Four students sat down with the College Tribune to talk about their experience with sexting,nudes, and revenge porn.
Humans have always found ways to communicate. Be it through saucy letters or lewd paintings, we have always had a way to express our lust and desires for someone. Sexting then is our generation’s twist on the ‘racy’ love letters of the nineteenth and twentieth century. In fact Irish teenagers are some of the most prolific sexters in Europe with 1 in 4 claiming to have sent some kind of sext.
The growth in the popularity of sexting can be partly attributed to the boom of new social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Tinder and Snapchat. Photo-sharing has never been easier and quicker in our day to day lives, so naturally it will feed into the world of the sexual. The digital revolution also comes at a time of tentative liberalisation of Irish society when it comes to talking about sex.
I’ve had my own experiences, both good and bad with sexting. As a result of this, I’m in two minds about sexting. As a 15-year-old with low esteem, I think the sexting that I engaged in with a boy I liked in school did do a lot of emotional damage, especially when other people in my year found out about it. This was before the invention of Snapchat and many years before I ever heard the term “revenge porn”.
That being said, I’ve also had some good experiences with sexting. When you’re on Erasmus and you leave your partner behind, it can difficult to be apart for so long. In that regard I think sexting is good because it can make your partner seem that much closer. It can also backfire spectacularly. You can build up the encounter so much via sexting that when it comes down to it, it could never live up to what the sexting promised.
Bearing my own experiences in mind, I wanted to explore the good and bad aspects of sexting. I wanted to see if sexting has changed the way we talk to people we’re interested in. I interviewed four students via a questionnaire about their experiences with sexting and got their opinions on the impacts it had on society. The results were pretty interesting and varied. Each person was asked several questions varying from their favoured platform to sext on, who they prefer to sext with and whether we should be talking about sexting more in schools.
So let’s get down to it shall we?
The Main Platforms for Sexting
When asked about their favoured platform for sexting, unsurprisingly WhatsApp and Snapchat came out on top. Emma, (aged 25) told me that texting was her preferred method, “just because that’s where, at the time, I was doing most of my chatting anyway.”
When asked why he preferred Snapchat, Daniel, (aged 20) said the timer on the photo gave his a sense of security in sending sexts. “The person you’re sending them can only keep/save them by screenshotting & I’ll get a notification letting me know. It makes me feel more safe in sending them, as it doesn’t feel like they’ll be there forever.” Snapchat as a photo-sharing platform was cited as a natural benefit to sending a sext or nude.
Bad Experiences with Sexting
One risk of sending any nude photo is the other person can use it as a form of power trip in itself. Emma explained she experienced guys threatening to publish her nudes in the past. “There were some who would threaten to share the pictures, but I don’t think they ever did, and even if they did, it’s just average disembodied boobs so who cares?” she said.
“But I’m quite an anxious person, so I would always have these images of me going for my dream job interview and them being like – ‘Well you’re perfect but this dude here says you once sent him a pic of your boobs?’ It’s unrealistic but it’s enough to put me off.”
Daniel (aged 26) said he’d never regretted sending a full nude, but had thought twice on a few riské semi-nudes he’d fired off in the past. “I have sent semi-nude photos which I’ve later regretted, but I’ve never regretted anytime I sent full nude photos,” he outlined.
Nearly all respondents said pressure to send nudes was a real and pertinent problem. “When I was younger guys would ask questions that kind of put you into a spot where you felt you should reciprocate and made me feel very uncomfortable” said Lauren (aged 20). Emma agreed that she absolutely had felt people putting pressure on her to send nudes. “Some of the pressure was quite overt, it was ‘do it or I’ll stop talking to you’ or ‘everyone else has done it’.” Daniel also said she’d been put in uncomfortable situations by people demanding nudes before. “Definitely, I’ve been asked by strangers and acquaintances for nude photos and declined as I’ve not felt comfortable doing it either at the time, or to the person.”
Impact of Sexting on the Modern Relationship
Ian said overall sexting was a fun new element of relationships these days. “Some couples may have great experiences with it, as it may help them endure separation or soothe long distance relationships. It can also be a fun way to increase the excitement for upcoming sex,” he said.
However, other participants also remarked on the drawbacks of sexting. Daniel stated that “some people can come into a relationship expecting their partner to send nudes, while their partner may not be comfortable with“. Lauren felt it can be great, and “can serve as a sort of foreplay when you’re dating someone and you haven’t slept together yet”. But she continued to say that “at the same time, it has led to things like revenge porn and images shared privately appearing online.”
Emma said the rise of Snapchat and image sharing on Tinder has lifted a lot of the stigma or hesitancy around sending nudes. “I think it has perhaps sped things up? So whereas before perhaps it would have taken longer to get to the naked-pictures stage, it seems to happen instantly now,” she explained.
For Emma though this immediacy of sharing explicit photos with your partner or someone you’re flirting with has drawbacks when you potentially split or move on. She said “for me, knowing someone has naked pictures of me would probably bring in an added element of pressure to remain together. Like, I might want to break up with someone, but he has naked pictures of me and has said he’ll share them if I break up with him? Clearly that’s abuse, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the person in that situation to get out.”
Ian also commented on the potential consequences or naivety from younger people who are quick to share nudes leading to cases of revenge porn. “Intimate pictures or messages may be shown to third parties without the consent of the sender. Young people may be naïve and not think enough before sending nudes. Once a picture is ‘out there’, it may be very hard or even impossible to completely remove. And let’s not forget that a naked picture of someone below the age of 18 could actually be regarded as child pornography in most countries of the world,” he stated.
Questions in Brief:
Do you prefer sexting with a partner, a stranger or does it matter?
Ian: “For me sexting is something intimate and private that requires trust. It was never a substitution for interacting with girls in real life or something I do just to get a kick.”
Lauren: “There’s something oddly exhilarating about sexting a stranger. You don’t know each other; you’re just really using each other to satisfy yourselves which is strange but still kind of exciting.”
Emma: “I think with the strangers I was a little less reticent, just because I don’t know them and they don’t know me, so who really cares if they know what freaky stuff I’m into.”
Do you feel that sexting is a natural part of relationships now?
Emma: “I kind of worry that it is. Most of my buddies would do it. I have done it; I’ve probably done than my fair share. It’s certainly expected most of the time, I think, but there’s no reason why a relationship should depend on it, or fail for the want of it.”
Ian: “Yes, increasingly. For myself I can say that I have sexted more when I was lonely, or in attempt to overcome physical separation from a partner or relation I have had.”
Daniel: “I feel like it can be. Having spent time away from a partner, I feel like it can be a positive way to still feel close and sexually active with your partner.”
Do you think we need more education about sexting, revenge porn etc. in our school curriculum?
Lauren: “Most definitely. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy sex life but there’s lots wrong with using things you were trusted with to hurt somebody else.”
Daniel: “I think we definitely need more education around sexting in school, as it’s simply not mentioned and we’re expected to learn about it for ourselves. Some young people may make a mistake they will regret for a long time in sexting and, without proper education we’re only increasing the chances of this happening.”
Ian: “Sexting should definitely be talked about more. I am generally in favour of teaching online safety or ‘digital responsibility’ in schools or even universities. The internet and modern technology is evolving faster than our legislation and education. I think it is about time to catch up.”
Emma: “Oh, absolutely. I’ve done some research on revenge porn law, and it’s terrifying how prevalent it is, and how far-reaching the consequences can be. It wouldn’t be terribly unusual, sadly, for victims of revenge porn to take their own lives. I’ve read stories from victims who have had their pictures sent to their employers, their parents, their current boyfriends, their children’s teachers”.
Please note that names in this piece have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved.
Whatever your opinions on sexting, it’s clear that it’s had an effect. How far reaching that effect is will no doubt be shown in the coming years. People’s relationships with each other and technology are changing constantly. The caveat of that is that with technology evolving at a much faster rate, how do we keep up? Our own laws can’t even keep up as revenge porn is yet to be made illegal in Ireland.
However, with 14-17 year olds the most likely to sext, it’s clear that education is paramount so as to prevent more revenge porn victims. It could be five years before topics likes sexting and revenge porn enter the school curriculum so it’s up to us to educate ourselves as best we can. Websites like SpunOut or ReachOut have lots of the information about sexting and what to do if you become a victim of revenge porn.
Finally, I think these rules are some solid ones to follow,
- Only send sexts/nudes to people you trust
- Don’t share anyone else’s sexts/nudes
- Don’t send unsolicited sexts/nudes
- Don’t pressure anyone into sending sexts/nudes
So press send with caution, but happy sexting.
Rachel O’Neill | Features Editor