How to Acknowledge and Understand the Effect of Sexting

How to Acknowledge and Understand the Effect of Sexting
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Written by Brenda Vester

When we see the exploitation of intimate photos on the internet, can we, the women of the world, change the conversation and start asking a different question?

Featured photo by Clem Onojeghuo

What is sexting?

Sexting is one of the newest crazes among teenagers. Though it may seem as harmless fun, it is proving to be quite dangerous. The act of sexting involves taking a picture of oneself that is nude or semi-nude, and they send it through their cell phone to another person. Do you know if your teen has ever sexted? Chances are, you probably think they would never do such a thing. The truth is that one in five teens from ages 13-17 have sexted at least once.

It is a subject that stirs much emotion.

Many of us look the other way as we find it hard to understand.  However, there is a real issue with the internet and the malicious sharing of private pictures, particularly of girls and many young women who are in the midst of their formative years.  They are still learning, exploring, growing and figuring out who they are and want to be.

As mothers, women and leaders we need to have a better understanding and education about what is happening in the world of technology.  It is not enough to say I don’t understand, or think this is not happening in my school or community. It is everywhere.  If you are really not familiar, I recommend doing some research to understand how far this issue can reach.

Who are the victims

The circumstances vary, but primarily it is the full exposure of what happens behind the  scenes of  relationships from  kids who are coming of age in high school, college and their early adult lives.  Even celebrities have been victims–Jennifer Lawrence.

When the acts you do in the bedroom or in an intimate relationship can be displayed  for the public, and people can release and share photos without permission, we have crossed  more than a line of privacy;  it is an incredible violation that has far reaching consequences.

In addition, people emphasize what the woman is doing in the photos, shaming her for something that she thought was in the privacy of her own home or with a trusted friend.  It is a real bullying tactic and a way to humiliate and keep women powerless.

Rise up

We need to rise up above this chatter, the noise and our own personal preferences.  We need to stand together and give zero energy to what is actually in the photos, as we are not even supposed to see them, and  focus on  the real question that needs to be  asked in this situation; who is  posting these pictures?

What type of boys gather photos of girls in high school, objectify them and put them on display for all others to see?  This is a bully tactic of the worst kind.  It seems it is not just  about seeing naked pictures of women, because that’s easily accessible on the internet.  They can see anything they want from women who are ‘choosing’ to show it.  This comes from a much darker place than sexual curiosity and exploration.

Why aren’t we exposing the lack of empathy, respect and integrity it takes for a boy to actually do this?  And what type of boy sits back as a voyeur and just watches this attack on the opposite sex?  Where have we, as  parents, and as a society,  missed this lesson in respect?

I hear responses from the conservative and the judgmental who say things like, “well, those girls just should not have done it”, or “don’t share things you don’t want others to see,” suggesting we should hold the girl accountable for the violation.  When does this end?  Whether you are in favor of what she did or not, the violation is public sharing without permission.  

Is the message to  never trust anyone or anything?

Granted, it is risky behavior and that needs addressed as well with kids under 18, however young love  is a very strong emotion, and we won’t stop boys and girls coming together  to learn about sexuality.   That is not realistic.  Having faith in each other as a society is what makes it so great!  It is easy as an adult to say a teen or young adult displayed a lapse in judgment, however,  they are just learning and don’t have the same capacity as an adult.  They need protected.

Sadly, in an effort to keep our girls ‘innocent’ we make the error of keeping them naive.  You can be both innocent and educated.  Many girls are attention starved and they melt under the focus of a cute boy.  Most girls don’t realize boys are capable of  this.  A smooth talking, personable, popular boy wields more power than parents can imagine.  We  forget the social pressures of school.

Why are we so harsh on the girls?

Whether it is pictures or something else she and her boyfriend explore learning about sexuality, it should remain their exploration; never to be made a subject of humiliation.  Why is she wrong and why are we so quick to shame her for participating in something that at the time felt safe, fun and intimate?  Something he participated in as well.  The average teen loses their virginity around 17, and while we may not condone sexual activity in teens, it is happening and should remain a private experience.

As we continue to awaken the sleeping giant of the feminine consciousness, I hope we can outsmart the low level, reptilian energy that starts this type of attack.  How can we find a new reaction to the cry for attention from boys who clearly have nothing to offer other than capturing photos of girls to exploit?  How low must a boy or man’s self-esteem be to find this a source of amusement in their lives?

The conversation

How do you open a young girls mind to this possibility, providing full disclosure that this type of person  exists? Warning  them that if given the chance, this type will prey on your need for acceptance, vulnerability and love?

Can we teach our girls to not be ashamed of their bodies when something they did is taken out of context?  Maybe it was a bad choice to text a naked photo, but haven’t we all made poor choices in different, less public ways?  I want to see women take control of the situation.  A women is entitled to her private, sexual life and exploring it in any way that she would like.  That is everyone’s right  and we should  protect it.

If a woman is a victim of harassment, shaming, or humiliation, can we learn to withhold our personal opinion, and instead hold out our hand to help her up?  Can we count on the support of one another through this process of learning, understanding and change?  Can we stop making a judgement on something we were never meant to see?

Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.

What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?

Accepting that I will never get it all done!

What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?

I am really appreciating my can do attitude this new year, everything seems possible. Still working on appreciating the value of slowing down.

What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?

I am very proud that I feel passion around life. I take pride in making a difference in life.

We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?

I am still learning that when I get really angry, that I need to pause and listen. This is a disipline for me.

“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!)

Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?

I love that I will stop and pamper myself when I need it.

About the author

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Brenda Vester

I am passionate about raising awareness for women’s equality & empowerment in the areas of careers, self-development, leadership and parenting. I believe we all have the power to design our lives creating the best environment to become who we want to be.

Professionally, I have spent the past 20 years working in sales, human resources, consulting & speaking within many industries; Retail, Airlines, Public Relations, Energy & Gas, Leadership Development & Career Management. (more detail at\brenda vester)

I also manage a small business, Kabina Publishing. This work encompasses my personal views, creative expression and research around the intersection of work/life and how to design a life you love. My favorite project has been completing my book, Capture Your Power, published in 2009.

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