Imagine you’re exhausted after work and you’re on the subway browsing your phone. All of a sudden a disgusting penis picture appears in front of you without warning, and you know the sender is no more than nine meters away. Nausea and panic can quickly break you, and the subway is like a prison that traps you inside.
How common is it to be AirDropped nude pictures by strangers on the subway? A female reporter from Huff post News did an experiment on the London Subway to write about this topic. The result was a whole 120 nude photos were sent to her right after getting on the train.
The article mentions that the British transport department actually conducted the first investigation into this phenomenon back in 2015. But because most of the victims didn’t click to receive these dick photos, the technical department couldn’t accurately record this harassment through correspondence records. In other words, it’s like someone can insult you without leaving evidence and there is nothing you can do.
This behavior has even gotten a name, and people are calling it Cyber Flashing. It sounds like sexual harassment in outer space, but it’s actually all around you. The Washington Post reported a case of a woman who doesn’t know how to turn off AirDrop and is being harassed continuously on the subway. “I kept clicking decline photos, yet before I could decline this one the next five were already lined up on my phone. Before I got off the train I just kept clicking ‘decline’ for twenty minutes until I left that carriage and the phone finally quieted down.” A DCist News article reported a woman’s experience of being harassed “I was on my way from work, feeling tired when suddenly a dick picture just popped up in front of me like that. My first reaction was anger, but I decided not to show it on my face. Because I knew the purpose of this pervert was to see my reaction, I pretended not to see it.“
New York authorities announced last year that people who pass pornographic images to strangers on the subway could be prosecuted for up to a year in jail, regardless of their gender. In a related story, Japan Daily unashamedly called people who pass around pornographic images on the subway perverts. Since last year, it has officially recognized this behavior as a crime in Japan. If you search for the keyword “AirDrop pervert” on Twitter in Japanese, you’ll find plenty of cases. One Japanese netizen said the phenomenon can occur not only in public transportation, She or he tweeted that they had been tailgated while driving, and the driver behind kept sending AirDrop dirty messages. The prevalence of AirDrop harassment in Japan has caused many people to spontaneously turn off this feature to avoid receiving unnecessary discomfort.
The airDrop was not an option in the early versions of the phone, which allowed some people to take advantage of it. In later IOS versions, Apple has added an offsetting to the AirDrop feature, but if you forget to turn it off, you may still receive disturbing images.
But you can’t blame AirDrop for this, AirDrop is just a tool. While it’s certainly illegal and unethical to send pornographic images to strangers, there’s no point in dismissing it for that reason. In fact, there are many more cases of creative purposes of sending pictures to strangers. For example, a student once sent a math question he couldn’t solve in the subway, and later received help from a kind person. New York Artist Jumi Kim curated a project in 2019. She travels the city’s bus and subway every day, AirDropped countless messages to people around her and recording their responses. The artist says she has met lunatics and mentors who play golf at three o’clock at night. Kim believes that AirDrop can break the isolation between people.
Although you can’t blame AirDrop for this, it does place the burden on women (as usual), just like all other “kind” advice tells women to address properly, shouldn’t go out late at night, it gives women another thing to do – turn off AirDrop in order to prevent being harassed.