There are a lot of things about sex that invoke a lot of judgment and pearl-clutching – sex before marriage, promiscuity, STDs, porn, fetishes…and sexting. Maybe this is only my perception, but it seems like sexting is something that people get extremely riled up about. Particularly when sexting goes public. Whether it’s on a monumental scale (see: Kim Kardashian‘s entire public career) or a relatively minor one, when sexts get leaked, inevitably there’s a backlash that generally includes some slut shaming and victim-blaming.
Sexting, to me, is part of a natural progression of 21st century flirting and f*cking. Shooting off a text or a photo is an easy way to flirt, add some spice, maintain the sexual aspect of a long distance relationship, and strengthen the sexual bond between two people. There’s nothing intrinsically immoral or offensive about it – it’s just a digital copy of things that people normally do in person. Which basically describes the entire Internet in a nutshell. And yet, for some reason, the act of sexting seems to induce a lot of moral judgment.
Most anyone who sexts operates under at least two assumptions — that both parties consent and are interested, and that no one but the intended recipient is going to be privy to the text/photo/video/etc. It’s a basic social contract (much like the rules of feminism) So if, for example, you send a gentleman a suggestive photo of yourself, things go sour between you two, and he proceeds to distribute this photo to anyone and everyone, under no circumstance is this ever your fault. Yes, sexting is a risk. Creating a paper trail of sexual conduct can have negative consequences. But so can drinking, walking across the street, driving a car, flying, and basically anything that involves existing as a living being in this world. Of course, it is always important to not trust just any random person you meet and indulge in some cynicism, but part of the appeal of sex is being vulnerable with someone else. It’s completely unproductive, not to mention totally misguided, to shift the blame from the perpetrator to the victim.
I have been lucky in that none of the scandalous photos I’ve ever sent to gentlemen callers were ever, as far as I know, disseminated without my knowledge, but it is a very real consequence of our digital age. I have many friends who have shared the penis photos they’ve gotten from guys, and while on a voyeuristic level, it’s intriguing, at the end of the day, it’s pretty morally suspect. Our society definitely encourages oversharing, but for the sake of our collective dignity, we have to have boundaries in place.