Receiving unwanted nudes

Lots of people feel more confident online than they do face-to-face – adults and young people. For example, young people have told us that they like flirting online because: it gives them time to craft the perfect message, they don’t have to worry about others overhearing, and emojis can help them to express how they feel (Digital Romance, 2017).

But the extra confidence some people have online means that sometimes they share things they shouldn’t. Like unwanted nudes. This is sometimes referred to as ‘unsolicited nude image sharing’.

Unsolicited means that the recipient didn’t ask for a nude, or say it was okay for the other person to send it. These images are often referred to as ‘dick pics’ when boys send them, and research shows that it is usually men and boys who send unsolicited nude images.

Unfortunately, we know that many adults and children are receiving unwanted nudes. 41% of women aged between 18- 36 have received a ‘dick pic’ they didn’t want (YouGov, 2017). This might make it feel normal, but it’s definitely not okay. In fact, sharing a nude with someone without their consent is a form of sexual harassment.

The law

  • Across the UK, it’s illegal for under 18s to share nude images of themselves with others. The police do not want to criminalise young people for sending nude images of themselves consensually (with permission from the recipient). But if young people are sending images of themselves without consent, there’s a possibility that the police could get involved.
  • UK legislation also states that it’s illegal for adults to share nude images of themselves with anyone under 16.

Who sends these images?

Unwanted nude image sharing can come from strangers - for example there have been reports in the news of people sending them using AirDrop when on public transport. It’s never okay for an adult to share a nude image of themselves with a child. If you have received a nude from an over 18, report it to CEOP.

But they may also come from people you know at school. Young people have reporting finding this situation very difficult as they might could the people who are sending them as their ‘friends’. Sometimes, this can happen on a regular basis and the receivers are left feeling as though it is just ‘normal’. It is really important to remember that this isn’t normal and it is a form of abuse. Read our advice below on what you can do.

How do young people feel when they receive an unwanted nude?

Receiving unwanted nudes can make people feel a range of different emotions. Young people who receive a photo like this should remember:

  • It’s okay and completely normal to feel shocked, hurt or angry – these are common feelings for people who receive sexual images they weren’t expecting.
  • It’s never okay for the sender to expect sexual messages or images back. Some people who receive nudes feel like they should please the sender by responding. But no one should ever share anything they don’t want to.
  • It’s okay to feel comfortable with it – but there are some things that should be considered in this situation. It may only feel comfortable because it’s something that lots of people talk about. If you’re thinking about sending an image back or already have, read our Selfies: the naked truth article.  

Someone has sent me a nude I didn't want, what can I do?

  • Report it to CEOP 

    If anyone - whether an adult or a young person - is sending you nude images that you do not want report it to CEOP. They will be able to help you. You will be called by a social worker at CEOP who will talk to you about what has happened.  

  • Speak to a trusted adult

    Talking to someone about what’s happened might make you feel better. They will be able to give you the advice and support you need. Perhaps there’s an adult that you know and trust that you could talk to. Or you could speak to a counsellor at Childline confidentially by calling 0800 1111.

  • Report and block the sender

    If someone has made you feel uncomfortable, you can stop them from sending more nudes. Social networks don’t allow people to send unwanted nude images. Read all about how to block and report here.

  • Tell them that you're uncomfortable

    The sender may not have meant to hurt you, but this doesn’t make it okay. If you feel able to, tell them that the image has made you feel uncomfortable. It’s important they understand that nudes should never be sent without consent.

  • Remember the law is there to protect young people

    Naked images of under 18s are illegal, but the police will respond to cases with a common sense attitude. You will not be in trouble with the police if someone has shared an image with you that you didn’t ask for. The law was created to protect young people and you will not be in trouble for reporting that you have received these types of images.