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  • Writer's pictureMatt Himsworth

Moving away from "porn culture"

Last week my colleague, Leigh Nicol, bravely told her story to Sky Sports News, one year on from being a victim of intimate image abuse. What was so important in this latest interview with Sky was the positivity and the reflection on what she has achieved. After first speaking out about her ordeal in February 2021 what she hoped to do was to help people to understand the magnitude of the problem. To help young people to understand how to protect themselves and, moreover, to help people understand that every time you share intimate image abuse you are contributing to the “death of a thousand cuts” suffered by so many victims of this appalling crime.


Since Leigh joined our firm in May 2021 she has done this and so much more. I was so proud to watch her stood in front of the Crystal Palace men’s u18 squad telling her story. Relaying the pain she felt when she found out that groups of males working in her industry had thought it was ok to share images and links in their WhatsApp groups, to treat her like an object and to compound the awful heartache and helplessness that she was going through. The Palace boys, to their credit, showed compassion and empathy, and have continued to do so when Leigh sees them at the training ground.


Those conversations with male groups are just as important as those uplifting sessions Leigh has done with WSL u18 groups — briefing girls on how to protect themselves and how to avoid going through what she went through.


A lot of our focus, when we discuss sex and communication with young men, is on the culture of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of what a girl should do in a relationship and what is expected of a “real man”. The awful bragging in the WhatsApp group, the comparisons with professional porn stars and the insistence that sexual relationships be recorded and played out on smartphones, it is all so risky and so damaging. But there’s another crucial aspect to the efforts that Fraser and I started, and Leigh has been such a huge part of, and that is protecting the boys themselves. One of the most harmful aspects of “porn culture” on boys is that it diminishes them, and their experiences, and leads them themselves into very dangerous situations — because they simply don’t know what a healthy and realistic relationship looks like.

Men are very often the victims of intimate image abuse, however, the way it happens is often vastly different from the way that women are attacked. Young men are often vulnerable to these scams because they have allowed themselves to become naive to what realistic relationships look like because of “porn culture”.


The one thing that is common between male victims and female victims is that the perpetrators are more often than not, men. In the last two weeks I have helped two young men who have had intimate images leaked online. Both were engaging in online conversations with someone they have never met before. The most recent one was that most common of scams. An Instagram profile of a “beautiful woman” contacted him via DM. “She” flirted, “she” invited him to SnapChat where they could express themselves more, “she” requested dick pics from him, “she” then demanded payment of money via BitCoin and threatened to send all his messages and dick pics to all of his followers on Instagram.


These types of scams are incredibly common. They are usually run out of criminal call centres operating in countries like Morocco, Malaysia and Indonesia (to name the most recent three countries I have seen in cases I have helped on). The question is often asked (including, on this occasion by the victim himself): how are these men so bloody naive to engage in these chats? The answer that I come back to is: porn culture.


In a world where your young years are littered with hardcore images and videos, where everything is free and immediate and you can have whatever you want, whenever you want it, it is understandable that immature minds can start to believe that sexual relations can be transactional, instant and gratuitous. I’ve spent a lot of my professional life telling men that normal women don’t want to see a picture of your dick. If you’re communicating with a genuinely normal woman then sending a picture of your bits is likely to upset and disgust her and if someone you are communicating with actually asks for such an image ask yourself: why? 99 times out of 100 this is not a normal woman. Probably 98 times out a 100 it’s a scammer in a far flung country.


When a young man has learned about relationships via online pornography, it’s little wonder that, when an apparently beautiful woman he’s never met before pops up online and starts asking for images of his genitalia, he thinks: this is normal, I’ll go ahead and send it. Changing that mindset and changing that online mindset that everything is free, easy and instant, is a challenge.


We want everything now, we want it free and at our total convenience. That’s led to a race to the bottom, where we allow Amazon to avoid their taxes and to undercut small traders, Uber to underpay their drivers and women to be exploited on porn sites. It’s a race to the bottom that hurts us all. “Porn culture” is, of course, only one of the issues there but love and sex are such an important part of the human experience, that it’s a very good place to start … and that’s why we do our little bit to try to teach about kindness, respect and consent and why we’ll keep banging the drum. It’s good for everyone.


First published over the weekend here, on my personal blog.


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