Sexting is a way many people try to keep intimacy with one another when apart. It consists of sending sexually explicit content through text messages and has been quite common since phones and social media became a thing. Sexting can be fun; however, there are also many cases where the act can be dangerous and illegal. So, is sexting a crime? Keep reading to find the answer and more.
Table of Contents:
What is Sexting?
Sexting occurs between romantic relationships or just two people who are only sexually attracted to one another and want no part of a romance. It involves sending sexual content, sexually explicit messages, and images electronically. It’s common in today’s digital world, but is it legal to engage in it?
Is Sexting a Crime?
Sexting between two consenting adults is not a crime; however, if one person is uncomfortable with the situation and wishes to stop but still receives unwanted sexual advances, this can be deemed sexual harassment, and criminal charges can follow. There are also instances when a person will act out of revenge and threaten to expose a person’s sexual content online, which qualifies as revenge porn, blackmail, or sextortion and has penalties.
The law becomes stricter when sexting involves an adult and a minor, and society, unfortunately, sees many cases of this unlawful act. Due to the internet’s effortless ability to hide identities, there are many cases where an adult disguises themselves as a teen.
This will enable them to engage in sexting other minors without their knowledge. There are also many adults who don’t disguise their identity at all and openly engage in sexting with minors. Both scenarios are illegal and have severe penalties, including jail time.
Minors who know they are sexting with an adult or even another minor are not allowed off the hook. When a minor knowingly sends explicit content of themselves, it also warrants penalties. Any sexual content exchanged from minors is child pornography and comes with severe penalties for those involved.
Sexting Laws and What You Need to Know
Some states have enacted sexting laws, but not all. Whether your state does have a law for sexting or not, the act of sexting between minors and adults is punishable by law under child pornography laws. This unlawful act is addressed on a state and federal level. Often, the way these crimes are handled is left up to the prosecutors. Sexting is typically a felony; however, the penalty differs depending on whether the person is an adult or a minor.
Here are the penalties you can expect for a sexting charge:
- A 5-year sentence or more, depending on the case’s specifics.
- Depending on the state, a fine of $5,000 or more.
- Register as a sex offender for your state.
- A verbal warning from the judge, or they can be charged if the crime is committed again.
- A fine that depends on the state in which they reside.
- Get put on probation.
- Attend counseling sessions.
Remember that sexting can also lead to many other serious crimes, such as blackmail, sextortion, revenge porn, extortion, cyberbullying, etc. if committed, perpetrators will face the penalties for these crimes as well.
Protecting Yourself Against Sexting: Steps You Can Take
1. Keep Your Private Life Private
The first step you can take to protect yourself against sexting is to keep your private life private. This means not sharing intimate photos or text messages with anyone, regardless of how well you know them. Once something is sent, it’s out of control and can be easily forwarded or leaked without your knowledge or consent.
2. Be Wary of What you Share on Social Media
Another step to protect yourself against sexting is to be wary of whom you add on social media. Avoid sending sexually explicit content on social media platforms where such content can be easily shared. It’s also important to remember that even if you delete someone from your social media contacts, they may still have access to your content if they took screenshots before you deleted them.
3. Know the Consequences
The third and final step you can take to protect yourself against sexting is to know the consequences. Sexting is serious and can lead to legal trouble, especially if minors are involved. If you are caught sending or receiving sexual images of someone under 18, you could be charged with child pornography, a felony offense. So, before you hit “send,” make sure you know the possible consequences of your actions.
Sexting can be fun and consensual when both parties are comfortable with it — but it can also lead to serious consequences if things go wrong. Asking ourselves, “is sexting a crime” isn’t enough if we don’t take every opportunity to educate ourselves and the public on the consequences of such inappropriate behavior.
To protect yourself against sexting, keep your private photos to yourself, be careful about whom you send sexual images to, and don’t engage with strangers who send you unsolicited sexts. By following these simple steps, you can help ensure that your sexting experience is favorable for you and the person you’re sharing with!