Let’s talk about sexts

Erica Siciliano

If the acronyms TDTM or IWSN do not look familiar to you, then perhaps you have never experienced the technological foreplay also known as sexting.

According to Urbandictionary.com, sexting is known as “the act of text messaging someone in the hopes of having a sexual encounter with them later; initially casual, transitioning into highly suggestive and even sexually explicit.”

While some may doubt that a few racy text messages have the ability to arouse another person, statistics do not lie.

Forty-three percent of women admitted to sexting in a 2012 Romance Report survey. While that statistic may seem high, sociology professor Keith Kerr says that with increases in technology use, this behavior is not surprising.

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Sexting is a popular social trend, especially on college campuses.
“Technology has allowed us to know the private lives of famous people, just as we now know more and more about the private lives of our non-famous friends,” Kerr said. “Sociologically, we see the disappearance of the backstage, or that space that used to be our private, hidden actions where we were allowed to make mistakes without fear of public ridicule. Now, everything is front stage — a public spectacle, including sexual foreplay.”

As the distinctions between private and public continue to slowly disappear, it is becoming more socially acceptable for people to send a “sext” and think nothing of it.

“It’s definitely becoming more socially acceptable to sext,” senior Brendan Conroy said. “Slowly people are starting to see it as more socially acceptable, it’s less taboo.”

According to a study performed by the University of Rhode Island, nearly four in five college students (78 percent) have received sexually suggestive messages, and more than half (56 percent) have received sexually suggestive images. Two-thirds of the group admitted to sending the racy emails and texts.

Junior Taylor LePino says it is not inappropriate to sext another person, as long as you are in a significant relationship.

“Personally, I think [sexting] is okay to a certain extent. I know Jada Pinkett-Smith has openly said her and Will Smith sext, being that they are often apart from one another, but they are in a committed married relationship,” LePino said. “I think if your relationship is strong, it is a little bit better, but I don’t think it’s necessary. A lot of these cases where sexting becomes a problem extends from the relationship being new or underdeveloped, where that trust isn’t there.”

As the sexting trend continues to rise, consequences can come from sending a sext. Legal officials recently amended laws to make tighter restrictions, in hopes of making the act of sending a sexually explicit text seem less appealing. According to the Connecticut State Police Department of Public Safety, the consequences of sexting include both social and emotional damage. In addition, those who receive a sexually explicit text from someone under the age of 18 may be considered a sex offender since under the law it is considered child pornography.

Although many college students do not think these legal limitations apply to them, some freshmen are only 17 when they enter college.

“I think if I sent the texts to other people, then yeah the police should get involved and I should be held responsible,” Conroy said. “But if she just sends it to me and it stays between us, then I don’t think it’s necessary that I should be charged with anything [if she was underage]. At the end of the day I didn’t click the send button or force her to send it, so I shouldn’t be held responsible.”

Sexting has become such a social trend that MTV launched a campaign earlier this month to deter young adults from sexting one another. The commercials feature high school and college students, mostly female, reacting to the consequences of sexting. MTV also premiered the made-for-television movie, “Sexting: When Privates Go Public,” to highlight the emotional and social consequences that can arise from sexting.

While some may view the documentary as overly-dramatized, the TV special highlights consequences that can occur from sexting. The documentary explains that although sexters may trust the receiver, the recipient always has the ability to share the sexual photos or messages. With the simple click of a button, every smartphone owner has the power to send photos, text messages or emails to an unlimited number of people.

“I feel as though some people send [sexts] thinking it is the only way to keep guys interested,” LePino said. “But there are a lot of long-term consequences that come from sexting. You don’t know that the people who are receiving the picture are keeping it to themselves or making duplicates. In a world where technology is so fast, it’s a scary thought.”