Here’s How to Help Ban Unsolicited Lewd Photos in Your State

At Bumble, our mission has long been to keep our community safe while dating; misogyny, harassment, and bad behavior of any kind aren’t tolerated. For the past few years, we’ve been going state by state—starting with our home state of Texas—to try to make the sending of unsolicited lewd photos illegal. 

We have data on our side: a 2018 study we commissioned found that one in three women on Bumble reported having received unsolicited lewd photos from someone they hadn’t yet met in person. An overwhelming number of these women—96%—were unhappy to have been sent these images. 

At the time, we found there was no legislation in place to deter this sort of digital indecent exposure. While it’s a crime to pull your pants down in the streets, there was nothing stopping anyone from exposing themselves in your DMs, texts, or other channels.

So we got to work. Bumble’s leadership team worked closely with politicians from both sides of the aisle in Texas, where HB 2789 passed unanimously in 2019. Now, as of April 2022, Virginia has passed SB 493 thanks to a group of bipartisan lawmakers. The unsolicited sending of lewd nude images in both those states is now punishable by law. 

Virginia’s Bumble-backed bill, SB 493, establishes a civil penalty for an adult who knowingly sends an intimate image digitally to another adult who has not consented to (or has expressly forbidden) receipt of such image. The bill also entitles the recipient of a nonconsensual lewd image to, among other things, the greater of actual damages or $500, in addition to reasonable attorney fees and costs. 

We’re proud to have played a part in bringing standards of conduct on the internet closer in line with our standards of behavior in the real world. If it wouldn’t fly walking down the street—or at the office, or in the classroom—it shouldn’t be tolerated in your inbox!

Our work isn’t done. Although we’re thrilled that cyberflashing is now prohibited in Texas and Virginia, there are 48 states where it remains legal or unclear. You can help us enact change in your state by contacting your local legislators and requesting to see a similar bill—or supporting existing bills in CA, NY, PA, and WI. 

With your support, we can help close this loophole.

Follow these easy steps: 

Decide on your audience: You’ll want to write to your local elected representatives. Find out who they are here

Craft your message: Greet your reader and let them know you appreciate their commitment to protecting constituents from virtual harassment. 

Use the message below to write to your Senator or Congressperson:

Dear ____________, I strongly urge you to help make the sending of a lewd photo without the recipient’s consent prohibited, like it is in Texas with HB 2789 or in Virginia with SB 493. 

Cyberflashing is the harmful and violating practice of sending unsolicited images or video recordings of genitals to an innocent recipient, without their consent. These explicit images are regularly sent on social media, messaging apps, private networks, and even via close-range wireless communications, with the problem growing as we spend more time online.

Cyberflashing disproportionately affects women, with recent research by Bumble suggesting that 48% of women aged 18-24 have been sent an unsolicited sexual image in the last year alone. These images leave a lasting impact on victims, their mental health, and feeling of physical safety. Cyberflashing infringes on women’s sexual autonomy, privacy, and their right to live life free from harassment. It is time to send a strong signal that this form of harassment will not be tolerated by addressing this through law. 

Current legislation is inadequate to combat this appalling behavior. 

I fully support Bumble’s campaign for a new offence based on lack of consent. It is clearly wrong that while flashing in the real world is illegal, unsolicited flashing in the digital world goes unrecognised. Only a new offence will recognise the serious violation that occurs from cyberflashing and empower victims, the police and government agencies to bring perpetrators to justice.

I hope I can count on your support.

Yours sincerely,