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Receiving unwanted sexual content

Sharing sexual content without consent is never okay.

What is unwanted sexual content?

Unwanted sexual content can include being sent or shown naked or semi-naked images (nudes), receiving sexual messages, or being sent links to sexual videos like adult pornography.

Why do people send unwanted sexual content?

Many people feel more confident online than offline. This confidence means people are more willing to share private things like sexual pictures or videos or talk about sex in a way they wouldn’t in person. Sometimes people might do this without thinking about the consequences or the impact on others.

Sharing unwanted sexual content can happen just once. It can also happen on more than one occasion and it can be ongoing.

Sometimes, sexual content can be shared as part of online grooming, in order to sexually abuse a young person.

The importance of consent when sharing nudes

Nudes should always be shared with consent - where both people want and feel comfortable to share or receive the image. When sharing a nude it is important to be sure the other person is ok with you sending it. ‘Unsolicited or unwanted nude image sharing’ refers to a situation where nudes are sent to someone that didn’t consent to receiving them.

Someone has sent me sexual content I didn't want. What can I do?

  1. Report it to CEOP. If anyone is sending you sexual content, including nude images, you did not ask for you can make a report to CEOP. CEOP can help to stop it happening.   
  2. Speak to a trusted adult. Talking to a trusted adult (like a parent, carer or teacher) about what has happened might make you feel better. They will be able to give you advice and support. You can always talk to a counsellor at a support service.
  3. Report and block the sender. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable you can block them and stop them from contacting you. You can also report the message to the app or website. 
  4. Tell them that you feel uncomfortable. The sender may not have meant to make you feel uncomfortable, but this still doesn’t make it okay. If you feel able to, explain how the message or image has made you feel. It’s important they understand sexual content should never be sent without consent.

The effect of receiving unwanted nudes

Receiving unwanted content can make people feel a lot of different emotions.

  • It’s natural to feel shocked, hurt or angry. These are common feelings for people who receive sexual content they were not expecting.
  • It’s never okay for the sender to expect or pressure you into sending sexual messages or images back. If you receive a sexual message or a nude, you might feel like you should send one in return. You shouldn’t feel pressured to share anything you are not comfortable with. 
  • It’s okay if you feel comfortable with it – but think about why you do. It may only feel comfortable as it seems ‘normal’ or because lots of people talk about it. If you’re thinking about sending a nude or already have, read our advice on sharing nudes.

What does the law say?

Nude images of anyone under the age of 18 are illegal in the UK. The law does not want to criminalise young people who share nudes consensually in relationships, but if nude images of young people are shared without consent, there’s a possibility the police could get involved.

It is illegal for adults (anyone over the age of 18) to send sexual content to anyone under 16. This includes sending nude images of themselves. It is also illegal in the UK for adults to send messages that encourage someone under 16 to engage in sexual messages with them.

Remember, if you have received an unwanted nude or sexual message from someone over 18, you can report it to CEOP.

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If you are under 18, report online sexual abuse to one of our Child Protection Advisors at the CEOP Safety Centre.

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In an emergency

If you're ever in immediate harm or danger: 

  • Call the police on 999 straight away
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Free, confidential support online and over the phone for young people under 19.

www.childline.org.uk

Call 0800 1111

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The Mix is a charity that provides free information and support for under 25s.

www.themix.org.uk

Use their crisis messenger by texting THEMIX to 85258.

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