Skip to content

What is cyber flashing?

Cyber flashing is when someone sends a photo or video of their genitals – or someone else's – to another person without their consent. It commonly involves men and teenage boys sending unwanted photos or videos of their penises (so-called 'dick pics').

A teenage girl looks at a mobile phone while slumped against a wall. She has a serious expression on her face.

The key points

  • Cyber flashing is a form of indecent exposure (also known as 'flashing') that takes place online.
  • It can happen over text, email, WhatsApp, social media, dating apps or other online platforms. It can also happen via AirDrop, Nearby Share or other apps that allow someone to send files to people close by – including strangers.
  • Like indecent exposure that happens in person, cyber flashing is sometimes dismissed as 'funny'. But it's in fact a form of sexual violence and a serious crime that can lead to imprisonment.
  • Not only is cyber flashing very common (especially against young women and girls), but it can also be very harmful. It is often upsetting or scary for the person who experiences it, and can make them feel unsafe.
  • Cyber flashing can be part of grooming. This is a form of sexual abuse that happens when someone builds a false relationship or connection with a child or vulnerable person in order to gain power or control over them, and more easily carry out other forms of sexual violence or abuse.

No one ever deserves or asks for cyber flashing to happen

100% of the blame, shame and responsibility lies with the perpetrator (person who carried it out).

Someone should always get another person's consent before sending them a sexual image or video of any kind – no matter what kind of contact or interaction they've had before.


If you've experienced cyber flashing or are feeling confused, you can talk to us.

At Rape Crisis, we will always take your experience seriously.

Is cyber flashing illegal?

Yes. Cyber flashing became a criminal offence in England and Wales on 31 January 2024 and carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

The first person to be convicted of cyber flashing in England and Wales was sentenced to prison less than two months later.

The deputy chief crown prosecutor for the region where he was sentenced said:

“Just as those who commit indecent exposure in the physical world can expect to face the consequences, so too should offenders who commit their crimes online; hiding behind a screen does not hide you from the law."

Read about indecent exposure

Cyber flashing affects huge numbers of women and girls

  • 3 in 4girls aged 12-18 in a 2019 study

    had been sent 'dick' pics without their consent

  • 2 in 5women aged 18-34

    have been sent a sexual photo without their consent by someone who was not a romantic partner

What is the legal definition of cyber flashing?

Cyber flashing isn't actually a legal term. Under English and Welsh law, it is covered by an offence called 'Sending etc photograph or film of genitals'.

This offence covers all forms of indecent exposure that involve photos or videos, not just cyber flashing.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 says that someone commits this crime if they intentionally send or give a photo or film of any person’s genitals to another person, and either:

  • They intend that the other person will see the genitals and be caused alarm, distress or humiliation, or
  • They send it for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification and are reckless as to whether or not the other person will be caused alarm, distress or humiliation.

This includes if the photo or film:

  • Is a digital or physical copy – or even the negative.
  • Has been altered by someone using a computer.
  • Has been made by someone using a computer and appears to be a photo or film.
  • Is sent to another person via the post, an electronic device or any other means.
  • Is shown to another person, rather than sent to them.
  • Is left somewhere for a particular person to find.

What the law in England and Wales is basically saying about cyber flashing:

Cyber flashing is when someone sends a photo or video of genitals to another person in order to scare, upset or humiliate them. Or when someone sends a photo or video of genitals to another person for sexual pleasure without caring if it will scare, upset or humiliate them.

A young woman in round glasses sits on a kitchen chair using her smartphone. Her feet are up on the chair and she has her knees drawn up.

Do 'dick pics' count as cyber flashing?

In lots of cases, yes. If someone sends so-called 'dick pics' to another person without their consent, then it is cyber flashing.

Someone can be charged with a criminal offence if they send 'dick pics' to another person either:

  • In order to scare, upset or humiliate them, or
  • For sexual pleasure, without caring if it will scare, upset or humiliate them.

We know that lots of women and girls receive unwanted 'dick pics' from strangers on social media and dating apps, and via Air Drop/Nearby Share, as well as from people they know.

This is cyber flashing and it is not okay.

Someone should always get another person's consent before sending them 'dick pics'.

Learn about consent

Get help and support

If you have experienced cyber flashing or any other form of indecent exposure – whether it was recently or a long time ago – Rape Crisis is here for you. If you choose to contact us, we will listen to you and believe you. And we will never judge.

Find out more about getting help and support


You can contact our free 24/7 Support Line by calling 0808 500 2222 or visiting the website to start an online chat.