#hotgoss Redux: Sexting & Consent
Thanks to our fans who joined us for our first episode of #hotgoss on Facebook Live. We hope you learned something that you can talk (or sext) about with your partner or friends. We only chatted for ten minutes, but there's hours of things to talk about when it comes to sexting. We created a handy guide for your reading (and doing) pleasure right here on the blog.
8 Scintillating and Sensible Sexting Tips from Speak About It
1) It’s personal. And it’s complicated.
There is no blanket statement we can provide about sexting. Depending on the situation, sexting can be pleasurable or it can be dangerous. You have to consider age, relationship, consent, medium, and more when talking about sending sexually explicit messages to another person. It's always important to consider the risks of sexting as well.
Different people have different comfort levels with sexting. Some people love taking steamy selfies. For other people, talking dirty over text really does it for them. For someone else, the whole thing makes them uncomfortable. At the end of the day, you get to set your own definition of what sexting looks like, and you get to define your own boundaries around sexting.
2) Nobody wants an unsolicited nude.
This is primary. Don’t send someone a picture of any part of your body that might be considered more than PG if they didn’t specifically ask for it. Not because we think that your body is bad (your body is great!), but because you need to get someone’s consent before you engage in an intimate conversation or interaction with them. Nudes are inherently intimate, and you need to know if the person on the receiving end wants that nude in the first place.
One of our fave resources is Tina Horn’s Sexting: A Grown Up’s Little Book of Sex Tips for Getting Dirty Digitally. We love this quote: “The internet does not magically transform a dumb situation into appropriate behavior. If you wouldn’t engage in an unethical relationship or behavior in the physical world, don’t use digital mediation as an excuse.”
3) Therefore...always ask first.
Consent is the name of the game when it comes to sexting. If you want to send a sext, it’s best to know how your partner feels about it beforehand. Have a conversation about sexting, in person. And really talk about it: talk about what you like and don’t, ask when and where you can or can’t receive sexy texts, ask what makes them feel good, and tell them what your boundaries are too.
Looking for example of how to sext consensually? The advice online is actually pretty good. This study says that most magazines and online publications pay more attention to consent in their sext-advice than they do in their regular sex advice columns. So, do some googling, and get creative!
This Refinery 29 article has some great suggestions, and features sex therapist Vanessa Marin who says, “People might think, ‘I don’t know what to say’ or ‘I’m not creative,’ but you don’t have to dive in with all these kinky, dirty things. It's true that sexting can make people uneasy, but it doesn’t have to be daunting: It can be playful and silly. Find a specific language you feel comfortable with. If you’re not comfortable with being too explicit from the get-go, that’s okay.”
Even in the moment, it’s always best to check in and see if it’s a good time to send a sext. Tina Horn suggests establishing a code word with your partner so they have a chance to discreetly give you the go ahead. Trust us, nobody wants an unexpected steamy selfie to pop up in iMessage during a conference call, on the subway, or at lunch with mom.
4) Selfies=self love. But what you do with your selfies should be your choice, and your choice only.
A steamy selfie can make you feel amazing. And it can often be great to share with a partner, or even a very affirming friend. In a perfect world, you and you alone should be the one to decide who sees your selfies.
Receiving sexts or intimate photos should be treated like an important responsibility. If someone sends you a sexy pic, that’s a special moment for you and you only. It is your responsibility to make sure that photo is not seen by anyone else. Don’t show it to your friends, or their friends. And ask permission before you screenshot that hot DM, and then save it in a safe place on your phone where someone else cannot find it. There are various precautions to take and safe ways to protect digital content. Do yourself and your partner a favor and use them. Often, the safest thing to do is enjoy a sexy text in the moment and then delete it. And yes, unfortunately, the safest choice of all is to not send any nudes.
We can’t say this enough: do not share explicit photos that were not meant for you with other people. Even if you weren’t the first person to share the photo, you become part of the problem the moment you share it with someone else. There are vast consequences for sharing nude photos without permission, and the fallout is usually even worse for the person in the photo. (A warning, the links to the following articles contain sensitive stories about sexual assault, mental health, and suicide.) From cyber-bullying to revenge porn, sharing explicit photos of someone else without their permission is no joke, and can be devastating and ruinous for the person pictured.
Likewise, no one should coerce or force another person to send selfies or nudes. Any unnecessary pressure to send sexts — even if you think you’re being complimentary — is not appropriate. Someone needs to freely make the choice on their own to send an intimate picture of themselves to someone else. As sex columnist Lena Solow says, “Let me be very clear — compliments are no longer nice when they are being used to pressure or confuse you...Taking and sending naked pics is a sexual activity, and just like with any sexual activity, you want to first check in with yourself. If you’re not excited about doing this — forget it! And if you’re being pressured to do it — forget it, and maybe forget the jerk who’s pressuring you.”
5) Age matters.
We can’t ignore the reality that many teens are sexting. In fact, a 2014 study from Drexel University reported that over half of teens 13-18 had sexted, and a third had received or sent explicit photos. In 2017, we can only expect these numbers have gone up. Comparatively, over 80% of adults have sexted at some point in their lives. You always have to consider the legal and social ramifications of sexting, this is doubly important as a minor. However, just like with regular sex-ed, telling young folks just not to to do it isn't going to encourage healthy behavior either.
We have to be real about the potential consequences of sexting as a minor. Laws can vary between states, and consequences can be severe for either or both the sender or recipient, especially when someone under 18 is involved. We recommend doing some research if you’re a minor, and even more so encourage you to think about who you’re sending or receiving sexts from, and who else may see them. Think about whether you’ve gotten permission from the other person, and what the consequences are--legal or otherwise, for you or for them, should those sexts go beyond the two of you.
This article from Teen Vogue does a great job cautioning young folks about the risks associated with sexting without scolding them for trying to express themselves sexually. “Many adults choose to exchange nudes with each other, and it doesn’t always turn out well. But it’s a terrain they can navigate, however clumsily, by considering all the years of experience they’ve had with sex, romance, and the reality of “slut” shaming. It’s harder to make healthy decisions about sending nudes when you haven’t had that time to gather information about dating and hooking up in general — when sending nudes is part of the equation right from the start of your sexual life.” As you can see, it may be best to wait until you have some sexual experience, know what you want and how to ask for it, before hitting send on a sexy text to a new cutie.
6) Sexting can be part of a healthy relationship.
Sexting has been proven again and again and again that if done consensually, it can be fun, healthy, and actually make a long-term relationship stronger. Figuring out how digital media and communication fits into a relationship can be an affirming way to express yourself sexually. You just have to pay special attention to consent, boundaries, and the realities that come with sending sexual content over digital media.
7) There’s no shame in a steamy selfie.
There’s no shame in sexting between two consenting parties. Likewise, if you accidentally see a naked photo of someone, whether it’s being passed around school or otherwise, don’t think less of the person in the photo. It’s not their fault an intimate photo was shared without their consent.
Writer Emily Lindin suggests that if we reframe the conversation about sexting and resist slut shaming someone for sending nudes, we can undo some of the perilous consequences of non-consensual sexting, especially for teens. She writes, “Figuring out who to trust when it comes to friendly, romantic, or professional relationships is something everyone struggles with pretty much all the time, so don’t let anyone make you feel inferior just because this time, your misjudgment had to do with nakedness….When we decide to support each other, we take control away from the people who want to use our nudes to hurt us. We take control of our bodies, and that’s something to celebrate.”
8) Don’t let sexting replace IRL convos.
Sexting can be a great thing to add to your communication portfolio with a partner. But, don’t let that be at the expense of in person conversations, let it be in addition!
Text and digital communication can be a helpful tool: it helps us stay connected and communicate over distance and time. It can be helpful in giving your partner the time and the space to think and respond to various questions. But in terms of sexting, it’s always good to think: “Am I just saying this over text because I’m not comfortable saying it in person?” If the answer is yes, maybe rethink hitting send.
Additionally, just because someone says they want to do something over text or Facebook message, doesn’t mean they want to do it in person. You still need to get consent in person for any and all sexual activity.
Like we said on our FB Live, someone might be sending you sexts because that’s the exact amount of intimate contact they need in the moment. They may not be jonesin’ for the same sort of thing when you see them later, they may literally just want to Netflix and chill. Alternatively, they may want to recreate those sexy texts they sent--and in that case, asking what they want makes your hook up all the better!
Whether or not you choose to sext is up your choice. Respect the other person’s privacy if you receive a sext and don’t share it with others, and always ask before you send one yourself. Have a conversation first with your partner, figure out what you want or like, and how you can sext safely and in a way that feels good for everyone.
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
Copyright 2016 Speak About It, Inc. Website by Alexandra Valleau