It’s 3a.m. on a Saturday morning, and a young girl is lying under her covers, texting. She’s tired, but the sheer excitement of the situation is keeping her up. She’s talking to a guy she met through a friend of a friend, and wow, is he cute. He says how much he likes her, how he wants to get with her, but could she please send a picture now? She is reluctant, but hooking up with him would get her at least ten more likes on her Facebook profile picture…
She takes off her top and snaps a quick shot. She thinks he’ll be different; he’s much too chivalrous to show a photo to his friends, right? It’s only a week later, after seeing her image on Facebook with 10,000 shares, that our heroine realizes just how wrong she was. Her tale is a warning to us all: no matter how tempting it may be, the consequences of sending an explicit photo to anyone, whether you’re in a relationship or not, are serious.
The concept of explicit images is nothing groundbreaking. Pornography has been recorded as early as the Victorian era, during which time the pictures consisted of fully dressed women politely holding a man’s genitals. Of course, those are only the images that fit under the modern definition of pornography. Erotic imagery can be seen much earlier than this: what about all of those naked girls on the side of the Roman walls? Or on tribal African vases?
However, the primary difference between then and now—excluding sanitation levels, the Kardashians and the bedazzled archways of Victoria’s Secret—is the ability for the aforementioned explicit photos to be delivered and viewed within milliseconds, at just the touch of a button. We teens are not exactly known for our level-headed cost-benefit analysis of a situation, as sexting shows.
Sexting allows teenagers to share private information about themselves without forcing them to spend time pondering the implications of doing so… as opposed to, say, sending an explicit painting via snail mail. If a gentlewoman back in the day regretted that painting, she could burn it; a modern gal’s sext may be burned onto hard drives everywhere before she can rethink the pics.
In addition, a glass screen between two people somehow makes everything seem anonymous and untraceable, but I would like to remind everyone on behalf of the Cyber Crime department of the FBI that anything you put on the Internet can be traced back to you. You think those nasty questions you wrote on Formspring are totally anonymous? Ha. What about all of those pieces of personal information you shared on Tumblr? Listen, pal, it isn’t as hard to find your IP address as you seem to think it is.
According to a recent study, 9.6% of kids aged 10-17 reported sharing sexual images of themselves or receiving images of others. The real question, though, is how sexting affects the residents of Marlborough. We Violets tend to be cautious, bordering on paranoid, when it comes to sharing things on the Internet. Many of us understand the consequences—public humiliation, criminal charges for child pornography—and therefore refuse to participate.
However, there are a few exceptions. Many girls at Marlborough are comfortable sharing inappropriate pictures, providing that they are dating the recipient. In all frankness, though, most high school relationships end, and usually in tears. When you’re sitting there, scooping ice cream out of the container with both hands and littering your floor with tissues, how happy are you going to be about having sent that photo two months earlier? In the end, was it worth it? The answer is simple: no. It doesn’t matter if you trust the recipient with your life: you shouldn’t trust anyone with a picture.
And if your parents insist on discussing sexting with you, don’t be a snarky brat. The fact that they are taking the time to talk to you about uncomfortable things that they probably want to discuss even less than you do means that they truly care how you turn out.
I get it, guys: we’re all living young, and wild, and semi-free. But no matter how tempting it is to tap “Send,” resist the urge! Because the consequences are never sexy.