Age of sexting ushers in age of harrassment

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Abby Kempf

From receiving unsolicited nudes to saving an intimate photo, sexting proves dangerous

Three summers ago, sophomore Amber Jones* started Snapchatting a boy she had a crush on. One night they were talking when the boy suggested they exchange nude photos.
“He told me he just wanted to do it this one time with no strings attached, and I repeatedly told him that I wasn’t comfortable with that and that I wasn’t going to do it,” Jones said. “He was gently trying to persuade me, and when I say gently I mean he was being passive aggressive. He was like, ‘It’s only for one night. Come on; just do it,’ so I felt like I had to do it because he was pressuring me.”
It is not uncommon for teens to face such suggestions; 40 percent admitted to taking a sexual image of themselves, and a quarter of them said they sent that image to someone else, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Both genders believe girls experience more pressure to send and exchange nude photos from boyfriends or strangers, a study conducted by the University of Melbourne revealed. Another study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy disclosed that 51 percent of teenage girls that sent sexts blamed the act on pressure from a boy, while only 18 percent of teen boys attributed it to pressure from girls.
Sexting makes women feel much more vulnerable than men, a study at the University of Utah showed. Equal numbers of the men and women in the study said they had sent a sext, but 47.1 percent of males said they had received a sext while only 32.1 percent of females had.
Jones never sent the boy nude photos of herself despite his telling her it would only happen that one time. She knew if she did, he would eventually want to do it again. After multiple refusals, the boy told her he was going to send some photos of himself to get her to loosen up.
His unwanted snapshots did just the opposite.
“When I saw the nudes, I felt like throwing up. I was really weirded out,” Jones said. “I was like, ‘Why? What are you doing? You just ruined everything!’”
Psychologist Dr. Jeff Temple conducted a study that found sexting can lead to sex, and the more people who send explicit images, the less harmful it seems. Temple believes the potential rise in sexting among teens is a result of increased smartphone use.
“I think humans — and especially teens at this critically important developmental age — have always been interested in sex and exploring their identity and sexuality,” Dr. Temple said. “Apps like Snapchat likely provide users with a false sense of security and potentially increase their likelihood of sexting.”
Snapchat, which enables users to select how long the receiver of their message is able to view it, may seem like a safer alternative than sending sexts through mobile messaging. After the recipient views a message, the person cannot look at it again. This dangerous misconception ignores the fact that anyone can still take a screenshot of any snap, according to the app’s policy. The app’s policy even states that there is no guarantee the message’s contents get deleted every time.
“If smartphones were around 100 years ago or 1,000 years ago, my guess is that we would see similar rates of sexting,” Temple said. “In other words, nothing is new about this behavior, except for the means by which people share.”
Senior Amelia Hauck agrees that smartphones and the apps available through them have caused a growth in the exchanging of nudes among teens, thus making the action seem almost ordinary. Teens often freely send and receive these images without thinking twice.
However, that doesn’t make this new trend any better, said Hauck who noticed that people who are asked for nude photos are not taken seriously.
“To me, it feels like a game for those who ask for the pictures,” Hauck said. “I feel like they use the pictures, in a way, to make fun of the person who sent them.”
She thinks the only acceptable circumstance for exchanging nude photos is between two people in a consensual relationship, but even then she feels it’s better not to engage in the activity. People shouldn’t capture their bodies on camera and then share the photos with anyone, she said, because there’s no guarantee that the intended recipient won’t send them onto others. Hauck views nudity as an intimate and sacred thing, adding that the camera doesn’t do anyone’s body justice.
Even after the first time the boy sent Jones naked pictures of himself, she said she tried to make excuses for him, telling herself that everyone makes mistakes and kept trying to pursue a relationship with him even though he had purposely gone against her wishes. His reply to her requests to stop pressuring her to send illicit photos was that he wasn’t trying to force her to do anything that she didn’t want to do, but Jones decided he was trying to take advantage of her to satisfy his desperate needs.
[quote cite=”Amber Jones, sophomore”]He told me he just wanted to do it this one time with no strings attached, and I repeatedly told him that I wasn’t comfortable with that.[/quote] “If he tried to do that now, I would be like, ‘Hell, no, go away.’ But I really liked him at the time,” Jones said. “I wasn’t mad, but I felt used because even when I told him that I was uncomfortable with it, he still did it and was really selfish about it. I was stupid. I wish I could go back in time and slap myself in the face.”
Temple’s advice for students who have sent sexual messages to others or at least thought about it is the same advice teens have heard for years but just can’t seem to wrap their minds around.
“I would suggest not sexting to begin with, or not sexting again. While the likelihood of something horrible happening is slim, it is possible and scary,” Temple said. “The chance of the picture being spread around, the possibility of the picture winding up on your parent or teacher screens, or even the risk of legal troubles should be enough to prevent you from sexting.”
*Name withheld upon request