My research and policy work raises awareness of the harms of cyberflashing – also known as sending unsolicited dick pics – and makes recommendations for new laws criminalising this commonplace and pernicious form of abuse.
My work has played a central role in the recent public campaigns to introduce a new cyberflashing criminal offence in England & Wales and Northern Ireland, shaping the Law Commission’s recommendations, and providing justifications for action and draft legislative proposals. I first raised concerns about cyberflashing in Parliament in 2017 and you can read more about my media contributions and comments below.
Typically where a man sends a penis image to a woman without her consent. It’s also known as sending ‘unsolicited dick pics’.
Clare McGlynn & Kelly Johnson
This book is the first comprehensive account of the nature, harms and prevalence of cyberflashing. It identifies the gaps in the criminal laws of a range of countries and makes clear recommendations for reform.
News & Articles
By summer 2021, it was being increasingly recognised that the law on cyberflashing needed reform, due to journalists such as Sophie Gallagher raising the voices of survivors, the launch of my book with Kelly Johnson and the English Law Commission’s recommendations for reform which drew extensively on our research and evidence submission.
By the end of 2021, the dating app Bumble started a campaign for a new cyberflashing criminal law together with other women’s rights organisations and MPs. In these public and media debates, my comments on the current gaps in the law and how the law should be reformed have been extensively quoted, helping to shift the discussion towards the need for a consent-based offence.
The first step towards change was secured in March 2022 when the UK Government recognised the need for a new law. However, their proposed offence is limited, as I explained in The Independent, requiring proof of specific perpetrator motives, meaning it only applies to some cases of cyberflashing and will be difficult to prosecute. In response, MPs, women’s rights organisations and Bumble are continuing a campaign for a consent-based law, underpinned by my research and proposed draft legislation. I drafted a revised offence, including a reasonable excuse defence and lower sentencing, which was debated in the House of Lords in May 2023.
The proposed reforms are part of the Online Safety Bill, and I have shaped the debate by giving oral and written evidence in Parliament a number of times, explaining why a comprehensive, consent-based law is required. Watch this clip of me explaining to one of the Parliamentary committees the nature and harms of cyberflashing. The Government and Law Commission continues to support a restricted offence, limited in scope – you can read my rebuttal of their arguments in this briefing.
The public debate about cyberflashing has been extensive. I’ve participated in some excellent video reports raising awareness, including from the Reuters Foundation and the BBC. It’s also been great to be part of a wide range of reports calling for cultural change and education such as in Cosmopolitan, GQ, The Independent, Daily Mail, The Times, Germany’s Der Standard, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and many more.
Cyberflashing in Northern Ireland
In April 2022, the Northern Ireland Assembly adopted new legislation which, for the first time, criminalises cyberflashing. This new law was introduced following my evidence to the Assembly’s Justice Committee which they described as ‘compelling’ and which drew on the research for my co-authored book. The Justice Committee adopted Professor McGlynn’s recommendation, with the Justice Minister agreeing to introduce a new law as part of a package of measures covering upskirting, downblousing and cyberflashing.
Clare McGlynn & Kelly Johnson, 2021, Bristol University Press
Cyberflashing has been on the rise since the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, despite its prevalence and significant harms, cyberflashing is not a criminal offence in England and Wales. This crucial book provides new in-depth analysis, understanding and insight into the nature and harms of cyberflashing. The authors consider recently adopted laws in the US, Singapore and Scotland, and set out proposals to criminalise cyberflashing as a sexual offence in English law. This unique and timely study presents the first comprehensive examination of cyberflashing and the need to reform the criminal law.
Clare McGlynn, 2022, The Journal of Criminal Law 86(5), 336–352
In the context of growing calls for a new law criminalising cyberflashing – the digital distribution of penis images to another without consent – this article makes the case for a comprehensive, ‘consent-based’ criminal offence specifically targeting cyberflashing. It justifies this approach by examining the core wrongs of cyberflashing and suggests draft legislative text for such an offence. In making this case, the article analyses and rejects the Law Commission’s recent proposal for a ‘motive-based’ cyberflashing law. Ultimately, it is argued that while the English Law Commission's proposal is a welcome recognition of the harms of cyberflashing and need for reform, it does not go far enough to offer the redress victim-survivors are seeking, nor does it provide an appropriate normative foundation for education and preventative initiatives.
Read my policy briefing on why a consent-based law should be introduced.
Clare McGlynn & Kelly Johnson 2021, Journal of Criminal Law 85(3): 171-188
This article provides a valuable study of the laws on cyberflashing in the US, Singapore and Scotland. It examines the phenomenon of cyberflashing, outlining its prevalence, harms, and victim-survivors’ experiences, and makes recommendations for a new criminal law in England & Wales.