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Last Post: New Policies

Throughout this project, I’ve had realized many things about cyber sexual harassment. The main concern I have however, is how comfortable our society has become with everyday sexual harassment. We have become so comfortable with certain degrees of sexual harassment on the street that the equivalent has happened to cyber sexual harassment. It is an expectation among women that when they enter a chat room or a dating site that they will have to comb through dozens of sexually explicit messages before finding someone they want to talk to. This has become the expected approach that men have taken that the conversation has turned into “why do women complain, they can date whoever they want?” It is this very sentiment that nurtures the wide assumption that women like sexually aggressive advances and that it’s all complimentary. The literature on this topic is slowly growing. As my research has proven not only is this a topic that is discussed within feminist organizations but daily news sources have begun highlighting the problems with dating sites and women who have become victimized through these sites. Indeed, this topic has become more relevant and talk about than before which is an extreme improvement. However, there is much more to be done.  I’ve come to realize that my project is not only about sexual harassment on dating sites, but also how social media reacts to these problems. With a rise of sexual harassment on these sites, Match.com and eHarmony have begun implementing new security strategies to protect their users from becoming possible victims. While this is a major step forward for women’s safety, it does nothing to protect women from verbal abuse on these sites. Indeed, various sites have their own small strategies to protect from sexual harassment via messaging such as flagging and banning users, however these measures are ultimately ineffective due to the subjective interpretation of the site. Along with security measures already in place by the dating sites, zero tolerance policies must also be implemented:

1)Because there is no legislation on cyber sexual harassment, each site would have to define and cite various examples of cyber sexual harassment. This definition would have to be visible and easily accessible to all users and required to read before entering the site.

2)Messages will run against word lists database that contain sexually explicit material created by the site. If words in the messages have words in common with the database then the message will not be sent and user will be blocked until the employees of the site can examine the offense and possible ban user from site.

3)If a user is uncomfortable with an interaction, he or she reserves the right to flag the conversation and employees of the site will can ban the user from the site or possibly from every dating site.

4) Additionally, screen names, and images will be screened for explicit content and can ultimately ban a user from the site. These rules highlight the problems with cyber sexual harassment in addition to the physical harassment that can also result from these sights.

I realize these rules mean that there will be no privacy among users on these sites. However until the culture around sexual harassment changes, there will be no stopping it. The ultimate way to stop sexual harassment online and offline would mean changing the social norms. I've come to realize through my research that our culture is too accepting. If we are to change the ways sexual harassment is viewed we have to become (re)sensitive to every form of harassment so it becomes something that is no longer expected and accepted. Change can only happen with education and awareness, preferably at an early age. Awareness of this issue must spread, either through social media, various news sources, feminist organizations, and possibly within schools. More preventative measures can be taken because internet safety is important for both genders, and cyber sexual harassment is just as hurtful, humiliating, and unfair as every day sexual harassment. This can only change if we can change. 

-Maddie xx

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