I wrote a post over a year ago called Safe Sexting. I thought it might be smart to reiterate some of the things I said in that post plus add a few new things to think about. Sexting has become very popular among younger people, and probably some older folks too. People have told me it is a new way of flirting. However, you can do some pretty stupid things with a smart phone these days.
Students have asked me if I think sexting is a good idea. It really depends. In some cases, it is a very stupid idea. If you don’t really know the person you are sexting or sending naked pictures to, then it can get out of hand pretty quick. If this person lives on the other side of the world, it may be relatively safer. They don’t know any of your friends and family and it is a lot less likely that what you said or the pictures you sent could come back to haunt you. However, if you just sent off a few pictures of yourself to a person you just met in your anatomy lab, be prepared to have their friends looking at you like they’ve seen you naked. Chances are, they have. Colleges and universities are like small communities. People talk and others around you may know more about you than you think.
Another thing to think about is WHY you’re sexting with someone. Some students have told me they feel pressured into it. They start out just flirting with someone else through text, but then it quickly becomes sexual. They tell me they want this person to like them so they continue to say suggestive things through text. The next thing they know, the person is asking for a naked photo. Sending this person a naked photo because you just want to get them to like you isn’t a good reason. You should engage in sexual behavior because it is your choice and what YOU want to do, not because it is what someone else wants you to do. Do what you feel comfortable with. Don’t do something to impress someone or make someone else like you.
Be yourself. If you aren’t overtly sexual in person, don’t pretend to be through text. This person may then expect you to follow through with some of those sexual suggestions you made when they see you in person. If you don’t feel comfortable following through, you shouldn’t be making the suggestions in the first place. It is important to be confident about your decisions. If you don’t mind being more sexual both through text and in person, then go ahead. However, if you don’t feel comfortable than feel confident enough to say so. If you say no and the other person stops texting you, it is a pretty good indication they only wanted to use you for sex any way. If you want more than sex, it’s better to be disappointed now rather than later.
Is it smart to send naked pics to your boyfriend or girlfriend who you love and trust? Maybe. You could be with someone who you know loves you and would never betray you. However, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories, so please think twice before sending that naked photo off into cyber land. Once you send that picture you lose all control, so it is still a big risk. Relationships break up all the time. This would be a perfect opportunity for your now ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to get back at you. The so-called love of your life could save that picture and when they feel angry or upset with you, they may send it to anyone and everyone you know. Who knows where it could end up after the two of you decide to break up?
Also be aware that if you are in a committed relationship with someone and you are sexting someone else, that is considered cheating. You can cheat with technology very easily. Even if the person lives across the world, doing anything behind your boyfriend or girlfriend’s back, is considered deceitful. You may also want to remove those photos that friends have forwarded to you if you are in a relationship. If your boyfriend or girlfriend finds a naked photo on your phone that a friend passed along, that could still look very bad for you. Keeping it on your phone even though it was sent from a buddy of yours, is not considered a smart idea.
Another not so smart idea is sending naked pictures of yourself to someone who doesn’t desire to receive one. This person is NOT going to consider you irresistibly sexy if they receive unsolicited texts or pictures of a sexual nature. It is usually a huge turn off. Don’t just assume someone is willing. Ask the person if they are okay with it before sending anything sexual. If that person says no, be respectful. It is also not a turn on to beg someone for sexual material either. NO means NO. If you proceed after this point it is considered sexual harassment.
If you want to be a little smarter while sexting it is a good idea not to send any pictures with your face also in the photo. Some people say it is a little less likely that you will be able to identified in case the picture gets out to others. Yet, remember, many famous people have been identified in naked photos even though their face wasn’t in the picture. You may also want to set some ground rules before you engage in sexting as well. Let the person know how far you want to go. You may want to tell them upfront that you don’t mind flirting sexually, but you don’t want to receive or send any naked pictures. If you aren’t ready to have sex with this person, it is also a good idea to let them know up front that you like to flirt, but don’t plan on meeting up with them at 2am to hook up.
I said this in my last post, but I think it is worth repeating. As a counselor, I recommend you educate yourself before engaging in sexting with anyone. It may seem fun, harmless and safer than having sex, but there are still consequences that can be devastating. Be aware of all the risks before deciding what is best for you. If you are over 18 it isn’t illegal to send sexual material over your phone to someone else that is over 18. You have to decide what you are comfortable with and be strong about setting a clear boundary with others who are trying to engage you in this behavior. If you start something and then feel uncomfortable, stop and let the other person know. If they won’t stop, find a way to block them from your phone if possible or report them for harassment. Be smart and be safe!