Birmingham city councillor speaks out about unsolicited online sex messages

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Cllr Nicky Brennan (Lab: Sparkhill) has spoken about unsolicited sex messages she has received online

A Birmingham councillor tired of receiving unsolicited sex messages from men online has told how she is prepared to name and shame twisted perverts. Sparkhill councillor Nicky Brennan is fed-up of being sexualised and “not taken seriously” simply because she is a young woman in politics.

The 33-year-old said unwanted messages “devalue” her work and that her male counterparts generally “wouldn’t understand” as they don’t receive the same type of abuse. She added it has sadly become “normalised” for online sex pests to target women in public figure roles.

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And the former West Midlands Victims’ Commissioner shockingly revealed she could “make an entire album” of non-consensual penis pictures sent to her over the years. Ms Brennan believes these type of men enjoy thinking they have “power and control” over their victims.

Last week, Ms Brennan took to Twitter to share a screenshot of private messages sent to her councillor Facebook page which she uses solely for work. The sender, in messages sent over the course of seven months, told her that she is “the sexiest councillor ever” and appallingly suggested “we need to f***”.

Ms Brennan, a domestic abuse survivor, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that unsolicited messages like those can be “triggering”. “Not that I want it sent to my personal pages either, but when it’s my professional profile, it really devalues the work I’m doing,” she said.

“It just highlights what women go through. It makes us feel like we’re not taken seriously or given the respect that we deserve. I’m 33 and a woman in politics, which is not what people expect, but it means I’m not given the same level of respect as my male colleagues.”

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Cllr Nicky Brennan from Birmingham City CouncilCllr Nicky Brennan from Birmingham City Council
Cllr Nicky Brennan from Birmingham City Council | LDRS

Being a public figure with her number available online, Ms Brennan said she can be contacted by “anyone at any time”. “I’ve been in the living room with my children before when a sexual message has popped up – it’s shocking.”

The Labour councillor added she is “more than happy” to name and shame online sex pests in hope of deterring them from targeting others, but that there is a wider issue with unwanted approaches in person too. “For example I was walking to my friend’s party the other day, only three roads away from me, and I was catcalled four times,” she said.

“It’s not right; people don’t understand consent and that needs addressing with better sex education in school taught by people who are relatable. No one is saying men can’t say nice things to women or compliment them, but it also doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want.”

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