Before we begin today let’s take a moment to be completely honest with ourselves. Had the technology existed when we were young there would be some very embarrassing memories being shared right about now. I know you’re riding the high hobby horse now when you are in the “My Morals Corral,” but even when we were barely old enough to know what the heck anything meant “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine” was a time honored tradition. And we honored it. So, if we’d had cell phone cams and so on just imagine the world of **** we’d be in right now. Or, to quote Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Now, that being said, that doesn’t make doing it now any smarter than it would have been doing it then.
But the one thing that most people who sext never seem to consider is what happens after they hit send. I’m not talking about the occasional cad who shares your intimate gift, although they are a real concern, I’m just talking in general. Think about it for a second. The internet isn’t some device that’s hardwired into your phone or camera. It is a collection of ever crossing electronic pathways. Smart people who have no lives sit in the junctions of those pathways looking for exactly the kind of pic (NSFW) you were sending your BF or GF or Unsure F.
Ben Weitzenkorn of NBC News has some real bad news for you.
Eighty-eight percent of homemade pornography, including videos and still images, finds its way onto porn sites, often without the owners’ knowledge, a new study concluded.
The study analyzed more than 12,000 sexually explicit images uploaded by young people and found that the great majority of images had been stolen and published to what Britain’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which published the study, calls “parasite” websites.
These parasites, exclusively devoted to hosting sexual images featuring young subjects, allegedly obtain their material from anywhere they can get it: lost or stolen cellphones, hacked private accounts on Photobucket, Flickr, or Facebook, or from chat sites and Tumblr, a blogging platform notorious for the amount of explicit self-published content by high school and college-age students.
In 2011, the now-defunct IsAnyoneUp.com published tens of thousands of stolen Facebook photos submitted by jaded ex-lovers or angry friends.
“We need young people to realize that once an image or a video has gone online, they may never be able to remove it entirely,” Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation, told the Guardian newspaper in London. “Once an image has been copied on to a parasite website, it will no longer suffice to simply remove the image from the online account.”
David Wright, director of the UK Safer Internet Center, agreed with the study and reiterated a warning to youngsters not to send sexually explicit messages via their phones, either.
“Much of the advice for children and young people is, quite rightly, to not ‘sext,’ ” he said.
In its report, the IWF features quotes meant to serve as a warning to others to not even make explicit photos. “One explicit image I took when I was young … is coming up on the first page of [unnamed search engine],” one quote read.
“Every time I begin to feel good and confident about myself … I just remember these pictures and what I did,” another quote read.
The people who gave the quotes may be heartened, however, to learn that they’re not alone. With camera phones and the ability to posting power in the palm of our hands now, self-made sex photos are easier to make and share than ever before. They can bet they’re not alone.
“AHA,” you self righteously exclaim, “this is America! The land of many lawyers and too much free time. I will sue these heinous thieves back into the Stone Age.”
Okay. On what grounds? You can’t copyright porn, so that’s out. The rest of the laws rest on the phrase “reasonable expectation of privacy” which you don’t have if you’re posting your naked wanker on line or sending it over a public cell phone network.
So you have two choices; (1) cower in fear every time someone starts a sentence with “You won’t believe what I found online ….” or (2) own that stuff.
“Yep, that’s my wanker. He’s a beaut, isn’t he?”
But the question still begs, why do it at all? The risks are widely known, the stories are widely told and the consequences, due to the rantings of holier than thou pinheads, can be dire.
Matt Liebowitz of Tech Weekly takes a look at the nitty gritty of it all.
In some social circles, sending a nude photo via text message — sexting — leads to public shame, embarrassment and a ruined reputation for the sender.
There have been countless stories of what happens when a naked or suggestive message falls into the wrong hands — just ask former congressman Anthony Weiner. But rarely do we discuss why people send these messages in the first place.
In some cases, according to Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research, peer group pressure creates an environment where sexting is just another part of the conversation.
Next stop: fame
At the Internet Safety Symposium in late June in New York City, Boyd told the stories of two teens whom she observed and wrote about as part of her doctoral dissertation, which she earned from the University of California, Berkeley, while studying how American teens socialize in online social networks.
The first student she discussed, a 15-year-old girl named Traviesa, covered her MySpace profile with “artistically styled but explicitly sexual nude and semi-nude photos of herself,” Boyd said.
Traviesa, Boyd said, took her cues, however misguided, from pseudo-celebrities such as Tila Tequila and Paris Hilton. Both women’s careers were launched after nude photos and sex videos of them were leaked onto the Web.
Although Traviesa didn’t send any racy messages of herself to a specific person, she did put her explicit photos out in the open, where anybody could see them and use them in any way they wanted.
“She told me that she wanted to be a model and that she was going to work hard to break into the business; she believed that she was going to be found on MySpace just like Tila Tequila.” Boyd said. “Traviesa believed that she, too, could become famous if she exposed herself online.”
Sexting to get a date
Some teens see sexting as a stepping-stone to stardom. In other circles, it is merely another form of social currency that can put young girls ahead of their peers — in many young men’s eyes, at least.
Boyd referenced a May 26 New York Times article in which a group of teens from New York City and a Philadelphia suburb were asked their thoughts about sexting. Kathy, a 17-year-old from Queens, spoke frankly about how the practice has pervaded youth culture.
“At my school, if you like a boy and you want to get his attention, you know what you have to do,” she told the Times. She added, “There’s a positive side to sexting. You can’t get pregnant from it, and you can’t transmit STD’s. It’s a kind of safe sex.”
In her presentation, Boyd said the girls “believed they were strutting their stuff and sexting was just another practice in a long line of practices meant to signal that they were cool, sexy girls.”
Don’t panic … yet
Kathy, the Queens teen, had a point, Boyd said.
Boyd clarified that sexting is a sex act, “and as with any sex acts, there are loving versions and abusive versions,” she told SecurityNewsDaily.
When X-rated messages are used to “shame, hurt, or manipulate people, we should be worried,” she said. “But when we see them done lovingly, we should not be panicked. This is why it’s critical to clarify the law. We don’t want kids to be arrested for all of their sex acts, even if we do want to protect them from being violated.”
Panic, Boyd told SecurityNewsDaily, is at the heart of the issue. And it’s an issue that is much larger than a teen sending a racy picture message.
“These are social-level issues more than individual issues,” Boyd said.
Fingers can be pointed at the media, at celebrity culture and at adults who set poor examples, she added, “but it’s all of the above and more. We’re far too individualistic in our approach to these matters, seeing teens as individuals and their parents as the sole actors who are responsible. Society is far more complex than that.”
What’s the future of sexting?
Much of Boyd’s presentation focused on teens and young adults sending risqué photos, but the future of the medium is in the hands of adults, she believes. And that’s a problem.
“People focus heavily on teen sexting because of the legal issues and because of our concerns about teen sexuality. But adults are engaged in this practice just as much if not more than teens,” Boyd told SecurityNewsDaily.
Boyd said teens and adults in their 20s may use sexting “as part of courtship,” but adults are using sexting to cheat.
Herein lies another problem: cheaters never win, especially if they don’t have the tech savvy do it correctly.
“If you think about it,” Boyd said, “most teens have access to technology to sext and they know how to use it; adults are just learning. And boy are they messing up.”
As I’ve noted before, sexy pics have been around as long as man has been able to create a graphic image. Once Ugg and Ogg got done memorializing the mastodon they wanted to eat, they started looking for new things to draw. Things that held their attention and interest.
Naked women were high on that list. Thousands of years before Christ walked the earth artists were posting risque images on walls, in tombs, and anywhere else their little fancies led them.
Still, given the way current employers scour the internet as part of their due diligence it’s better to be safe than sorry. So go a little old school when the “I HAVE GOT TO GET NAKED!!” urge hits. Go find that special someone and get naked in person, without the cameras.
Yes, you still have to wear protection. That should never be a question.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.