Digital Life

Emily Sears and Laura Lux: Why we shame the trolls who send us inappropriate messages

A Los Angeles-based Australian model, who is being applauded for responding to men who send her unsolicited images on social media by telling their girlfriends, has decided to share why she does it with Fairfax Media. Emily Sears' story, which appeared on the Huffington Post website here, has gone viral.

Sears, who has 2.3 million Instagram followers, and her DJ friend, Laura Lux, a fellow Australian with more than 600,000 followers, are among the countless women who have to deal with online harassment. They have been hitting back by naming and shaming the online trolls' seedy behaviour. 

Laura Lux and Emily Sears are among the countless women who have to deal with online harassment.
Laura Lux and Emily Sears are among the countless women who have to deal with online harassment. Photo: Supplied

They both explain why they are taking matters into their own hands. 

Laura Lux

The reason I initially decided to take a stand and encouraged my female friends to do the same was because men simply weren't listening or learning. "Women don't like unsolicited dick pics" isn't a new topic of conversation, it's something that we've been having pretty consistent dialogue about for a number of years now. The thing is, there's always been zero consequences for online sexual harassment so it doesn't matter how many news articles are published, how many bloggers write about it, how many women tweet on the subject ... men can still get away with doing it with absolutely no ramifications, so they simply don't care.

Emily Sears is an Australian model based in LA.
Emily Sears is an Australian model based in LA.  Photo: Supplied

I can't even remember the first time I was sent a dick pic. I've had a huge social media following since the MySpace days and I remember it used to happen regularly back then. That was eight years ago and as I've moved my following to each popular social media outlet as they've emerged, I've watched this problem grow at an alarming rate. I don't think a lot of people are aware of the frequency at which this actually happens.

The reactions since the story came out have been really varied – I've been told I'm doing "the lord's work" and I've been called every disgusting, degrading obscenity under the sun. But for every angry guy telling us we're asking for it because of the way we dress or accusing us of just wanting attention, there's at least five women thanking us for using our platform to speak out and take a stand against something that happens to so many of us, and that is what really matters.

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Emily Sears

When Laura first showed me how she was responding to these messages I thought it was hilarious, but I was also inspired to take action myself. It doesn't matter how many of these messages I receive, it's never any less appalling or shocking to see. It's a confronting thing and always leaves you feeling unsettled.

A lot of backlash has suggested that because we take "sexy selfies"  we are deserving of these messages, which I think shows a bigger picture of victim blaming and rape culture. This is the same mentality that makes authorities ask "what were you wearing" to victims reporting serious crimes such as assault and rape. It's about time we start taking the focus off teaching women not to "ask for" this type of abuse and start to hold the men who do this accountable and teach them to respect women. A few have responded saying our message is invalid considering our audience is men, and to that I say well what better people to address this issue than people who have a following that does this. It wouldn't have the same impact if all our followers were women as they simply don't send dick pics!

Emily Sears and Laura Lux are both Australians working in LA.
Emily Sears and Laura Lux are both Australians working in LA. Photo: Supplied

The truth is all types of women can relate to this problem, we had a doctor of psychology and even Sophia Bush show support. It's true that not all men commit these acts, but all women have been victims of harassment in some form or another in their lives and we just want to take the opportunity to use our platform to speak for those women whose voices aren't being heard.