It’s a classic story: boy meets girl, sparks fly, they exchange phone numbers, and then he asks for some naked pics. Albeit, that last part doesn’t sound so classic.
Some of you may not be familiar with this sequence of events. Others may find it both shocking and appalling. For teenagers growing up in the digital age, however, this has become the norm. Somewhat puzzled by this oh-so-common scenario, one Canadian teen centered her research project around one question: Why do boys so often ask girls for naked pics?
Now, she’s rewriting the school curriculum.
Why Do Boys Ask for Naked Pics?
Since the beginning of the school year, Kiona Osowski, a grade twelve student from Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, has been working on her final year research project. For the assignment, she chose to investigate why boys feel entitled to ask for naked pics, and why girls send them.
“I think a lot of people don’t want to talk about it, but it’s happening,” she said. “We’re constantly asked for pictures or we’re sent things without our consent.” 
She says that this has become a societal norm, and that they need to start dissecting it.
Kiona worked on her project under the supervision of psychology teacher Heather Gunn, and sociology teacher Chris Evans. Throughout her research, she found that there are a number of “toxic” media messages teenagers are consuming which are influencing this behaviour.
Osowski wrote a letter to the school district, outlining her findings:
“Nude photos, media exploitation of women, toxic male gender representation and violence-inducing media, porn and so many other issues are simply not talked about,” she wrote. “Many of the adults in our lives are unaware of the issues going on with our youth.” 
Porn, Video Games, and Toxic Masculinity
According to Osowski, teenage boys watch a lot of movies, video games, and porn. Statistics say she’s not wrong.
According to the most popular porn site in the world, PornHub, three quarters of its audience is male. Other estimates of the overall porn industry say that male viewers make up 90 percent of the demographic .
Although most porn sites say they have measures in place to prevent teenagers from watching their content, the systems appear to be highly ineffective. Here are the stats:
- 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls aged 13 and 14 have seen porn 
- 25 percent of teens have seen porn accidentally when they weren’t even looking for it .
Osowski also refers to other forms of media, explaining that television and movies often portray as dominant, aggressive, and lacking in emotions. She argues that this has left boys with the belief that anger is the only acceptable emotion to have. In her presentation, she encourages boys to support their friends and allow them to express themselves.
She adds that porn plays into this because it gives boys expectations of what they should have. When they can’t get those things, they don’t have the emotional tools to deal with it.
“There’s this ideal that men have that they deserve certain things,” she explained, “a rich man with a nice house and a beautiful woman and when men don’t get that in reality, they can become really frustrated because they don’t know how to experience emotion.” 
Girls and the Media
Osowski also talks about how the media affects girls. She says that the messages they receive are reflected in the way she and her friends talk about their bodies. They see images of skinny, “perfect-looking” women on Instagram, and they wonder why they can’t look like them.
She recalls even in middle school being self-conscious about her body, and feeling like it wasn’t good enough. Most of her friends struggled with the same thoughts.
“I just kind of went on with my life and I was like, ‘Well, I can hate my body because everyone else does too,’ so that’s why I want to make it so it’s not normal.” 
This self-consciousness and self-loathing contributes to why girls might feel compelled to send naked pics when a boy asks for them. It is a way for them to receive external validation about their looks.
Re-Writing the School Curriculum
As part of her project, Osowski has rewritten the province’s grade nine and ten personal development curriculum. She has been presenting her research to her peers at her high school and plans to work with a few classmates to bring her presentation to middle schools in the second semester.
“[Students] don’t always want to hear from moms and dads and grown-ups. I think that they look to peers that they respect and they see themselves in and they respect Kiona and those who will be working with her,” said her teacher, Heather Gunn .
Osowski is also hoping to present her curriculum to the members of her high school’s parent school support committee later this month. If all goes well, her eventual goal is to get an audience with school district officials.
While some people think that her generation is a lost cause, Osowski believes that she and her peers are smart enough to change things. She is confident that once they start challenging the messages the media is sending them, they can fix their relationships with themselves and with each other.
Osowski’s project started with a simple question: why do boys ask for naked pics? It ended, however, with a much greater purpose. One that will hopefully change the script for the younger generation.
- ‘We’re constantly asked for pictures’: Teen researches why sending naked pics is now normal. CBC. January 24th, 2020
- Surprising New Data from the World’s Most Popular Porn Site. Psychology Today. Mar 15, 2018
- One In Three Boys Heavy Porn Users, Study Shows. Science Daily February 25, 2007
- Trends in Youth Internet Victimization: Findings From Three Youth Internet Safety Surveys 2000 –2010. JOAH. September 23, 2011.