Last year we used focus groups to explore how teens spend/find/use their time online. Following the success of this, we decided to use focus groups to investigate how Year 11 -13 young men felt about nudes and the sharing of intimate images.
All up we held three focus groups. One for each year group.
Pizza and snacks had been super popular with past participants, so were provided again. We (student members' of Sticks 'n Stones) ran the group with support from our CEO. Having us run the group meant the young men could be asked questions that were relevant and feel comfortable to answer in their own words. Each focus group was recorded and transcribed.
The young men were really open with their thoughts and experiences and this honesty was really appreciated. The feedback was incredibly positive and a range of good ideas were put forward from the participants especially around Sex Education.
Young men felt that the issue of nudes was just as relevant to them as it was to young women.
Some felt that there was pressure on them to 'fit in' or hold onto the 'power' when they were starting a relationship with a girl and that this was reinforced when it came to nudes.
"I think as soon as you ask someone for a nude it becomes more of a dominance thing, coz if you ask a girl and they’re like no then they have power over you to like tell others you were asking for nudes"
"But if the guy got the nudes then the guy would obviously become more powerful. So as soon as you ask it’s more one sided."
When asked if there things you said to get a girl ready and happy to send a nude rather than simply asking outright, some found this quite disturbing.
"That would be evil"
"That's kind of sinister"
"I reckon it's just such an awkward topic"
"Coz as soon as you kind of put that thing out there then how do you come back from that?"
They did not think it was fair that the focus (and a lot of the time blame or shame) was placed on young women by their peers or by adults and that often situations could be quite complex.
"Yeah cause if you’re like in a relationship and stuff, She obviously thought she could trust this person if she sent them a nude ya know."
"Could always be some weird as guy that is like threatening her and stuff."
This was further reinforced by two of the groups who shared an example of a Nudes 101 Instagram Page that had been shared at their school and how most boys had strong emotional responses to how unfair it was.
"Everyone was pretty angry about it."
"Everyone just wanted to know who’s this and who’s this."
"People were just trying to name people."
"I just felt sorry for the girls."
"Just kind of curious."
"I can’t say any guys would have been pissed off."
"I was pretty pissed off to be honest."
"Yeah, cause you feel sorry for them."
"Cause like one of my mates, his girlfriend was on there."
"I felt real bad about that, it real pissed me off."
"Yeah, and even if you don’t know who they are , you feel bad for them."
All groups thought it was important to acknowledge that sometimes sending nude images did not cause issues.
"If you send a nude and it stays private then that’s ok"
"Yeah cause it's not like it's hurting anyone."
"Yeah it’s not like it’s bullying or anything."
All three focus groups shared a range of examples of witnessing groups of young women showing each other nudes of other young women and then sharing these around the school using Social Media.
In response to the question 'Do you think more guys are sharing nudes?", the groups were clear that girls were also involved (and felt that they could in many cases be worse)
"It is not just guys sharing nudes, girls are way more mean and they take things way too far"
"They get in a group and are all like ooooohhhh"
"Girls are worse than us aye? They get real vicious"
There was agreement that if young men were sharing a nude image of a young woman it would usually be with just 'one mate' that you could really trust (compared with girls who shared it around more widely).
Sticks 'n Stones member: So you think that boys might share these with just one mate, while girls show it to lots of friends?
"Just like a good mate"
"Unless it was like some next level shit that they did and you broke up, then..."
They thought there were only a few young men that did share images more widely.
"There's only a couple of boys like that"
"That want everyone to see it"
"I think they're like proud of themselves"
It was interesting that when asked if they were in a relationship and the other person sent a nude image, would they feel comfortable sharing it (even with a mate) there was total agreement that they would not.
"You probably wouldn't if you were in a serious relationship"
"If you’re in a relationship you’re like I’m not showing this to anyone"
"If you’re in a relationship you definitely keep it to yourself"
"Nah. I reckon you have to be a ballbag to do that"
And there were even a couple of participants who questioned why nudes would be sent in a serious relationship
"Well, If I'm in a relationship, why would she send nudes to me? I can just see it for myself"
The year 12 and 13 boys also shared that boys send nudes to each other in a non-sexual way.
"Yeah, that's just banter'
"For a laugh"
"If you look on a rugby team's MyStory it's all sacks and stuff"
"I get sent meat swing videos like every day"
"You know how you can like put your balls in the sunset and take a photo of them *laughter* "
There was also a feeling that some girls (especially younger girls in Year 9 or 10) sent nude images to a number of different people.
"The majority of guys have like all the same ones on their phone- the same person sent them to each person and then they are shared around too"
"When we were younger it felt like it was more of a thing than it is now"
Participants did not believe that there were as many 'Dick Pics' being sent around as girls were saying.
"Not from us"
"I think it's about the same number of guys that send Dick Pics for no reason as the number of girls who send Tit Pics for no reason"
"Guys that do just want everyone to know they've got as big dick"
"It's kind of a competitive thing"
" It takes more confidence for a guy I reckon"
"Yeah than girls"
"Girls have more things to send"
"They do, like I can't send my tit"
"Why not?" *laughter*
All participants identified that girls were more likely to get a negative response for sharing nude images and that slut shaming was definitely an issue for some girls.
"Guys can get away with way more than a girl can"
"Girls get accused of like way worse than we do"
"Guys get with like two chicks and it's just 'for the boys' *laughter* "
There was overall agreement that nudes were not as big of an issue as parents or the media believe it is.
"I didn’t even know it was still a thing"
"You don’t really hear about it much now"
"When we were younger it felt like it was more of a thing than it is now"
"I think if it’s happening then it’s private"
"Or it's not even happening"
"I don’t think i’ve seen a nude all this year or even heard of one, except that page"
All groups felt that when nudes are being asked for or shared it is with younger teens.
"I reckon its more common now with the Year 9s and 10s"
"Year 9 it reached its peak aye, you never hear about it in our year anymore"
"I reckon people would’ve gotten more mature now and stopped doing it"
They also were unhappy with the messages being given to people who had nudes shared without their permission that 'they shouldn't have sent it in the first place' or 'they just need to deal with the consequences then'.
"Yeah that's rough as"
"Yeah cause if you're like in a relationship and stuff, they obviously think they can trust the person if they send them a nude, ya know?"
"It kind of depends on the circumstances, could always be like someone threatened them and stuff"
"If you send a nude and it stays private then that's ok"
This provides an interesting challenge to educators who tend to suggest just don’t send the picture in the first place and shows a need for deeper and more open discussion from younger ages.
This focus group shows how important it is to take the time to have open and honest conversation with young poeple and for their views, experiences and thoughts to be heard so that what we see in the media is not considered the 'truth'.
It also shows a willingness and openess that could be built from to break down some of the stereotypes, misperceptions and negative norms that contribute to problems and issues.
In 2018 we took part in two focus groups facilitated by the Nudie Project- a NZ-based research team (Uni of Auckland) interested in hearing the thoughts of young people on consensual and non-consensual 'sexting', dick pics & 'revenge porn.