How some men use social media to harass women

Friday November 3 2017

Magdalene Akello was not prepared for the

Magdalene Akello was not prepared for the message she received through her Facebook account on the morning of Palm Sunday, seven months ago. PHOTO| FILE 

By SIMON MBURU
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Magdalene Akello was not prepared for the message she received through her Facebook account on the morning of Palm Sunday, seven months ago.

She was about to leave for church, a twig of palm in one hand, that April 9 morning, when she decided to glimpse through her Facebook account.

“I wish I hadn’t!” she says. Apparently, when she opened her account, Maggie – as she is popularly known by her Facebook friends – saw a highlighted unread message. “I clicked to find out what it was all about and woah, nude photos of a man toying with his private parts downloaded! It was disgusting and it ruined my Palm Sunday!” says the 30-year-old human resource officer.

As she went to church, rather than reflect on her faith and the beginning of the Easter week, Maggie says that she kept wondering what she’d done to deserve shots of unsolicited nudes on a Sunday morning.

“The caption, ‘You can learn more as you entertain yourself!’ kept replaying in my head. I wondered if there was a wrong gesture I’d sent the sender for him to reply with nudes,” says Maggie.

It had all began with a job inquiry earlier that week. Maggie saw an online job advert posted in one of the groups where she’s a member and got inquisitive. She thought she could earn an extra coin from working part time online. After sending the man who’d posted the advert a message asking for more details on the job, he turned the conversation upside down. “He asked too many personal questions ranging from my relationship status to my age,” she recalls.

He started complimenting her looks in messages that lingered with sexual overtures. “He asked for my number, and from the way the conversation had degenerated, I declined and told him I was no longer interested in the job. He would hear none of it and the next morning, he sent me photos of his manhood!”  

Maggie is one of many women who are falling victim to a rising form of sexual aggression on social media. This form of sexual assault involves men stationed at numerous social media platforms who send women they barely know unsolicited nude photos of themselves, erect male private parts, nude models, and even pornographic video clips.

Although it might be easy to categorise these men as singletons looking for an easy lay, married men are also embroiled in it. Linet Njoki is a married mother of three.

She had known Martin for six years. “I knew he was married with kids and in our interactions, we would keep our conversations on WhatsApp civil,” says Linet, who works as an office administrator in Nakuru. On Friday last week, Martin sent her a WhatsApp message asking her how she was doing. She responded, asking him how he was doing. ‘Lonely!’ Martin replied. “He had never responded like that before. I wondered what to say. I kept typing and deleting,” says Linet.

LONELY MAN

He followed up with an explanation saying that his wife had travelled up-country to vote in the just concluded repeat presidential polls leaving him alone.

“I responded with an ‘Ok!’ hoping that he would pick the cue and stop telling me about his ‘loneliness’… but there was more to come!”

Martin asked her if there were times when she found her husband boring in bed and whether she had ever imagined if he could please her better. “I told him off but he fired back saying that we should perform a thriller since we were both married … Then he sent me four photos of his private parts and a video clip of himself masturbating. The clip had the caption ‘I’m imagining doing it with you!’.”

Linet says that even after blacklisting Martin, she was left feeling like a sex object. This was the same feeling that overwhelmed Maggie as she went back to the start of her job inquiry conversation just to confirm that she had neither asked nor portrayed herself as being in need of nudes and porn.

Other women, like Lucy Jepkorir, 33, have been preyed on with explicit content by men, without any interaction taking place.

For example, Lucy says she has received multiple sex photos and porn clips from men she hardly knows after accepting their Facebook friend requests.

“The impression I always get when I open my inbox and find explicit content is that I’m an online sex hawker,” she says.

The big question among victims of online sexual assault, though, is why these men do it.

Dr Chris Hart, a psychologist based in Nairobi, points out that one of the things that pushes these men is the privacy through which they send such content. “It partly happens because these men somehow feel uninhibited when they are on the Internet.

It makes them feel ‘private’ even though it’s obviously not, and so they proceed to say and do things they’d hardly do face to face,” he says.

Truphena Wakaba, a relationship coach who has been a recipient of explicit photos and videos, adds that some of the men who send unsolicited nudes and porn could be communicating that they sexually want you regardless of the emotional irritation that their messages cause you.

“These are men who find difficult to ask a woman face to face, and instead hope that she’ll pick the cue from their content,” she says. If a woman responds to them, they might easily think that she’s playing along.

This is what Hannah Mwihaki, a 32-year-old sales executive in Nairobi, found out.

“We were having a light group conversation on a WhatsApp group about a real shujaa being the man who can hack several climaxes at a go during intimacy. We laughed it off, but one guy in the group picked out my number and sent me the photo of a naked, well-built Caucasian guy,” she says.

'DARE OR DIE GAME'

“He asked if we could play a dare or die game. I responded asking what he meant, and without second thought, he sent me his nudes!”

There are also men who send nudes based on the assumption that they are ‘liked’ or will be ‘liked’ by the recipient.

“They send nudes as bait assuming that since they’d like to see nudes, the women they are drooling over would like to see them too,” says Ken Munyua, a psychologist based in Nairobi. He points out that men will naturally tend to drool over women they like and want to see their nudity.

“What separates men is control and emotional maturity. For example, there are men who send women on Facebook nudes or porn because they think that being accepted as a Facebook friend is equal to being sexually liked,” he says.

Voyeuristic sexual disorder – a disorder in which a man gets intense sexual arousal, urges and behaviours from consistently watching unsuspecting naked women – could also be a factor that drives men into sending multiple explicit photos and videos to multiple women.

“They find intense arousal from this ‘Peeping Tom’ sexual disorder and want to evolve it into sending and receiving nudes,” says Munyua.

Murigi Kamande, an advocate of the High Court, says that sending unsolicited nude photos and porn clips to women is a sexual offence that women can seek legal redress for.

“The Sexual Offences Act defines ‘indecent act’ to include an unlawful intentional act which causes exposure or display of any pornographic material to any person against their will. The sending of unsolicited nude photos and video clips falls within this category of offences,” he says.

Kamande recommends that where you have been subjected to these kinds of offences, you can start by reporting the matter to the police in order to initiate the prosecution of the sender.

“If found guilty, the sender will be liable for a term not exceeding five years or a fine not exceeding Sh50,000, or both,” says Kamande. Where the unsolicited explicit photos and videos have been sent to a user below the age of 18, the sender will be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years.

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CAN YOU SEEK LEGAL HELP AGAINST REVENGE PORN?

Revenge porn is a form of sexual aggression that has taken root on social media channels where men enjoy the exposes of women’s nude photos and sex videos. In Kenya, one of the most popular sex channels where these forms of sexual aggression are taking place is the ‘Mafisi Channel’.

The channel is found on Telegram. At the onset, an unsuspecting user might think it is a place where members share the latest football betting tips. No! This is a platform that specialises in posting thousands of nude photos of Kenyan women – and sometimes men – and their accompanying sex videos. The goal of those who send the nude photos and video clips is to shame or bully women they previously were romantically engaged with. Since inception this group has gained notoriety with its membership currently standing at close to 100,000.

While women who’ve unknowingly found themselves in that channel’s list of nudes and sex tapes have been left to walk with face on their hands, Kamande says that they can seek legal redress against the men who spread their nude photos and nude video clips against their will and without their consent.

Take the civil case of Miss Roshanara Ebrahim versus Frank Zahlten, which was filed at the High Court. In early December last year, the High Court’s Constitutional and Human Rights Division ordered a man who was identified as Frank Zahlten to pay Miss Roshanara Ebrahim Sh1 million for violating her rights to privacy.

Apparently, says the court ruling documents of the petition 361 of 2016, Frank had sent nude photos of Miss Roshanara to Ashleys Kenya CEO Terry Mungai. In his ruling, Justice Edward Muriithi barred Frank from publishing or sharing any of Miss Roshanara’s photos. A local daily later reported that Frank had decided to share the unsolicited nudes of Miss Roshanara after she dumped him.