What is Sexting?

Sexting can be a fun way of flirting and getting to know someone sexually. Sending sexual pics or videos to someone with your phone or webcam can be an exciting (and sexy!) experience and a way of expressing and exploring your sexuality. But there are some risks to keep in mind.

So what is sexting, actually?

When we talk about sexting, cliché images of naked selfies might enter our minds. But sexting can include more than a ‘sexy snap’. Basically, sexting involves the sending of provocative, nude, sexual, explicit or intimate photos, videos or text messages, generally online or via a mobile phone.

Most of the time the images remain private, however accidents happen, and sometimes our private content can end up in the wrong hands and in places more public than we ever intended or feel comfortable with.

Like everything we do and share online, we need to carefully consider the risks, and ask ourselves:

  • Do we want that particular photo or video around forever?
  • How might that person use that photo or video? Are they likely to send to other people?

While sexting is considered as a fun way of communicating and connecting in a relationship, we are all aware of the risks that come with sending nude images or videos online or on our mobiles. Sometimes, what may seem like harmless flirting or fun can have serious social (and even legal) consequences.

When is sexting legal?

In Australia, sexting is generally okay if it is happening between two consenting adults, but if you’re under 18 and you’re sending sexy images/texts, or if you are receiving them from a person who is under 18), you could face serious legal consequences.

In all cases where sexting involves someone under 18, this is considered ‘child pornography’ or an ‘indecent act’. There are really serious legal consequences for people who possess or distribute child porn, and it is important to be aware of the penalties you could face when taking part in sexting as an underage person or with others who are under 18.

—–The only state where this law does not apply is Victoria, which has recently changed its laws on sexting to exempt people under the age of 18 from child pornography charges. The new laws in Victoria penalise people who send or threaten to send images without consent, but prevent underage people engaging in sexting from child pornography offences and being placed on the sex offenders register. However, these exemptions do not apply to images depicting a criminal offence, such as a sexual assault.—–

What most people don’t know is that you can also be charged with a criminal offence even if the photo you send or agree to send is of yourself and you are under 18. Take a look at Lawstuff for information on the legalities of texting in your state, your rights and what action may be taken in cases of underage sexting, before you send any snaps or sexy texts.

Feeling pressured to sext?

In most cases where sexting occurs, people generally willingly share naked or sexually explicit images of themselves. However some people may feel pressured to take part (by their boyfriend/girlfriend/friend etc). Some people feel that by taking part and send a ‘sext’ their partner or friends will like them more.

When you’re 18 and wanting to get ‘sexty’, go for it. But you should never feel like you’ve been pushed or pressured into sexting of any form, whether it’s sending a naked picture of yourself or an explicit text. If someone is trying to pressure or guilt you into taking and sharing photos of yourself, ask yourself whether this person is treating you with respect. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a relationship with the person or not, no one is entitled to images of your body or to keep naked photos of you on their phone or computer.

Also, if someone is pestering you to send images you’re not comfortable with, consider (a) is person is really trustworthy? and (b) will they respect your privacy by keeping your images to themselves? Always question how well you know the person you are intending to send sexual texts to and whether they will continue to keep your images private in a week, a month, or a year. As we know, once in the online world it is becomes extremely difficult to remove or control who sees the images.

Y’know what’s really sexy? Consent.

Consent is really important to consider when sexting, just as it when thinking about sex itself. For both the sender and the person receiving the images, it is crucial to think about whether you really want to do this and whether by asking someone to send a provocative image or text you are placing pressure on them to do something they are uncomfortable with.  It’s worth taking the time to figure out what you are really comfortable with before sending or asking for a sexual text. If the idea of something makes you feel uncertain or squirm-ish, it’s probably a sign that you shouldn’t be doing it.

If someone sends a sensitive photo or video of you without your consent, it’s a form of cyberbullying, and there are actions you can take to secure your rights.

Sexting tips:
  •  Diamonds are forever – and so are your photos on the internet.
    Before you send an explicit image or video, take time to think about the content and how comfortable you really are sharing it, even if it is with a friend or partner. Online content doesn’t disappear and what you send may hang around or be found and used by others for a long time after you send it.
  • Crop out your face or any identifiable traits (like jewellery or tattoos)
    If you do decide to take and send a naked photo of yourself, it is a good idea not to show your face. This increases your privacy and could protect you from humiliation and embarrassment in case the photos end up in the wrong hands.
  •  If you receive images, don’t distribute them.
    Doing so could result in criminal charges. Delete the images and tell the sender that you don’t want to receive any more. Explain to them that they could face criminal charges for sending them.
  • It is your right to say no
    Remember that you always have the right to say no to anyone who asks you to send explicit images or content you are uncomfortable with, even if they are your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner.
  • Sexting and drugs or alcohol definitely don’t mix
    If you have been drinking or taking drugs, sexting isn’t a good idea. Being intoxicated makes us vulnerable to doing things we might not normally do when we’re sober. While you may feel sexually confident in the moment, think about how you might feel the next morning about content you send when you’re drunk.
  • Worried about sexting? Get support.
    If you’re concerned about images you have sent to someone, talk to someone you trust or a professional such as a school counsellor. For support you can also call Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800)

Have fun and stay safe!