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Let’s talk about sex(ting), baby. It’s safe to say that our lives have changed a lot over 2020. From school to shopping to sex, we’ve been enacting new social distancing and safety measures to make sure that we all stay safe. 

Because COVID-19 is spread by droplets in saliva and respiratory fluids, engaging in sexual activity puts you at risk for contracting COVID-19. It can also be passed by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose, mouth or face. The BC Centre for Disease Control has suggested that, in order to avoid contracting COVID-19, people should consider virtual sex as opposed to being physically intimate with others. More information about the BC government’s stance on sexual health during the COVID-19 crisis can be found here

Sexting has both pros and cons, and, just like making any decision regarding sex, it’s important to make sure that you are informed and prepared ahead of time. 

Keep in mind that sexting (sending sexually explicit messages, pictures or videos via the internet) is illegal in British Columbia if you are under the age of 18, UNLESS all of these requirements are met: 

  • Everyone in the image consented to the sexual activity shown in the image.
  • Everyone in the image is old enough to give consent. 
  • Everyone in the image knows that someone is taking an intimate image of them.
  • Everyone in the image consents to someone taking an intimate image of them. 

 

PROS 

Builds connection 

Sexting can be a great way to stay connected with your partner(s) when you are unable to be together physically. It can build confidence and comfort with your partner(s) by giving you the chance to test the waters and suggest something new that you might want to explore. 

Decreases the risk of contracting COVID-19 

Choosing to sext or have virtual sex decreases your chances of contracting COVID-19. Even though it’s unclear if the virus can be transmitted through sex, you are still at risk by inhaling the saliva droplets of someone physically near you, whether you are engaging in sexual activity with them or not. 

Can lead to better communication

Sexting with someone can help you clearly communicate with your partner(s) about something you might like to do or something you are unsure about without getting caught up in the heat of the moment. Sexting allows you to take your time and clearly communicate your desires. 

 

CONS 

Is a risk 

Sexting sometimes has some unintended consequences. There is always the risk of your personal information, photos or videos getting leaked by another person. Even if you trust your partner(s) with your private photos, you never know if they might have saved the pictures or videos. They also might share them with others. 

Not to mention that, if you go through a messy breakup or get into a fight, your partner could try to blackmail you with the photos or videos. They could also try to use the photos or videos as leverage to convince you to do something you might not want to do. 

Crime 

Sending unsolicited sexually explicit videos, videos or photos is considered sexual harassment. Make sure you have the other person’s consent in advance to sending anything explicit. It is illegal to share explicit media with someone without their consent. 

Expectations 

It’s easy to get ahead of yourself while sexting, and sometimes it leads to raised expectations that might be hard to deliver on in real life. Just remember to give yourself a reality check now and then, so that, if you do choose to become physically intimate with your sexting partner(s), you are able to match the expectations that you have. 

 

How do youth feel about sexting? 

It’s no surprise that your adolescent years are some of the most influential. In Canada and the United States the average age for people to “lose their virginity”* is 18. Because of the global pandemic, governments discourage physical sex to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So what does that mean for young people? 

Here are some statistics gathered from a group of random youth about sexting during the global pandemic, from an online survey conducted by Her Campus UVic: 

  • When it comes to being sexually active during the global pandemic, 69% feel comfortable with one partner who is in their bubble.
  • 41.1% would not consider sexting as opposed to being physically sexually active during the global pandemic. 
  • 55.2% would only sext with a trusted partner that they were in a long-term, committed relationship with. 
  • 51.7% answered that they did not think sexting was the best alternative to physical sex. 

The majority of people who said that they would not feel comfortable sexting during the global pandemic also said that they wouldn’t feel comfortable sexting outside of the global pandemic either. 

One anonymous survey taker said, “The global pandemic doesn’t change my morals at the end of the day, I wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have a global pandemic, so I don’t feel comfortable doing it now. I’d be too scared that it could affect me in the future if my boyfriend kept anything.” 

Another stated, “I don’t find sexting to be comfortable in general, and while it feels like a safer option physically during a pandemic, the risks of private images being distributed are too high for me to do it.” 

*By “losing your virginity” I am referring to the heteronormative definition of “having sex for the first time” of course virginity is a social concept that praises those who remain “pure” and shames those who choose to have sex before marriage. Your virginity or lack thereof does not define you as a person and not everyone defines “having sex for the first time” as heteronormative, vaginal penetrative sex. You can learn more about this here.

 

In Conclusion… 

If you do decide to sext but want to do it as safely as possible, you can take many precautions. For example, you could choose to not include your face in the picture. You could pose in front of a plain background with no recognizable features. Also, make sure that your phone is as secure as possible. 

While sexting can be a safe way to be intimate while avoiding COVID-19, it’s not for everyone. If it makes you uncomfortable, try solo sex or limiting your sexual partners to those within your bubble. Remember, whatever option you think is right for you, make sure you do it safely and consensually.

Alison is a second-year English major at the University of Victoria. She is passionate about dance, classic literature, the Aritzia clearance rack, vegan smoothies, and supporting reproductive freedoms.
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