created a fresh TikTok account and within two days, the video-sharing app organically served him a Tate propaganda clip.

How much is Andrew Tate worth?

It should also be noted that misogyny is an incredibly lucrative business. Tate has always flaunted his massive amount of wealth—an ideal he promises to other lucky men for the small price of mistreating and abusing women.

The self-proclaimed guru has allegedly amassed a fortune via both his online videos and through subscriptions to his Hustlers University, a bogus online academy which promised to teach young boys and men how to get rich quick. In August 2022, the university had approximately 127,000 members paying £39 a month. Thankfully, the programme has since been shut down.

In regard to other wealth, it’s been a bit of a guessing game. A number of publications have estimated it to be ranging from $50 million to $350 million.

However, despite not knowing an accurate number, Tate’s fans have been assured of his extreme fortune—particularly due to the fact that he’s persistently exhibited his access to luxury travel and supercars.

Andrew Tate has reinvigorated the incel movement

Now, I could very easily spend hours detailing all of the reasons as to why this man should be kept behind bars. However, luckily for me, his recent arrest in Romania on suspicion of sexual assault, human trafficking and organised crime hopefully means I won’t ever have to.

The reason why Tate still demands so much of our attention isn’t solely down to him as an individual, it’s what he represents. According to male supremacist expert Lisa Sugiura for The Conversation, Tate’s superpower has been his ability to capitalise on disillusioned men and young boys who feel threatened by the feminist movement and who seek guidance on how to reclaim power.

They want to be perceived as strong, valuable and authoritative members of society, and they think someone like Tate can help.

Online, this group is often recognised as the ‘manosphere’ and their identity is closely linked to that of incelism. The connecting factor for all of these communities hinges on the idea of male victimhood. As emphasised by Sugiura, “Tate has capitalised on the idea that men are oppressed. He presents simplistic explanations that legitimise this idea that men are being wronged by societal efforts towards gender equality. And he is weaponizing it for his own financial gain.”

It’s also important to note that academics and theorists have explicitly proven that when popular feminist movements occur, they’re always immediately followed by popular misogyny, a term articulated by academic and author Sarah Banet-Weiser.

Incelism might appear on the surface to simply be a hateful online movement that hides in seedy chat rooms, but in reality, it’s been progressively seeping into the real world—resulting in a vicious uptake in violence against women.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three women globally experience violence. This means that around 736 million are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner.

This violence is also not always the kinds of brutal attacks we see in mainstream media, the rise of incelism and misogyny often reveals itself in smaller yet more insidious ways. It’s forms of casual sexism and covert harassment that truly permeate and damage the lives of women on a daily basis.

We’d be foolish to think that Tate’s recent arrest could dampen his impact. Extremism always finds a way.