OPINION: The best sexting is no sexting

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In an age of continuous technological advances, many human interactions that were once done in person are now done with the help of a cellphone or computer. We use technology to communicate, plan our days, schedule our meetings, wish our friends happy birthday and much more. Why, then, would we not use it for sex?

This is exactly what has happened. Technology has now allowed us to go as far as having sexual relations with someone thousands of miles away. One of the more common ways to participate in this phenomenon is through the act of sexting.

What it is


Sexting occurs when someone sends sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone. This is a fairly broad definition, and there seems to be little concrete agreement as to what actually constitutes a “sext” message, especially when so much is left up to personal interpretation. Does the message have to be clearly sexually explicit, or would mildly suggestive flirting be included? Is there a requirement for showing genitals or the suggestion therefore of? Can someone simply send a picture with a little skin showing and have it considered sexting? There are no clear answers, which makes the topic tricky. It calls for even more caution when delving into the world of sexual interaction via electronics.

Some argue that the concept of sexting is not anything new, and people have been sending racy messages to each other for hundreds of years. In essence, this is probably true. We are, by nature, sexually driven creatures.

In the past, there was little opportunity for someone’s risqué letter to be seen by anyone other than the recipient. Today, with just a few clicks an image or letter can be seen by thousands of people.

Going viral


We have all seen the stories on our newsfeeds asking us to forward on an image of some teacher somewhere trying to show her kids how fast things spread on social media. They tend to be a little annoying after awhile, but there is truth behind the message: things travel fast online.

Even if something is not originally posted to a public website, that does not prevent it from becoming public. Once something is out there, the chances of it being removed for good are slim to none. Even without the Internet, people can still forward images to friends via texts.

Even if you are using an app that claims to allow for secret, secure sending of messages, I would take caution. Nothing stops someone from taking a screenshot of your image and doing whatever they please with it.

Rules and regulations


“Sextortion” is a term that has now become associated with sexting, and it is the act of using sexting content to blackmail someone. Sextortion victimizes someone, often by demanding something from the person in exchange for not sharing personal photos or messages. Embarrassment or loss of reputation through exposure or distribution of the content is likely to follow.

Loss of reputation and embarrassment are only a few of the potential damages of sexting content being leaked. There is the potential for it to damage job prospects, as well as result in being bullied or harassed. In addition, there can be potential legal ramifications.

Anyone under the age of 18 is legally considered a minor. This can be a dangerous area for college students, especially because many college freshmen are that age, and they could potentially have contact with partners who are younger than them.

According to a 2012 Kansas Legislature Statute, it is illegal to take or possess images that show any form of sexual acts done by a minor or lewd shots of genitals. If found in possession of such photos, a person can be charged with sexual exploitation of a child.

Despite the potential consequences associated with the act of sexting, it seems to be growing in popularity. According to a Feb. 11, 2014 PEW Research study titled, “Couples, the Internet, and Social Media: How American couples use digital technology to manage life, logistics and emotional intimacy within their relationships,” 20 percent of cell owners have received a sext of someone they knew on their phone, up from 15 percent in 2012.

Safety

If people continue to sext, and it looks like they will, they should take some cautionary steps and do it as safely as possible. Only send suggestive messages or images to someone you trust will not share them. Sending them to a person you do not know very well can seem fun and flirty, but be cautious and think about the consequences of giving this relatively unknown person that content.

Students must also take into consideration the potential for a disgruntled ex to use the messages against them. Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, presented H.R. 2062 to the House Appropriations Committee on Jan. 21, 2015. The proposed legislation was established to outlaw revenge pornography, which is when an ex-spouse or significant other posts nude photographs or videos online without consent, according to a Feb. 5, 2015 K-State Collegian article titled, “Legislation aims to outlaw revenge porn.”

Talking with your partner to establish some boundaries and guidelines for the disposal of your photos or messages in the event of a breakup helps to ensure you are both on the same page.

When sending a photo, try to hide any highly recognizable features about yourself, such as your face, unique tattoos or birthmarks. Even if your photo does get leaked, there is less chance you will be recognized. The same goes for sending a message. Try not to give away any details about your appearance that could make you easy to identify.

Take caution when choosing where to take a picture. Make sure there is nothing in the background that could be easily identified as yours or identify the space as your room or house. Also avoid sending sext messages when you have been drinking. Drinking while sexting can increase the possibility of the message or photo being sent to the wrong person.

Taking extra steps to protect yourself can help to alleviate any sexting woes, but the reality is that the only way to safe sext is to not sext at all.

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