I’m sure everyone knows about the issues when it comes to “sexting” or sharing nude photos. We’ve all been warned. We’ve heard it a million times: “You never know what a person will do when a relationship ends.” We also have seen countless celebrities become the victims of hacks, exposing their bodies to the world. Yet, sexting remains a major part of our culture, particularly with teens and young adults.
I’m not here to tell you what you should and should not do. It’s no one’s business or choice but your own. But I am here to tell you that everyone is right. You have no idea what can happen and go horribly wrong when you snap that photo.
There is nothing safe even taking naked photos.
I should know, it happened to me. When I was 17, I had been dating my then-boyfriend for quite some time. We had a good relationship and I trusted him completely. He started trying to talk me into sexting but I really wasn’t comfortable. It all started out innocently enough, but then it took more and more to please him. I don’t know why I let myself be talked into something I didn’t want to do. I will always regret it. But the fact is, I sent photos and I sent them willingly.
I only did it once.
A few weeks later, my boyfriend sent me a message, “My phone got stolen at the gym…” At first, I assumed he was just telling me because it sucked. But then I clued in. The pictures. My heart dropped. My stomach twisted into a million knots.
“Please tell me you didn’t save those photos.”
“I did. I’m sorry.”
Just like that, my life changed. His phone had a lock but as we all know, nothing is perfectly safe. Nothing is unstoppable. Maybe someone just took it to throw it in a river to be horrible. They could just reset it so they could get in and use it as their own. Everything would be deleted then anyway. But truthfully, I had no idea. My face wasn’t in the photos but it’d be easy enough to figure out who they were of. Suddenly, being a carefree teenager wasn’t an option anymore. I had to wait and worry about what was to come.
My mind reeled every moment knowing I could be exposed to the world in a way I was not okay with. I felt like even though the photos hadn’t yet surfaced, I had been violated. I had to deal with the knowledge that my reputation could be destroyed any second. I waited in agony for months, wondering if and when the photos would be exposed. I had no idea what would happen, what the consequences could be.
Day in and day out: what would my parents think? What would my friends say? What would my school do? Could I even get into college if this turned into a big thing? What kind of job would ever hire me? Is this even legal? Could I get in trouble?
Everyone is going to see.
This back and forth went on for a few months. Thankfully, nothing happened and I began to calm down. I wasn’t sure if the photos were just never found or if whoever found them just chose not to share them publicly. It’s been over 4 years and the photos never did come out. Maybe whoever stole the phone didn’t know who it belonged to and didn’t know the photos were of me, but it seems unlikely since it was stolen at our school gym. Maybe they just shared them with their friends but never felt the need for the whole world to see. Maybe they creepily kept them for themselves. I will never know and it bothers the hell out of me.
I don’t think about it as much anymore but it stayed there in the back of my mind and I never, ever did it again. I chose not to tell anyone about what happened. It’s one of my best kept secrets and I think it’s best kept that way. But sharing this story is important. People need to be aware that there are very real risks that they may have never considered.
I knew that sending naked photos wasn’t safe. I knew in the same way every teenager does. I knew it was a problem for other people, but I was immune to hacks and I could trust my boyfriend. But I never in a million years imagined what would happen to me.
Anytime I’ve had the chance to talk about sexting with friends, no matter how old they are, I’ve always tried to tell them not to. I don’t want to talk about what happened to me but at the same time, I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.
If it wasn’t important, we wouldn’t talk about it. But it is. People have gone to prison for things that they perceived as “just for fun.” Everyday news is breaking about people being charged with child porn and going to prison, such as Jared Fogle. We always are quick to comment on how disgusting these individuals are. But do you realize that if you are underage by your State’s standards and send photos of yourself naked, you are guilty of distributing child pornography? Or that the person who receives those images is guilty of possession?
Going to jail is nothing compared to the consequences some teens face. Young people have died due to photos of themselves being leaked or distributed against their will. The shame and mocking that comes with it has been enough to result in many teens taking their own lives. One of the most prevalent cases of this would be the suicide of Amanda Todd a 15 year old from BC who was blackmailed with nude photos to the point that she couldn’t take it anymore.
Listen. No matter who it is you’re sending them to, always know that whatever you send to one person, could fall into the hands of everyone you’ve ever known easier than you’d think. It’s not just about trust. It’s not just about you and him. It’s about your body and protecting yourself. You don’t owe anyone anything, especially when it puts you at risk. Never do anything you don’t want to do and always think about the consequences of your actions.
Featured Image via Carrie Lynn on Flickr