Let’s talk about sex(ting), baby!

This article discusses a mature topic. Our 17-year old and younger readers are encouraged to read this with an adult.

I know I’m not the only person who loves Jennifer Lawrence. In my ideal world, JLaw is in my book club and we brunch together while discussing classics in modern literature like Gone Girl and The Fault in Our Stars. We would toast each other with our vanilla soy lattes, and we’d say, “To the Best Friends Club!” Even though we —tragically— are not real-life besties, when I heard about her private photos being published on the Internet without her permission, it made me really sad for her. I can’t even imagine the level of violation she felt. This whole situation made me think a lot about consent, sexting and privacy.

Despite the fact that we should all know this, I’m going to state it anyway: It’s NEVER okay to share or post someone else’s private photos or texts. This is a cruel form of bullying and sexual harassment, and it can really hurt people. And it may be illegal if you are under 18. If someone sends you another person’s private sexts, delete them immediately, and tell the sender to stop.

As a health educator, I get a lot of questions about this topic. So, in this month’s Ask Elizabeth column, I’ll be sharing my responses with you.

Do you have a question that you’d like to see answered in this column? Send them to me at [email protected].

What if someone I really like wants me send them a naked picture of myself, but I don’t want to?

Having a healthy relationship —whether that is a platonic or a romantic relationship— means communicating honestly and feeling comfortable. In a relationship, each person has the right to say no to something they don’t want to do. If you are feeling pressure to do something that makes you uncomfortable, you should communicate those feelings. Remember to think about your values and to trust your gut. If it turns out that your values on this issue differ from your partner’s values, then maybe this isn’t the right relationship for you.

Is sexting OK if you are in a relationship?

Each relationship is different and each person’s needs in a relationship are unique. What’s OK for one person might not be OK for another person. Sexting can be a part of a healthy relationship only if both parties agree that it fits within their values and beliefs, and no one is pressuring another person to do something they don’t feel comfortable doing. It’s important to have open communication with your partner to determine your boundaries. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are different laws about sending and receiving nude photos if you are under 18, and a minor can get in a lot of trouble.

How can I keep my personal pictures and texts private?

Honestly, you can’t. You might think you’re only sharing things with certain people, but anyone can save and send pics and texts to others (even with Snapchat). Once it’s out there, you have no control over who can see the image, and no way of getting it back.   It might not seem like a big deal, but it can cause serious issues in your personal life. Your sexts and pics might get sent around or posted online, where people like your family, friends, colleagues, or potential employers could see them — and what you meant to be private all of a sudden becomes very public. And if you’re under 18, you could even be guilty of child pornography, which is a serious crime. Before you hit send, make sure to think it through.

Image: Shutterstock

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