So… er… sexting.


Yes, sexting.

What are you talking about?

Well, the definition of sexting is sending or receiving any messages that can be considered sexual. This means sexually explicit texts/emails, but most of the time when people talk about sexting they’re talking about photos or videos where someone is naked or half clothed and…

No, I know what sexting is, but why are you talking about it?

Because people don’t, really, and that means it’s hard to know what to do if sexting goes wrong and the person you sent your carefully posed selfie to decides to share it round the whole year. You can feel ashamed or guilty and like there’s no way out — but there are things you can do! Knowledge is power, so let’s make like Mario and level up.

The most important thing to know about sexting is that once you send a photo or text, you have no control over what happens to it. The person you sent it to might keep it to themselves or they might put it on Instagram. They might treasure it forever as a symbol of your love, or they might show everyone at the bus stop. It’s a big risk to take and you need to make sure you’re willing to take it.

If it’s so risky, why do people do it?

Lots of reasons. Sometimes because they just want to. Other times because they like how they look and want to show it off. But sometimes they send photos because they’re pressured to — their crush might be telling them they’re frigid or shy, or they feel like it’s a normal part of a relationship, or they feel like everyone else is doing it, or they keep being asked for them and it feels like it’s easier to just say yes.

The second most important thing to know about sexting is that you are under absolutely no obligation to do it. It doesn’t make you frigid if you don’t, you don’t have to do it just because you’re in a relationship, and I’d bet my laptop that not “everyone” else is doing it. If you don’t want to sext, you don’t have to. End of.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • It’s illegal to share private sexual photos or videos, unless the person in them says it’s ok.
  • It's also illegal to post, possess or even take sexual photos or videos of someone who is under 18 – even yourself.
  • If you don't want to sext, you don't have to. End of.

Um… I sexted someone and now I wish I hadn’t. What should I do?

Start by having a chat with the person you sent the messages to. Ask them if they’ve sent it to anyone else and if they’ll delete it. Hopefully it’ll be a no to the first one, a yes to the second one, and you can carry on with your life.

But even if things don’t go that smoothly, there are still things you can do. As awkward as it might feel, a good thing to do is talk to your parent/guardian or a teacher as soon as possible as the quicker they can get to the image, the quicker they’ll be able to stop it from being shared around and give the git responsible a good telling off.

The person I sent the photo to has put it on Facebook…

And this is where things start to get a little bit more serious. If someone is posting these photos on social networks, report the image and the social network should take it down. For other websites or just because you don’t believe in half-measures you can contact the Internet Watch Foundation. They’re like the Batman of criminal sexual online content.

Criminal content?!

Oh yes. There was a law passed in 2015 that means it’s illegal to share private sexual photos or videos unless the person in them says it’s ok. Sharing someone’s sexts isn’t just a crappy thing to do, it’s also against the law.

Also, if you’re under 18, it’s illegal to post sexual photos or videos of under 18s online. That’s a triple whammy of badness right there.

Although actually, it’s also illegal to possess sexual photos/videos or take sexual photos/videos of under-18s, which means that even if you’re merrily sexting away and not having any issues with it being shared around, even taking sexual photos or videos of yourself is actually breaking the law. Soz.

Okay, it’s been taken down and I won’t do it any more. Thanks betty!

No problem — it’s what we’re here for. Wait, does that make us the Batman of criminal sexual online content…?

But someone else is already pressuring me to send a photo. What should I do?

You can just say no, again and again and again until they get the message. Remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If they’re trying to make you feel guilty for not sending a photo you can sweetly remind them that that’s emotional blackmail – anyone with half a conscience will leave you alone.

If they don’t back off, you can block them on every communication channel under the sun. And if they’re super persistent and still nagging you, ask for help. Show screenshots of their messages to your mum, their mum, a teacher, a local newsreader, actual Batman, whoever you like. You can always ask for help in dealing with it if you need to.

But don’t give in and send a photo just to shut them up. You don’t have to do that just because they keep asking. Bottom line: it’s your body, and you get to say what you do with it.

Need more info on sexting? Take a look at the Childline site and watch their helpful videos.