03 Sep What to do when you get that dreaded sext request!
One of my best friend’s teenage daughter told a guy at school that she wasn’t interested in him. He didn’t like her answer. So he threatened her. If she didn’t send him nude photos of herself, he would spread lies that they were having sex. Out of fear of not fulfilling this sext request, she sent the photos. And they went viral. Her mom notified the police. Both the guy and the girl got in trouble because they had child pornography in their possession. They experienced legal consequences – for sexting.
Sexting (a combo of sex and texting) occurs when someone sends, receives, or forwards a sexually explicit message, photos, or videos. Those texts can include images of nudity, genitals, or sexual activities. It’s often seen as flirting that has veered into sexual expressions. And I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to live in a time when sexting is considered “normal” or playful, innocent fun.
Has anyone told you that God made your body for so much more than a guy’s viewing pleasure? Or that sexting doesn’t reflect the respect God desires we show toward one another? Or that sharing nude pics in any form can actually wreak havoc in a girl’s life in a matter of seconds? With that said, you might be surprised by how common sexting has become. With built-in cameras in smartphones, sexting is as easy as click-and-send. In fact, approximately one in seven teens have sent a sext and one in four teens have received a sext, according to a 2018 survey by JAMA Pediatrics. And with those kinds of statistics, theres a good chance you or someone you know has been involved in sexting. So let’s talk.
Why Not Sext?
I understand that you use social media or texting for so much of your communication that it may be the easiest way to connect with a guy you might be crushing on. And pop culture makes sexting look fun, especially if you’re dating someone or want to be dating someone. In fact, peers around you probably say that flirting, teasing, or sexting is simply a way to get a guy’s attention. But there’s way more to it than that.
God designed your physical body and your sexuality for your good pleasure in the right context at the right time – marriage. Sexting opens the door to sexual interactions outside of marriage, even if they are only on a tiny screen. But God wants more for you. I’ve heard too many stories of girls who regretted sending private photos, either out of personal choice or because of feeling coerced. Regardless of why a girls sexts, she never needs to let anyone pressure her into sending inappropriate images. Coercion by a friend, a boyfriend, an acquaintance, or even by a stranger, is called sextortion, and you don’t have to submit to any request.
Also, have you considered the reality that you have no control over what happens to your words or images once you’ve sent them to someone else? What you may have been told would be a private flirtation could ultimately be shared with others, living on long after you’re a teen. And sharing these images can cause both embarrassment and humiliation, potentially causing you to become a target of cyberbullying. Those photos could even get passed along to a sexual predator. For these reasons along, you should never answer someone’s sext request.
Potential Legal Consequences of Sexting
As if the emotional pain wasn’t bad enough. Most young people are not aware of the following potential legal consequences when someone engages in sexting.
- Registered as a sex offender for life: This could cause a person to never be hired by an employer, ever. (This happened to a man I know in Michigan.)
- Face state and federal charges: Sexting is illegal. The sender can face jail time and probation, even if they are sending a photo of themselves.
- Be charged with distribution of child pornography: Not only could the sender be charged, but those receiving the images can be charged with possession of child pornography (Even if they did not request getting the photo!)
- Tech gadgets could be confiscated: The police department can seize all tech devices.
- Be removed from the home: If parents knew their children were sexting and did nothing to stop it, Child Protective Services can have children removed from the home and placed in foster care.
What to Do If You Get a Sext Request
If you or you friends feel pressured to sext, consider the following tips to help you say no:
- Let your parents or another trusted adult know that you’re having anxiety about pressure to sext.
- Find your voice and firmly say no to anyone asking you to send pics. It’s your body, and you get to protect it.
- Separate yourself from others who are pressuring yo.
- Find friends who share your commitment to personal values.
- Read God’s Word to remind you that you are loved, you are created in His image and the instructions in His Word are intended to safeguard you.
If Sexting Already Happened
If sexting has already occurred in your life, consider doing the following things as you move forward:
- Delete the photos immediately, and ask the receiver to delete the photos, as well.
- Tell a trusted adult about what happened.
- Report the sexting issue to your cellphone company if you’re receiving unwanted photos.
- Get law enforcement involved if you’re getting harassed or being forced into doing something against your will.
- Find a friend or group of friends and commit to helping each other withstand pressure, provide accountability, and say no to sexting.
God made you for more than fleeting flirtations or sexting, and my hope is that you will ask for help when someone tells you to send naked pics. Hold to the truth that you have control of your body (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4), and God’s Word will help you on the path of purity (Psalm 119:9).
This article was originally published in the June/July 2019 issue of Brio Magazine.
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