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Sexting – what some sexual-health professionals had to say…

Sexting – aka sending nudes – is commonplace among 14- to 26-year-olds, concluded Digital Romance – a 2017 study by Brook, the sexual-health charity for under-25s, and police-organisation CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre).

 

Half of those young people surveyed had received nude images and 32% had sent them to other young people, with girls (at 36%) more likely to come under pressure to send nudes than boys (11%).

 

Girls are often pressured to prove their love for a partner by sending naked pictures or videos.

 

“Girls fall for it – it’s just immaturity. They want to be accepted. They act on impulse,” says a participant in the Young People & Pornography workshop run for sexual-health professionals on 5 November 2019 by the Brandon Centre. 

 

But once someone hits “send”, that naked image is no longer in their control – and relationships can change.

 

Young people say that sending nudes – via WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram – is a normal part of their relationships and their sexual exploration.

 

Sexting can be part of the sexual development that is part of the human condition, says workshop facilitator Lildonia Lawrence. It can be a way for young people to figure out about pleasure, build body confidence, show off or be validated.

 

“There’s something wrong if you have to sexualise yourself to feel validated,” a charity worker comments. “It’s a conflict between owning your sexuality and being exploited.”

 

Lawrence responds: “But confidence, freedom and self-expression come in different forms. You can also be covered up and be an empowered female. As sexual-health professionals, we’re in a privileged role because we have the power to teach young people to be conscious consumers – people conscious of the pressure to conform to a homogenous look of what is meant to be attractive. We can shape the narrative.”

 

Young people are sharing sexual images at 12 to 13, says workshop co-facilitator Chioma Onyekwuluje, “but by 14 and 15 they see how it plays out and they don’t do it. Having navigated it early, they learn from that and they’re more stable – but younger people need social education.”

 

Generally young people often more savvy than we realise, says Lawrence. “It’s a case of telling them: ‘I know you know – but let’s keep talking.’ We have to work on it, hammer it home, think about why they are taking pictures…”

from the Outspoken Sex Ed blog post Coming out the other side: young people, porn & sexting

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