The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Sexclamations: "Sexting" Dangerous Game for Students

3 min read

For most sex related things, the rules are clear and simple, such as wear a condom and/or take birth control if you’re going to engage in sexual intercourse. For other things, the rules are undefined and still developing. Sexting falls under the latter category.

Even the judiciary has not set forth a clear precedence on the legality of sexting. In recent years, the courts have been divided over the issue, with some courts stating that sexting between minors constitutes child pornography while others include it among a wide range of obscenity charges.

While the courts have primarily exercised jurisdiction over cell phone sexting, I consider all explicit messages or pictures sent via text message or over the internet to be sexting. Sexting can occur through countless mediums, including but not limited to Chatroulette, Skype, Second Life and Facebook.

Easy, quick and sometimes anonymous access to these mediums makes sexting incredibly tempting to try. For some people, the internet is the site of their first exploration of sex because it is impersonal and seemingly private. People are more likely to do and try things they wouldn’t normally do or say in real life, face to face interactions.

As more and more young people gain access to better, faster technology, the number of people sexting is likely to increase. An Associated Press MTV poll reported that approximately 30 percent of 14 to 24 year olds have sent or received nude photos of other young people on their cell phones or online.

Of course, open and free access to these things also makes sexting quite risky and dangerous. While the legal ramifications on the issue remain unclear, the consequences of sexting are not. Sending explicitly sexual messages or nude pictures often involves emotional harm, especially if the messages or images spread among peers or becomes viral on the internet.

“Textual harassment” and “cyberbullying” have become increasingly common, causing parents and activist groups to raise awareness about it.

For example, MTV recently developed “A Thin Line” campaign designed “to stop the spread of digital abuse” and “build on the understanding that there’s a ‘thin line’ between what may begin as a harmless joke and something that could end up having a serious impact on you or someone else.”

Despite generally understanding the possible consequences, many young people still engage in sexual interactions on the internet and via cell phone—just as many people engage in sexual intercourse with the understanding that they could possibly get pregnant or transmit STDs. Just like when having sex, safety and prevention are important to remember and thoroughly consider before sexting.

You should take into account all consequences of sending sexual images or messages before sexting. There is a good chance that the image or message will be passed on to other people. Once you send something of sexual nature, you usually lose control over who sees it.

Given that you accept the above ramifications, I highly recommend taking precautions if you insist on sexting: Like most things, the best way to prevent digital abuse is to not post or pass on explicit messages or photos; however, I understand the notion that sexting can be a momentary thrill.

Perhaps you see it as a means of connecting or becoming closer with someone. In this age of instant gratification, it couldn’t be easier to obtain the brief excitement of sending or receiving nude pictures.

I don’t want to be a “Debbie-downer,” but the problem is that the thrill of sexting is almost always shortlived.

The bottom line is that a sext message or photo could be used against you and distributed to other people at a later date. If you do decide to sext, always take a caution and thoroughly consider the long-term ramifications before sending an explicitly sexual message.