Modern relationships call for modern ways of communicating – couples can now be spread out all around the world, as Internet dating is the new norm. Enter sexting, which was incorporated into the Miriam Webster Dictionary in 2012. Sexting can be anything from sending a picture of yourself in your underwear to dirty talk. This fairy new practice requires a great deal of trust, because photos can be saved to phones, messages are logged until someone chooses to delete them and anything can be made public to the internet. Photos that were only meant for the eyes of one person can be shared on social media or in a group text very quickly – and can even be used for blackmail. This is something that happens to young women all the time. So what can you do to avoid these risks when sexting is such a large part of our culture?
Both Parties Should Consent
First off, sexting should be consensual between all participants. This means asking beforehand and receiving an actual ‘yes’ as an answer. Sexting an unwilling participant is harassment. Just because a person gives you their phone number doesn’t mean they’re down to sext – too often people jump the gun and immediately start sending unsolicited photos (unwanted dick pics, anyone?). The first step should be testing the water – flirting, paying attention to language, etc. From there, both parties can manage the direction they want the conversation to go.
Have a Conversation About Terms
When consensual sexting, those participating should discuss and agree on the terms. Will photos and messages be deleted after the conversation has ended? Who has access to this phone and could stumble upon the sexts (parents, kids, etc.)? Ask these questions to assure yourself that these intimate moments are safe in the hands of your partner(s). All parties are placing themselves in vulnerable positions when agreeing to sext, so it’s important to have a conversation beforehand and agree on terms that everyone feels comfortable with. Bottom line: If you don’t feel safe sexting, you don’t have to do it.
Watch for Red Flags
If someone is asking for you to send photos but isn’t willing to send photos themselves, this could be a sign that they’re disingenuous. Sexting should be between partners, not a singular act. If you’re sexting someone you met online, listen to your gut. This is someone you don’t know – how do you know you can trust them?
Report When Someone Shares Your Sext
When photos or messages are shared online against your consent, report, report, report. Mark the photo as spam on Facebook, report the photo on Twitter, etc. Showing these images without your consent is a crime. People looking at these images are violating you. Tell friends to report the photos as well – there’s strength in numbers. Tell people not to open e-mail messages from whoever is forwarding your sexts and to report them as spam.
Sexting can be a healthy form of communication, but just like the act of sex, it requires a great deal of trust from all involved. Remember to consent, have a conversation about terms, watch for red flags and, if it comes down to it, report it when someone shares your sexts.
What other ways can you stay safe while sexting? Let us know in the comments below.