California may soon adopt a law that would allow people to sue anyone who sends them an unsolicited picture of their genitals. Texas and Virginia already have similar laws on their books.
But does this mean you’ll now have to worry about getting sued or arrested for sending sexy pics on hookup apps? The short answer is: not really, not if you use common sense, anyway.
The California legislature recently and unanimously passed Senate Bill 53, a law targeting so-called “cyber flashing,” the digital equivalent of showing your genitals in public. The bill, if signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, would allow anyone to sue another person if they receive “unsolicited sexually graphic material by text, email, app or other electronic means.”
But the law wasn’t really meant to stop all sexytime flirting on hookup apps. It was initially passed to stop two types of cyber flashers: those who use local networks to drop graphic sexual images onto the smart devices of everyone in close proximity, and those who send unwanted pictures of their junk as a form of online sexual harassment.
At least one study has shown that this sort of harassment happens to women more often than men. About 53 percent of women between the ages of 18 to 29 said that someone had sent them unsolicited, sexually explicit images in the past. Only 37 percent of men in the same age range reported receiving such images.
Young women were also more likely to feel very upset by such online harassment and to see it as a major problem. That’s probably because about 21 percent of young women have been sexually harassed online in the past, a figure that’s more than double the 9 percent of young men who said they’d experienced similar harassment.
Often the harassment comes from anonymous strangers on social media. In response to such harassment, roughly a quarter of harassed social media users either adjusted their profile’s security settings, reduced the amount of personal info they shared online, or stopped using social networks altogether.
Both California and Virginia’s laws allow anyone who receives such images to drag senders into civil court and sue them for financial damages. However, Texas’ law — which was passed in September 2019 — made the act a class “C” misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $500. Most people may not want to spend the time and money required to prosecute such an offense, but unsolicited senders should beware.
Thus far, there haven’t been any media reports of queer men being sued or charged for sending unwanted sexy pics. But if you’re worried about that, there’s a simple way to avoid it: Just politely ask beforehand if people are okay with you sending sexually explicit images of yourself.
Some will enthusiastically accept them, and those who don’t will either decline or ignore you. Either way, you can rest easy knowing that you’re a responsible sender of sexts.