The text message—it’s short, to the point, and usually costs ten cents or less. You don’t have to wait for busy signals, dial tones, voicemail, or the awkwardness of speaking to someone you might not know very well. As instant as an e-mail and a smidge less threatening than a phone call, it’s no wonder that our generation is obsessed with texting—so obsessed that texts have become an integral mode of communication. When I look around and see everybody staring at the screen of their cell phone while fervently T9ing away, I can’t help but wonder what they’re talking about. What’s so interesting that it can’t wait for a phone call? Is it gossip (my personal favorite), homework, or even…sex?
The sexual text message—or sext for short—is a widely-used platform for pick-ups, hook-ups, and flirting. It can be anything from a short sexy sentence to a full-on nude photo, and more people do it than you would expect. In a recent study conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Cosmogirl.com, it was concluded that 59% of young adults (aged 20-26) and 39% of teens (ages 13-19) have sent or received sexually suggestive pictures or messages.
If you think sexting could be a fun way to spice up your sex life, or you’re already well versed in fitting the maximum amount of flirtiness into 160 characters, type away but proceed with caution. Here are some things to consider before you hit send.
He Saw My What?
The summer before she started college, Amanda Collins* sent an X-rated picture text of her new boob job to her friend-with-benefits. After things went sour it was obvious that there were very few benefits to having this friend, because within two weeks the entire class of 2006 had seen her graduation present.
Amanda Collins is not alone. 23% of young adults have shared a sexually suggestive message with someone other than who it was intended for. But even though everyone knows it’s incredibly embarrassing to have a nude photo shared, what they don’t know is that sometimes it’s considered a sex crime.
There are no laws that specifically address sexting, but teens that take, send, or even just receive these pictures and messages are being charged with child pornography. For some, this has resulted in losing scholarships, jobs, and even becoming registered sex offenders.
According to NBC News, in 2009 a Wisconsin 17-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography after posting nude-photos of his 16-year-old girlfriend online. A 16-year-old boy from Rochester, NY faced up to seven years in prison for forwarding a sext from his 15-year-old girlfriend, and four middle school students were arrested in Alabama for exchanging nude photos.
There is no doubt that if you are under the age of 18, you should steer clear of sexting, but what if both parties are older? Sexting is a gamble, and even if the law is on your side, the recipient of that nude photo of you from last year’s Spring Break might not be.