While peer pressure is a normal part of the teenage experience, a new study revealed just how hard it is for girls to say 'no' when pushed by a boy to send nude pictures.
Researchers from Northwestern University analyzed nearly 500 accounts from teenage girls who described being pressured from boys and found that two-thirds were asked to send explicit photos in exchange for affection.
However, the findings show that the promise of affection turned to threats and harassment from boys if they did not comply, leading to 20 percent of the girls aged 12 to 18 giving in and sending nude photos.
None of the young women reported feeling 'relief' or 'benefit' from sending the photos and instead their compliance brought on negative self-esteem and fear of the photos being distributed.
Only 12 of the accounts revealed no negative backlash from saying 'no' to boys' requests, prompting a reoccurring cry for help by the girls who shared their stories with the question: 'What should I do?'.
Teen girls are pressureed from boys to send nude pictures and then face threats and harassment if they refuse, according to research from Northwestern University [file image]
Researchers analyzed 462 comments posted from 2010 to 2016 on MTV's website A Thin Line, a site aimed at stopping the spread of sexual abuse in the form of sexting and cyberbullying.
The comments revealed the confusion and internal battle teen girls experienced when asked to send nude photos and the different tactics boys used to coerce the girls into sending them.
'Teenage girls know the potential risks and are disinclined to do it, yet they continue to share the images anyway,' said study author Sara Thomas, a doctoral student in human development and social policy. 'They struggle to say no.'
Only eight percent of the stories showed a desire to send photos, however they justified sending explicit photos because of a desire to please or avoid negative consequences from young men.
The findings published in the journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy showed that in 22 percent of the cases, the girls considered sending photos as a way to obtain the attention and affections of boys they were interested in.
While they know that sending photos have immediate and long-term repercussions, the teens described boys pressuring, getting angry and threatening to break off the relationship in order to get pictures.
Twenty percent of the young women said they complied with the boys' requests and sent photos and 12 of them said they did so to maintain a relationship.
One 15-year-old girl wrote: 'I sent my boyfriend a naked pic after he insisted and was going to break up with me. Now he is threatening to send it to everyone if I don't have sex with him, I'm only 15.'
I sent my boyfriend a naked pic after he insisted and was going to break up with me. Now he is threatening to send it to everyone if I don't have sex with him, I'm only 15
The girls who were threatened reported feeling trapped, stuck and scared about the consequences of both sending and not sending photos.
Only 12 of the cases reported having no negative backlash or self-doubt after clearly stating 'no'.
One case even reported telling a parent about the pressure after receiving death threats for denying.
None of the young women who sent nude photos reported feeling relief or benefit from sending them and compliance often lead to self-doubt and fear about what might happen in the future.
More than 40 percent of the stories described the consequences of unintended audiences, mass distribution, rumor spreading, legal consequences, emotional distress and parental reaction.
'A guy sent a naked picture of me to the whole school including the principal and my parents then everyone who got it sent it their phonebooks which resulted in about 300 plus people having my naked body on their phones,' one girl wrote.
COMMON SEXTING CODES
FYEO - For your eyes only
NIFOC - Nude in front of computer
MOS - Mum over shoulder
P999 - Parent Alert
LMIRL - Let's meet in real life
TDTM - Talk dirty to me
GYPO - Get your pants off
IWSN - I want sex now
Some of the girls reported using avoidance tactics such as taking a photo of their face or finding an image online and sending it to the boy in order to comply without compromising themselves.
'He sent a nude picture of myself and excepted me to send one back, so I went on the internet and looked up 'naked brunette young women' and used those, [sic]' one girl wrote.
Researchers found that the girls often felt the burden of the situation as their issue and not a problem with the boy.
'Young women's language suggested that they did not problematize boys' coercive and threatening behavior. Young men were not criticized or denounced for sharing young women's (presumably) consensually shared bodies without their consent,' Thomas said in the study.
Girls described themselves as 'skanky', 'stupid' or 'horrible' for sending out photos, whereas the boys were referred to as a 'boyfriend' or 'friend'.
While in some states teenage nude photos legally constitutes as child porn, Thomas suggests stronger legal action for boys who coerce girls into sending photos.
'Young women's attempts to negotiate coercive situations on their own suggest that young women feel it is their burden to manage,' she said. 'This is a logical extension of policy makers, educators and parents routinely holding young women as more responsible for sexual decision-making (particularly in the form of upholding abstinence)'.