Stop Instagram's Sexual Harassment Problem

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Diana Muzina
Diana Muzina signed this petition

Instagram has popularized voyeurism. In doing so, I don’t think that they thought about the dangers that it posed. Now, I have chosen to open up my life to the public, but that does not mean I’m “asking for it.” In no situation is a woman “asking for it.” 

Instagram has done its fair share to protect people against bullies, and even just made a landmark decision to prohibit anyone under the age of eighteen to see posts advertising diet products. But it hasn’t done much to stop its sexual harassment problem. In it’s twenty-five paged PDF entitled, “How to Talk With Your Teen About Instagram: A Parent’s Guide,” there is no mention of sexual harassment. 

There have been numerous stories of Instagram models being exploited by photographers, or companies that prey on influencers’ financial insecurity. And while many proclaim that they’re smarter than that, I can say that it’s tempting. I have a miniscule following, but get offers constantly. I also regularly get solicited by men labeling themselves as “sugar daddies.” 

What’s worse is that as someone who has been harassed, you can actually get in trouble for calling our your harasser by name on Instagram’s platform. Why you ask? Well, because of their Harassment Policy - isn’t that ironic? Further Instagram’s “Help Center,” makes no mention of sexual harassment or predatory behavior except for ways to report registered sex offenders. A simple search of related terms comes up with nothing. 

There are many accounts that publicize DMs and comments in which women have been harassed. Often, they poke fun at the issue. As women, we know that to deal with this sort of constant stream of harassment, a bit of levity is needed for us to feel both sane and safe. @chossyDMs was an account that posted such content... and guess what, it was REMOVED by Instagram. No worries though, you can be added to its new private account, @chossydms2.0. 

After continually being disappointed by men on these apps and even just on Instagram, I decided to ask my followers if they have had similar experiences. The results were staggering. 

91% of my followers have received an unwanted, inappropriate DM
92% report that that DM was sexual in nature
67% of my followers have received unsolicited dick pics
87% were not okay with receiving the pic
After they responded to the unwanted pic, 40% report that they were unfollowed or unmatched 

When asked how the inappropriate DM made them feel, respondents had reactions ranging from feeling taken aback, to feeling disturbed, violated, and objectified. 

When asked how they responded to dick pics, some ignored them, some replied something snarky or angry, but the majority blocked them. Not a single respondent reported the message. One individual said the following about the message she received, “I was fourteen and never had seen an adult penis. It made me feel SO ashamed and disgusted.” 

This is the world that women live in. We are never free from harassment, not even in our own homes because of the digital world we hold in our hands. 50.3% of active Instagram users are female. And while the majority are 18-24, a significant portion fall into the 57 million portion that are ages 13-17. Instagram SHOULD take responsibility for the safety of these users. If they truly want to create a safe and positive environment for its users, it can not ignore this problem.