Sexy & Savvy: Safer sexting

Contributed by Rebecca Smith, M.A., L.C.P.C., C.S.A.T.

You’ve heard of safer sex, but what is safer sexting? It’s being smart with your phone while sending sexual texts or pictures to others.

Sexting results from advances in technology enabling new forms of social interaction. Messages with sexual content historically have been exchanged over all forms of media. Newer technology like smart phones and iPads allow the transmission of photographs and videos, which are intrinsically more explicit and have greater impact. Sexting can socially dangerous specifically because material that’s sent through these newer technologies can be very easily and widely propagated, with the originator having no control. Read more about the history of sexting here.

Proceed with extreme cautionCell phone receiving a "sext"

I’ve heard many students talk about receiving or sending a naked picture from/to someone they knew. It seems to be very common these days. Social media and texting make it easier to say things that normally may be too risky to say out loud to someone standing right next to you. Students admit to being a lot bolder with what they type than what they’d actually say to someone they just met. Some students only use sexting with semi-strangers — in other words, people across the country whom they’ll never meet but whom they chat with online. They may feel safer sending explicit messages or pictures to someone who doesn’t know them and who wouldn’t be able to send it around their university or community. Just remember, it’s a small world: I’m always amazed at who knows who, no matter where they’re from. As stated above, once you send the picture off to someone, you lose complete control. You never know how long that person will keep the picture on their phone or what they’ll do with it once they get it in their possession.

Spice up your relationship?

Other people tell me that they only send sexually explicit messages to their boyfriend or girlfriend — in other words, to someone they trust. This may seem like a good way to spice up your relationship, but be aware that people do fight and break up. If you’ve sent messages or pictures to someone who now wants to get back at you for something, you could be in trouble. A lot of students also admit to being in a committed relationship with someone and sexting someone else. You can cheat with technology very easily. Even if the person lives across the world, if you do this behind your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s back it’s considered cheating. If your boyfriend or girlfriend finds a naked photo on your phone that a same-sex friend passed along, that could also look very bad for you. People do forward photos. You want to remove those ASAP if you’re in a relationship. Keeping them on your phone or computer, even though they were sent from a buddy, isn’t considered a smart idea.

Save some face

Another way to be safer while sexting is not to send any pictures with your face in the photo. I’ve heard students say it’s a little less likely that someone will be able to identify you in case the picture gets out to others — although, as you know from the cases of celebrities in the public eye, you don’t need to put your face in the picture for it to be able to be traced back to you. You may want to set some ground rules before you engage in such behaviors. Sexting can start arguments because some people promise something through text that they can’t deliver in person. Be careful about what you tell someone you’re willing to do. You could find yourself pressured later to go through with things that may be easier to say than to do.

The bottom line

Don’t feel pressured to engage in any sexual activities that make you feel uncomfortable. You have the right to say no. It’s also inappropriate to send naked pictures of yourself to someone who doesn’t desire to receive them. It’s not a turn-on to receive unsolicited texts or pictures of a sexual nature; it’s usually a turn-off. Don’t just assume someone is willing. Ask the person if they’re okay with it before sending anything sexual. If that person says no, be respectful. It’s also not a turn-on to beg someone for sexual material. “No” means “no.” If you proceed after this point, it’s considered sexual harassment.

As a counselor, I recommend that 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’s best for you. If you’re over 18, it isn’t illegal to send sexual material over your phone to someone else who’s over 18. You have to decide what you’re comfortable with and be strong about setting clear boundaries with others. 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. Safe sex isn’t just about using a condom anymore. Click here for more Sexy & Savvy posts. Share this post by using the buttons below.

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