Consider the following story relayed to me during my research: my interviewee, after declining a man’s interest on a popular dating site, described receiving a message from him with a picture of an erection next to a kitchen knife.

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Sherrie Hewson, a TV presenter in the UK, recently revealed that after signing up for an online dating website she received an unexpected and unsolicited full-frontal image of her correspondent’s genitals.

It’s something many women have experienced online and, although Hewson tried to make light of it she was left feeling shocked, and quit the site.

A hypothesis I’m exploring concerns men’s responses to rejection on dating sites.

Online dating offers dramatically wider opportunities to find and approach other singles.

It’s not yet clear how the law might apply to the sending of unsolicited dick pics or sexual images, but British police have investigated at least one case.

It’s essentially cyber-flashing, the real world’s online equivalent, and should be treated as seriously.

Do senders really hope to woo a potential date with the equipment on display? In a piece from online lifestyle magazine Refinery29, several of those men interviewed who had sent dick pics said they assumed women would want a nude image of them, because they would be more than happy to receive one from a woman.

Perhaps they should have taken note of a survey by which concluded receiving “sexts” is a turn off for women who use online dating – presumably because there is something very unsexy about ignoring the requirement to obtain consent first.

What would possess someone to send a graphic image of themselves without ever being asked for one, or even thinking to check if it might be appreciated?

When it comes to the internet, it seems common sense to think that the physical distance and anonymity the online world provides allows, even encourages, people to do things they wouldn’t normally do “in real life”.

If you don’t believe your actions hold any consequences for you, then there is no fear of the social ramifications which might normally keep certain behaviours in check.