My Massive ****: Channel 4 please sort your shit out

Image by the excellent Stuart F Taylor

There’s a documentary currently running on All4 called ‘My Massive ****’ – it’s about living with a huge dick and dealing with some of the down-sides of having one. I’m not here to rant about the concept (which is interesting), but I think there is a huge problem with the show itself, and it annoyed me enough that I’m bumping today’s planned post to Wednesday, so I can spend a little time yelling at Channel 4. Because although C4 does often have some great sex output, this particular programme is appalling from a consent perspective. It treats some pretty extreme consent violations like they’re one big joke, and fails to mention that in some cases violations of this kind may well be against the law. This problem could (and should) have been spotted and solved long before this show aired. Channel 4, please sort your shit out.

My Massive **** opens with football coach Scott talking about how upsetting it is when friends from his football team, with whom he often gets naked in a changing room, share pictures that they have taken of his dick without his permission.

The lighthearted V/O notes that when it comes to Scott’s cock:

“Word has spread around town…”

…and we’re treated to shots of one of Scott’s friends telling him that he’s sent pictures to others: “I literally pulled four pictures off the group chat – the video we’ve done – and they couldn’t believe it.”

His friends share his nudes without his consent! Nudes that have been taken surreptitiously!

My Massive ****: the problem

I’m not here to tell anyone how they should feel, or how they should interact with their mates. This isn’t about Scott’s choices, or indeed his friends. I’m not going to speculate on the legality of these specific incidents, but I do think it’s important to put them into context.

The reality TV production company, and Channel 4, should have given this context in the show. I think they have massively failed in their responsibility to both participants and their audience by presenting surreptitious taking and sharing of nudes as if it were at worst an inconvenience and at best actually funny.

It’s not funny. This kind of behaviour is deeply uncomfortable, a massive breach of consent and – in some cases – a criminal offence. I don’t expect Scott to know this, or his friends. I do expect Channel 4 to know it though! I expect any production company working on sex issues to be aware of the absolute fucking basics of the law in the areas they’re working. Revenge porn (sometimes known as ‘intimate image abuse’) is defined as “sharing, taking or threatening to share private sexual images without consent.” A lot of people fought really hard to get that recognised as a crime! Likewise with ‘Voyeurism‘ – a law which was brought in to tackle ‘upskirting‘ in 2019.

Although women are disproportionately the victims of these crimes, the law (quite rightly) doesn’t discriminate on gender. Nor – despite the title – does the ‘revenge porn’ law refer solely to ex-partners with a grudge. Men also have protection from people taking and sharing nudes without their consent, regardless of who those people are. Anyone working in the sex space should know this. It’s extremely basic information, like expecting a doctor to be able to locate a patient’s elbow, or a pilot to know which way is ‘up.’

Oh but you should be FLATTERED

I was genuinely gobsmacked that Scott’s friendship ‘dilemma’ was included as a kind of jokey element at the start of the show, but I figured this might be something the programme would deal with in an educational way later. If anything, though, the way it was dealt with in the final segment made things even worse. At one point, Scott is talking about wanting to confront one of his friends to try and get him to stop. Off-camera, a voice asks:

“Why have you put up with it for so long?”

Umm… what? Would we ask this kind of victim-blaming question of a woman? Hell no we wouldn’t.

When Scott actually confronts his friend, the voiceover introduces the segment with the line “Scott’s had enough of the banter.” Again: no. Labelling it ‘banter’ is extremely dismissive. Is it any wonder Scott struggles to talk to his friends about this when even the documentary crew who are supposed to be on his side approach it like it’s one big joke? His friend, when confronted, takes a similar tone to the C4 documentary itself, telling Scott that…

“It’s more of a celebration. If I’m honest, Scott, I think you like the notoriety of it… It is in good humour… You’re in a changing room. Around the guys you’re not shy. … The only thing worse than being spoken about is not being spoken about. … It is all done in good humour.”

Those of you playing ‘Victim Blame Bingo’ at home, feel free to shout if you just got a full house.

Channel 4 is obviously not responsible for the actions of everyone in their documentary, but they are responsible for how these things are framed. It’s deeply irresponsible to present this as ‘banter’, and downright incompetent to not mention at any point the legal protections that are in place for those who have nudes taken/shared without their consent. I can’t and won’t speculate on whether this specific incident is illegal (as Neil notes in a comment below, and I’m adding in here to make sure this is clear: to be ‘revenge porn’ there must be proven intent to cause distress which I’m not going to speculate on in any individual situation, especially a reality TV one), but I do think it’s vital to mention the legal issues surrounding this topic when it comes up. There could be people watching the show who are struggling with similar things, and give them accurate information on reporting rather than just leave them with the impression that the only way to tackle it is to beg those doing it to stop.

If in doubt, genderflip

Here’s a basic test. When editing any programme about sex, do a brief genderflip on your scenarios. Ask yourselves: would I be happy if the person involved was of a different gender? Would you be happy with that ‘chat over a pint to tell your mates to please stop sending naked pictures of you’ framing if the person whose nudes were being shared was a woman? Of course you wouldn’t! Scott himself points this out when he asks his friend how he’d feel if it were his wife’s tits getting shared around. This is basic stuff. Channel 4 should know better.

The production company should know better too! I initially thought that some of the documentary was genuinely good. Cam (TopicalJuice) is fabulous, highlighting the ways in which black men are fetishised and dehumanised in the porn industry. We do not talk nearly enough about racial fetishisation in the UK, despite it being extremely common. As I say, I thought that part was useful, and I imagine it will have introduced a fair few people to an issue they may never have examined before. Even Cam struggled with the way his segment was presented, though: check out his take on the documentary here, and roll your eyes along with me when he reveals that the first question he was asked by the casting director was… “How big is your dick?” He also tells us that same casting director later tried to persuade him to send a picture of his cock ‘for verification’ to the production team. And kept asking, even when Cam had made it clear he didn’t want to. What the fuck? It was entirely irrelevant for his segment! The audience did not need to know (far less have verified-by-dick-pic) the exact size of his penis.

Men’s consent matters too.

Consent is not a gendered issue – everyone has the right to revoke consent for any sexual act, and everyone has the responsibility to establish consent before doing something sexual (that includes taking and sharing nude photos). Consent itself is not (or should not be) rooted in gender, it’s about respecting individual needs and boundaries. But consent is a concept that exists within a society that is – to put it bluntly – royally fucked-up about gender, so very often it’s framed as something that men need to get from women. Which not only leads to some women riding roughshod over men’s consent (oh men ALWAYS want to fuck! And if they don’t they’re pathetic/weak/pussies/etc) it also makes it infinitely harder for men to express discomfort with non-consensual behaviour (I’m a bloke so I should just suck it up) – including behaviour from their friends/peers/colleagues, not just partners.

Ironically, a programme which claims it wants to highlight some of the problems with having a huge cock ends up perpetrating many of the same issues that participants complain of. Leaning in to tropes about how teasing should be taken as a compliment, and implying that sharing non-consensual pictures is merely harmless banter. Nagging men behind-the-scenes to share photos of their cock, too? Ugh. How are we supposed to get behind the premise of your show if even you are undermining it at every turn?

Honestly, it’s deeply depressing. This is 2022: you can and should do better.




  • Neil says:

    Another superb piece, and you are so spot on with this. It is such a shame that the English law on intimate image abuse is limited to the disclosure of intimate photos “with the intention of causing that individual distress”. So sharing someone else’s nudes non-consensually for a laugh, or to surprise a friend, or “just because”, or even being reckless as to the victim’s potential for distress, is not enough to trigger the offence. The scope is simply too narrow. Bravo on yet another great “ranty one”!

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thank you Neil! And thank you for the nudge to include intent to cause distress. I didn’t want to speculate on the intentions of the friend, but I do need to make that clear in the text so I’ve added in a note. Much obliged.

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