What Is Sexting?
If you've been watching the news as of late, you may be wondering, what is sexting? Like many new social phenomena, definitions of sexting can vary. From the Center for Parent/Youth Understandings' "flirtateous messaging" to the Government of Australia's "any sexually explicit image sent via MMS or SMS", no one is quite sure how to categorize sexting. Yet one thing remains true: the use of a mobile device for purposes of arousal.
An enigma all in itself, sexting contains sexual material; that is the only agreed upon definition. Whether text messages apply, or merely pictures, is up to the discretion of the word's user. However, sexting can be both consensual and non-consensual, and sometimes incorporating elements of sexual coercion into it as well. For example, someone can seize an originally consensual sext and resend it to various people, thus constituting non-consensual sexting and possible defamation.
Lawsuits against sexting are commonplace, nowadays. For example, in Pennsylvania (2009), Wyoming district attorney George P. Skumanick has actually sued a couple of 15 year old girls for taking pictures of themselves in bras. He attempted to force the young girls to go to sexual violence courses so as to avoid getting the law involved. If it isn't obvious enough, Skumanick tryed to insinuate that if these girls are revealing enough (which doesn't actually constitute child pornography) it is their fault for getting raped or sexually assaulted. Obviously, this is one of the more absurd examples of sexting, yet victim-blaming is more common in our society than people like to think.
The American Civil Liberties Union has fired back against many lawsuits. The ALCU has done a good job of protecting individuals rights to privacy as well as combating neo-conservative opponents who seek to blame the victims of sexual, viral text messages. The ALCU also fought district attorney Skumanick for trying to "slut-shame" the girls into attending sexual violence classes.
Sexting constitutes more than just pictures, it must have sexual intent. What DA Skumanick doesn't understand is that a picture 14-year-old girls in bras may have had no sexual intent. So what is sexting, then? Sexting pictures or text messages to a partner requires that arousal was trying to be conveyed by the first party, and simply taking risque pics of women who were not trying to be "sluts" only showcases society's intolerance towards the female body in general.
Hopefully, next time a clueless family member or friend walks up to you and asks "What is sexting?", you will have a viable enough answer. Sexting is still a new phenomenon, and definitions vary, but always remember that sexual intent is key.