LUNCHTIME at an Inverell secondary school, and while some adolescent boys clustered around their phones, a group six 15 and 16 year old girls knew what some of those phones displayed - explicit photos of female classmates.
“Nudes and that? Do people do that sort of thing? Yeah,” 15-year-old TR said matter-of-factly.
And all the girls said they have seen them. It’s nothing new.
Images and explicit video clips, consensually supplied by or taken of young women today have become a kind of commodity.
The files are mass-shared on mobile devices or on ‘slut pages’, created on social media platforms or unique web sites to share the photos and name the girls.
In some cases, images are manipulated, placing known female teens’ faces on random nude shots.
The local girls were unphased by the results of the March, Our Watch/Plan International Australia survey, Don’t send me that pic, of 600 adolescent women aged 15-19
The survey found 58 per cent of girls “receive uninvited or indecent or sexually explicit material such as texts, videos clips or pornography”.
The Inverell teens said they realised what was happening when they hit year 7 or 8, and all felt repulsed.
“It was like the worst thing ever,” TR said.
Sixteen-year-old BJ’s confusion over why her classmates would want to share such images tallied with the survey’s finding that 81 per cent of girls feel it is unacceptable for boys to ask them for the photos.
“Just the change from year 6, when the most thing you were worried about in a relationship was holding hands has now gone to, ‘What are you sending each other?’” 15-year-old MS said.
Don’t send me that pic found 51 per cent of females agreed they or other girls are often pressured to take sexual images of themselves to share.
The girls were well-aware those who received nude or explicit images, then shared them, were breaking the law in regard to 'sexting'.
In NSW, sexting is a crime when people under 18 are involved, but charges may be laid regardless of age when sexting involves harassment.
Sharing images or video of boys and girls under 18 may also bring charges of distributing child pornography.
RB is 16, and explained sharing explicit imagery is not tied to a two adolescents in a relationship.
“Even just being friends with a guy, you’re more than likely going to get (a nude photo), you don't actually have to be in a relationship; it’s just sort of knowing a guy can lead to this,” she said.
The consensus was the thirst for acknowledgement, no matter the reason, was the impetus for girls take and share a nude image of themselves.
“The attention, like, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful, you’re so great, your body’s amazing’,” TR said.
Though females are the subject of the exploitation, the students felt judgment, including that from other females, fell harder on the girls who shared images.
“I find that more, if a girl's done it, they’re the worst person in the world, and they shouldn’t do it,” MS said.
“Yeah, like, it’s frowned upon. With the rumours that go around, (that) does more damage than the actual photo itself.” BJ added.
The consensus was regaining integrity after sharing nude images was a hard or impossible task.
“It’s be really hard to come back from that,” BJ said while the others nodded.
Surprisingly, the girls were sympathetic for young men caught up in the cycle of receiving and sharing nude images and texts from girls.
“It might not just be that one person; that one person might not want to do it, or not ever want to to do it, but it’s their friends who are pushing them,” BJ said.
Most said they would seek out a friend over parents or other adults when confronted by sexual imagery or texts about someone else, or trapped in a bad situation.
Don’t send me that pic found almost half - 44 per cent of Australian girls - felt uncomfortable reporting incidents of abusive online behaviour, and BJ explained why.
“To be honest, sometimes you don’t want to speak out,” she said.
“You just want to keep it to yourself, because if you know if that gets around, something’s going to get back around you, going and telling people about it.
“You either leave it, or you avoid it, or you do it.”
RB said the sharing of confronting images reflected the erosion of respect among her peer group.
“I know now, we don't have that much respect for each other anymore, or ourselves,” she said.
Sixteen-year-old SP spoke up and said even with good intentions, to refusal to take and share explicit images can backfire.
“Even if you don't send the picture, and you just ignore it, but then you go and talk to your friends about it, and you did say to them you didn’t do it, then that could, all of a sudden, can turn into a rumour, and people can know that you actually did do it,” she said.
“And instead of a picture of you, it’s getting a picture off another girl and saying that it’s you and then swinging the story around,” BJ added.
EK, 15, said that had happened in Inverell.
TR said there was no barrier to creating a false image.
“There’s so many photos on Google, you just get one, and say, ‘Yep, this is so and so.”
The girls quietly agreed the objectification of women, their own classmates and girls they knew, was damaging.
“It kind of feels like all they’re looking at is our looks,” EK said.
“They don't want to know our personality, or what we like or dislike, or our favourite movies, or colour, or simple things like that, they just want to know how we look.”
“And once they get that picture, or that text or whatever, it’s ‘Good-bye’, they don't give two craps about your feelings, or if you get caught; all they want is that picture; it’s horrible,” BJ said.
“It just makes you feel worthless.”
Don’t send me that pic may be found on www.plan.org.au/learn/who-we-are/blog/2016/03/02/dont-send-me-that-pic.
-The young women who spoke in this article asked not to be identified, and the initials used have no relation to their actual names.