One of the things people often worry about with sexting is safety.  There are two parts of this: legal implications and data security.  We want to provide you with some of the basic information to help you protect yourself and your partner. 

Legal Considerations

First, let’s address the legal concerns.  Generally sexting between two consenting adults (over the age of 18) is not illegal.  Distributing, receiving, or soliciting a nude image of a minor is illegal in every state and in some states, consent laws require that both parties are at least 19 years of age.  If you are concerned that this may apply to you, be sure to look at information specific to your state. 

Sometimes people worry about the laws related to the security of photos they may send while sexting.  It is important to remember that privacy cannot be guaranteed anytime something is sent over messaging apps, or text, even if the message is deleted. There are ways to help increase the security of your data and pictures, but there are still risks involved in sharing nude photos.

Here’s the quick low-down on the laws about sharing pictures.

  • Statutes in many states recognize that citizens have a universal right to privacy that cannot be restricted or restrained by human law.  This right means that one must consent to have their image distributed, even when assuming partners are adults.
  • The distribution of private images without consent, or “Revenge Porn,” is legally actionable in most states – however the severity of the charge, and law violation varies from state to state.
    • Many states do NOT allow prosecution for revenge porn if the nude image is a selfie.
    • Some states have very strict laws for cases of Revenge Porn especially if the victim’s identity is disclosed.  For example, Illinois has made it a Class IV Felony.
    • Privacy may be violated even without nudity, if the victim is in a sexually graphic situation
  • According to U.S. copyright law, the Digital Millennial Copyright Act states that any selfies are owned by the person that took them regardless of whether they were sent out to another person or distributed.  This means that if intimate selfies were uploaded online without permission, the person in the photo owns the copyright and can file a DMCA notice to have them removed completely from the Internet.

Here are some sites to visit for more information about “Revenge Porn” or what the law says about sharing intimate images without the consent of both parties:

Privacy and Security.

Many people have questions about how to protect themselves and their privacy while sexting.  It is important to remember that there is no way to completely ensure that no one will ever see any messages you send.  That said, there are things that you can do to prevent someone from accidentally “walking in” on your sexting conversation.  First, consider the privacy settings on your phone.  If you are going to be trading racy texts or photos with your partner, you may not want those messages to pop up on your screen as soon as they arrive.  Consider adding password protection to your phone.  Depending on how you message your partner, you may also want to think about turning off the saved chat history so that your device does not store a record of your past conversations.  It is also a good idea to talk about digital safety with your partner to make sure you are both protecting the messages you send. 

There are a lot of good articles that have been written about safer sexting.  Check out this TED Talk about the topic!  

"Amy Adele Hasinoff looks at problematic responses to sexting in mass media, law and education, offering practical solutions for how individuals and tech companies can protect sensitive (and, ahem, potentially scandalous) digital files."

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