Safe Sexting: Is it Possible?

July 6, 2021

No. There is no such thing as safe sexting.  If you send an intimate photo or video to another person, or simply store it on your mobile device, you are at risk of having your content published to the internet without your consent.  Even though the stakes for sexting are high, new research studies show that sexting has become a common practice, with its prevalence growing with each younger generation. If you are going to send intimate photos to another person, you should know the risks.  To be clear, sexting can put your online reputation in jeopardy and can potentially result in legal trouble.  If you are going to sext, you should be aware of how to minimize the risks of your content being published on the internet.

What is Sexting?

Sexting is a term used to describe the process where one person shares an intimate photo or video with another person.  An image or video does not have to portray full nudity to constitute a sext. Any image picturing a person in a partially clothed or relative state of nudity is a sext.

A sext that is shared with a third party without the sender’s consent is revenge porn.  Revenge porn can be devastating to the victim’s reputation and can be extremely difficult and time consuming to remove. If you want to learn more about revenge porn, please check out our blog: [BLOG].

How Common is Sexting?

Sexting is a growing phenomenon. As more studies are done on this passe topic, it is clear that sexting is commonly occurring between adults and between teenagers.  As more studies are interpreted, experts are starting to conclude that sexting is a normal component of sexual behavior. Despite this conclusion, engaging in sexting comes with risks that should not be taken lightly.

The Risks of Sexting

All participants in sexting face risks. These risks range can range from harassment to jail time.  Below is a non-inclusive list of issues that a person engaging in sexting should be aware of:

Revenge Porn

When a sext is shared with a third-party without the subject’s permission, this is called revenge porn. A person does not have to actually send a nude or incriminating photo to be the victim of revenge porn. A person can become a revenge porn victim simply by taking an intimate photo and having their device hacked. Anyone who takes a nude or intimate photo faces the risk of becoming a revenge porn victim.

Harassment, Bullying, and Sextortion

People who sext and have their intimate photos released on the internet are often bullied and ostracized by other internet users.  When internet harassment about a leaked intimate image rises to the level of threats and extortion, this is called sextortion.  Sextortion is a huge risk for people who have had an intimate image published online.

Reputational Damage

In the age of the Internet, sexting comes with extreme reputational risks.  As soon as a sext is taken, the person pictured loses control of the dissemination of that image. Content can be hacked off of devices, screenshotted, sent to others, disseminated on the Internet, and can even be sold to other Internet users.

Spreading of images to pornography sites

Once an intimate photograph or video is published on the Internet, it is highly likely to spread and be “scrapped” by pornography sites. “Scrapping” means that other websites will republish the images to gain more publicity for their sites. Once content is scrapped, it becomes extremely difficult and time consuming to remove.  Typically, the pornography sites that post sexts are called “leaked” pornography sites. Online criminals often utilize images from leaked pornography sites to perpetuate internet scams.

Loss of Career Opportunities

Generally, when a person wants to hire a professional, the first thing they do is “Google” them.  Maintaining a professional online presence has become paramount to maintaining a career.  When nude or scantily clad images are published on the Internet, victims risk losing their jobs.

Sexual Harassment

Sending a sext to a person that does not want to receive the sext is sexual harassment. A person sending a sext must have the consent of the recipient before sending a sext or they can face administrative proceedings at work or school for sexual harassment.

Civil Actions

When a sext is sent to a recipient, it is typically understood that that image will not be shared with a third-party. When private images are shared with someone else, the person sharing that content can face civil lawsuits. Depending on the state, the victim may have claims under state specific revenge porn laws, or privacy torts like publication of private facts and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Criminal Actions

In some states, disseminating revenge porn is a crime, and the person spreading those images will face criminal prosecution.

For Teens

Sexting between teens under 18 years old is always a crime, and a minor can be prosecuted criminally for having this content on their cell phone or computer.  It is important that parents and teens know this risk.

How to Protect Yourself: 10 TIPS FOR SAFE(R) SEXTING

It is clear from recent research studies, that sexting is on the rise, despite the risks. If adults and teens are going to engage in sexting, how can they protect themselves?

You can’t completely negate the risks of sexting, but you can take steps to minimize harm.

  1. Know and acknowledge the risks of sexting. Don’t ignore the risks and think that this can’t happen to you.
  2. You never have permission to share another person’s nudes. Sharing another person’s nudes with their consent is revenge porn, and it will subject you to civil and criminal liability.
  3. Do not store private, intimate images on a cloud-based storage system or an app like snapchat. These applications notoriously get hacked.
  4. If you are going to send pics via snapchat, do not list your first and last name on your account. This includes utilizing an email address that does not contain your first and last name.
  5. Do not put your face in your sexts. If the nude image gets shared and disseminated without your consent, it is less likely to be associated with you than if your face is included in the image.
  6. Know that all of your public profiles can be found. If a third-party attains possession of your private nude images, they can use technology to trace those nude images to other images of you (clothed or not), your social media accounts, your place of employment, your friends, your family, and even your address. The more of a public persona you have online, the greater the likelihood that you will be threatened by sextortionists if your intimate images leak.
  7. Sending unsolicited sexts is sexual harassment. A person sending a sext must have the consent of the recipient.
  8. Enact security features on your cell phone.  Having a password or face authentication can help minimize the risk of a third party accessing your device.
  1. Sexting involving teens under 18 years old is ALWAYS child pornography. Children who sext can and will be criminally prosecuted for the possession of child pornography.  If your child is facing disciplinary action at school because of sexting, you should consult with an education lawyer.
  1. If your intimate photos get published on the internet, you should immediately contact an attorney.  Ignoring this problem will not make it go away; in fact, sensitive content like revenge porn is highly likely to rapidly spread and create a more distressing and time-consuming issue.  If you find out that your images have been published online, an internet content removal attorney can help you weigh your options.