‘Sexting’ is typically referred to as sending a nude photo through a phone. There is nothing new about sharing a nude photo with a beloved. You just used to have to go to a seedy photography shop to get your film developed, or use a Polaroid and hand it over. The chances of lots of people seeing the photo were low. Remember needing to spring for double prints? Now, within seconds, thousands of people can see your nude photo depending on which app or website it gets uploaded to. Stats on the prevalence of sexting among teens are unclear, because studies range between 9%-60% (1, 2) of teens reporting that they have ever shared a nude image of themselves. So it’s difficult to tell how common sexting actually is. In order for us to address sexting in a realistic way with teens, we must first understand the sexual culture they live in that normalizes sexting.
(1) Mitchell, K. J., Jones, L., Finkelhor, D., & Wolak, J. (2014b). Youth involvement in sexting: Findings from the youth internet safety studies. Crimes Against Children Research Center, 1-11.
(2) Crimmins, D. M., & Seigfried-Spellar, K. C. (2014). Peer attachment, sexual experiences, and risky online behaviors as predictors of sexting behaviors among undergraduate students. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 268-275.
(3) Walrave, M., Ponnet, K., Van Ouytsel, J., Van Gool, E., Heirman, W., & Verbeek, A. (2015). Whether or not to engage in sexting: Explaining adolescent sexting behaviour by applying the prototype willingness model. Telematics and Informatics, (April). doi:10.1016/j.tele.2015.03.008
(4) Vanden Abeele, M., Campbell, S. W., Eggermont, S., & Roe, K. (2014). Sexting, Mobile Porn Use, and Peer Group Dynamics: Boys’ and Girls' Self-Perceived Popularity, Need for Popularity, and Perceived Peer Pressure. Media Psychology, 17(1), 6–33. doi:10.1080/15213269.2013.801725.
(5) Ringrose, J., Harvey, L., Gill, R., & Livingstone, S. (2013). Teen girls, sexual double standards and ‘sexting’: Gendered value in digital image exchange. Feminist Theory, 14, 305-323.
(6) Milhausen, R. R., & Herold, E. S. (1999). Does the sexual double standard still exist? Perceptions of university women. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 361-368.
(7) Calogero, R. M., & Thompson, J. K. (2009). Sexual self-esteem in American and British college women: Relations with self-objectification and eating problems. Sex Roles, 60, 160-173.
(8) Grabe, S., & Hyde, J. S. (2009). Body objectification, MTV, and psychological outcomes among female Adolescents1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39, 2840-2858.
(9) Schick, V. R., Calabrese, S. K., Rima, B. N., & Zucker, A. N. (2010). Genital appearance dissatisfaction: Implications for women’s genital image self-consciousness, sexual esteem, sexual satisfaction, and sexual risk. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 394-404.
(10) Muehlenkamp, J. J., & Saris–Baglama, R. N. (2002). Self–objectification and its psychological outcomes for college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 371-379.
(11) Tolman, D. L. (2005). Dilemmas of desire: Teenage girls talk about sexuality. Harvard: University Press. American Psychological Association, T. F. O. T. S. O. G. (2007). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. APA Talk Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
(12) Sabina, C., Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (2008). The nature and dynamics of Internet pornography exposure for youth CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(6), 691-693.
(13) Albury, K. (2014). Porn and sex education, porn as sex education. Porn Studies, 1, 172-181.
Photo Source: Dollar Photo Club
You may be thinking your kids are downloading apps because they are just a simple way for them to keep in contact with their friends. This is certainly true for most kids, but unfortunately, even innocent use of most of these apps can land a kid in a situation he/she never intended to be in. Here are some apps that are popular among kids and why they are potentially problematic for them:
1. Tinder: An app that is used for hooking-up and dating. Users can rate profiles and find potential hook-ups via GPS location tracking. 450 million profiles are rated every day! The good news is, this app pulls information from user’s Facebook profiles, so it is more authenticated than other apps.
Problem: It is easy for adults and minors to find one another.
2. Snapchat: This app allows a user to send photos and videos to anyone on his/her friend list. The sender can determine how long the receiver can view the image and then the image “destructs” after the allotted time.
Problem: It is the #1 app used for sexting, mostly because people think it is the safer way to sext. However, the “snaps” can easily be recovered & the receiver can take a screen shot and share it with others. Also, a lot of images from Snapchat get posted to revenge porn sites, called “snap porn”.
3. Blendr: A flirting app used to meet new people through GPS location services. You can send messages, photos, videos, rate the hotness of other users, etc.
Problem: There are no authentication requirements, so sexual predators can contact minors, minors can meet up with adults. And again, the sexting.
4. Kik Messenger: An instant messaging app with over 100 million users that allows users to exchange videos, pics, and sketches. Users can also send YouTube videos and create memes & digital gifs.
Problem: Kids use the app for sexting and sending nude selfies through the app is common. The term “sext buddy” is being replaced with “Kik buddy”. Kids use Reddit and other forum sites to place classified ads for sex by giving out their Kik usernames. Also, Kik does not offer any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, thus making it easy for sexual predators to use the app to interact with minors.
5. Whisper: Whisper is an anonymous confession app. It allows users to superimpose text over a picture in order to share their thoughts and feelings anonymously. However, you post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can also search for users posting within a mile from you.
Problem: Due to the anonymity, kids are posting pics of other kids with derogatory text superimposed on the image. Also, users do not have to register to use Whisper and can use the app to communicate with other users nearby through GPS. A quick look at the app and you can see that online relationships are forming through the use of this app, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. Sexual predators also use the app to locate kids and establish a relationship. One man in Seattle, Washington was charged with raping a 12-year-old girl he met on this app in 2013.
6. Ask.fm: Ask.fm is one of the most popular social networking sites that is almost exclusively used by kids. It is a Q&A site that allows users to ask other users questions while remaining anonymous.
Problem: Kids will often ask repeated derogatory questions that target one person. Due to the anonymity of the badgering, it creates a virtually consequence-free form of cyber-bullying. Ask.fm has been associated with 9 documented cases of suicide in the U.S. and the U.K.
7. Yik Yak: An app that allows users to post text-only “Yaks” of up to 200 characters. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking.
Problem: Users are exposed to and are contributing sexually explicit content, derogatory language, and personal attacks. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.
8. Poof: This app allows users to make other apps “disappear” on their phone. Kids can hide any app they don’t want you to see by opening the app and selecting other apps.
Problem: It’s obvious, right? Luckily, you can no longer purchase this app. But, if it was downloaded before it became unavailable, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that these types of apps are created and then terminated quickly, but similar ones are continuously being created. Others to look for: Hidden Apps, App Lock, and Hide It Pro.
9. Omegle: This app is primarily used for video chatting. When you use Omegle, you do not identify yourself through the service. Instead, chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger”. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes.
Problem: Sexual predators use this app to find kids to collect personal information from in order to track them down more easily in person.
10. Down: This app, which used to be called Bang with Friends, is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: They can indicate whether or not a friend is someone they’d like to hang with or someone they are “down” to hook-up with.
Problem: Although identifying someone you are willing to hook-up with doesn’t mean you will actually hook-up with them, it creates a hook-up norm within a peer group. Depending on your sexual values, this might be something you don’t want for your child. Also, because of the classification system, a lot of kids will feel left out or unwanted, which can lead to anxiety, etc.
The most important thing you can do as a parent to protect your children from dangers that are associated with the use of these apps is to talk with them frequently about their social lives. You can start by establishing yourself as an approachable parent and talking with them early and often about sexuality and romantic relationships. Without a strong bond and open communication, trying to regulate and monitor internet use won’t be very effective. However, setting technology boundaries (when and where they access the internet) and monitoring their online behavior can be effective if you have a strong foundation to build on. You can access a list of monitoring software I recommend here. Just remember to keep on top of it, there is no software that can eliminate risk or the need to parent. Ultimately, your goal is to raise an individual who can manage his/her online and offline behavior in a healthy way because he/she wants to. The process starts with you nurturing a strong emotional bond, leading by example, and setting the boundaries. You can do it!
Photo Source: Dollar Photo Club
Talking about ‘the birds and the bees’ with your kids has never been easy for any generation, but it has also never been as important to do as it is today. If you don’t talk about ‘the birds and the bees’ with your kids, the internet will. In the internet version, the birds and the bees have an orgy and they record it. Then one of the birds posts the video on an inter-species revenge porn site and as a result, one of the bees can’t get into the college of her choice. In other words, your kids are learning about sex whether or not they get comprehensive sexuality education at school, whether or not their friends are abstinent or sexually active, and whether or not you have had ‘the talk’. So what’s a parent to do? Well, for starters you can attend my Straight Talk Parent Series workshop (Adolescents, Sex, and Porn: Everything You Wish You Didn’t Need to Know) on January 21st from 7-9pm in the library at Mount Nittany Middle School. You will learn about today’s sexual youth culture as well as equip yourself with the tools to ignite an ongoing discussion about sexuality with your kids. Here is what we will be up to:
This may seem like a daunting task, but with new knowledge and a little bit of practice, you will be able to connect with your children and help them develop into sexually competent people. In honor of this workshop, I’ll be dedicating the next several posts to discussion of tips for parents to talk with their kids about sexuality and pornography. I hope to see you on January 21st!
Photo Source: Dollar Photo Club
A documentary called Porn on the Brain aired in the UK, but you can watch it on YouTube for a limited time. I recommend it, but there are some intense images and subject matter, so keep that in mind before watching. Like all documentaries, there is an agenda. However, I think this documentary’s agenda is more than reasonable. To me it seems that they have highlighted what a lot of folks know to be true: Internet pornography is not the same as the pornography from "back in the day" and use of it in adolescence is pervasive. Yet, no one is talking about it.
Topics such as how pornography has changed since the advent of the internet, how internet pornography is addictive, how adolescents are affected by pornography differently than adults (due to lack of a pre-frontal cortex), and how sexuality education can include pornography education are all covered. What’s great, is that it is all put together and narrated by the former editor of Loaded magazine, Martin Daubney, who was never anti-porn, and who used to actually like porn. His perspective is very similar to mine, although arrived at very differently. He describes growing up with pornography, but ultimately realizes that pornography today is vastly different than it was in the 80s and 90s, and therefore we need a vastly different approach to addressing it. What I argue in my lectures, is that it is no longer adequate to only analyze pornography from a limited pro vs. anti moralistic perspective. Pornography needs to be discussed from a neurological, physiological and behavioral perspective. I am a social and developmental scientist, so I typically rely on statistics and peer reviewed research to trust information in order to understand something. Yet, there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made for us to fully understand sexuality and pornography use in adolescence, or even adulthood, through the scientific study of it for two reasons:
1. There are ethical considerations to be made when you conduct research on sensitive topics. In order to conduct a scientific study, one needs to get approval from their IRB, which is a bureau that approves a study as ethical before data collection can begin. Thus, topics such as violent pornography use, masturbation, exposure to incest, exposure to group sex, experienced fantasies, etc. are often off limits in the U.S. because reporting on these topics can potentially be traumatizing to participants. However, some European countries have produced informative studies, most likely due to their more realistic and integrated views of sexuality.
2. If we do get IRB approval to ask participants about their experiences with pornography in the U.S., we are limited in what we know, by what we measure. For example, this is a popular item used in a multiple-item scale to measure pornography use:
“How often do you view pornography?” CIRCLE ONE
1-Never 2-Rarely 3-Sometimes 4-Often 5-Always
Do you think that question paints a real picture of someone’s pornography use? Do you think that questions changes what we know about pornography use? Yeah, me neither. Therefore, because we have a limited understanding of internet pornography use, simply asking people what their experience is contributes to our ability to understand what we need to measure in order to analyze those data statistically. This is why I think the work featured in this documentary as well as studies conducted in Europe, have done what social and developmental scientists in the U.S. haven’t yet. They simply asks adolescents how they experience pornography.
Although the documentary does interview addiction experts and features a groundbreaking study on pornography addiction that used fMRI measurement, there is quite a bit of research on the topic of pornography that this documentary doesn’t reference. They say that there is only speculation on the affects from pornography use so far, but no real evidence. This really isn’t true. I would normally overlook such a thing, but I'm endorsing this documentary, so I want to be clear: Although there is still a lot of work to be done, there has been research on the affects of pornography use for decades and internet pornography more recently. In the documentary, a young man is featured who is preoccupied with sex, who is unsatisfied with the relationships he currently has with women, and whose pornography use is negatively affecting other aspects of his life. This is only one case, yet studies with larger samples have found similar findings.
For example, adolescents who use pornography consistently are less satisfied with their sex life in emerging adulthood (1,2), pornography use in early adolescence is longitudinally associated with an increased sexual preoccupancy a year later (3), and young men who are dependent on pornography have similarly destructive life patterns as substance abusers (4, 5). Further, there is some evidence that pornography addiction is successfully treated with the drug naltrexone (6), which is a drug used to treat substance use dependency. Finally, a study of Greek adolescents found that infrequent and frequent internet pornography use is associated with social maladjustment such as conduct problems and antisocial tendencies (7). Despite the documentary’s flaw of not recognizing at least some of the hundreds of studies that have been conducted, I think the message of this film is clear: We need to draw even more attention to the scientific study and evidence based education of internet pornography use.
Given the research that has been done and the reality this documentary highlights, we need pornography education in addition to sexuality education, and we need it yesterday! It is clear that our cyber-reality is having a profound effect on how we form relationships, interact with people and live our lives. Every person deserves to know how they can live, parent, teach and grow in such a way to insure that they are contributing to the positive development of romantic relationships and sexuality in themselves and the individuals around them. I think this documentary represents a shift in perspective that I have been arguing for the past five years. The old perspective regarding pornography from the 1950s-1990s mostly revolved around these questions: “Should we allow pornography to be produced, sold and consumed by adults?” or “How does pornography use affect someone’s perception of women?” The new perspective should evolve (and maybe has evolved) to include: “What are we going to do about our kids having unlimited access to rape, incest, sexual abuse and sexual humiliation on the internet?" And, “what kind of impact will this brand new cyber-reality have on their brains and consequently, their lives?”
(1) Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2009). Adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit internet material and sexual satisfaction: A longitudinal study. Human Communication Research, 35(2), 171-194.
(2) Štulhofer, A., Buško, V., & Landripet, I. (2010). Pornography, sexual socialization, and satisfaction among young men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(1), 168-178.
(3) Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2008). Adolescents' exposure to sexually explicit internet material and sexual preoccupancy: A three-wave panel study. Media Psychology, 11(2), 207-234.
(4) Cavaglion, G. (2009). Cyber-porn dependence: Voices of distress in an Italian internet self-help community. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 7(2), 295-310.
(5) Cavaglion, G. (2008). Narratives of self-help of cyberporn dependents. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 15(3), 195-216.
(6) Bostwick, J. M., & Bucci, J. A. (2008). Internet sex addiction treated with naltrexone. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 83(2), 226-230.
(7) Tsitsika, A., Critselis, E., Kormas, G., Konstantoulaki, E., Constantopoulos, A., & Kafetzis, D. (2009). Adolescent pornographic internet site use: A multivariate regression analysis of the predictive factors of use and psychosocial implications. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(5), 545-550.
Some excellent progress has been made to put an end to revenge porn this week. Revenge porn is essentially an image or video of someone who is nude or engaging in sexual activity, that is posted on the internet without the consent of the person in the image or video. Last month, Erica Goode at the New York Times wrote about the experiences of female victims with ex-partners who decided to get "revenge" on them by posting private nude images online. Now, there will be a criminal penalty for anyone in California who is convicted of posting sexual images of someone online without their consent, thanks to the Anti-Revenge Porn Bill that was signed into action on Tuesday, October 1, 2013. Before this law, if someone wanted to pursue legal action toward someone who posted images without their consent, they had to go through costly civil court proceedings to sue for defamation of character and/or privacy infringement.
Revenge porn is not a new problem. In fact, it used to be confused with amateur porn. When today’s top 5 porn sites first started-up they were primarily comprised of revenge porn. These sites (which I will purposely not name) are designed like YouTube, where users can post videos and images of women who are nude or having sex in order to provide free content to other users. Thus, most porn users who only go to these popular sites think they aren’t supporting the porn industry because they “aren’t paying for porn” and “they are looking at real women”. However, it is hard to classify that type of porn use as righteous with video and image captions like, “Watch me *#%K my ex!” or “Check out this chick *#%ked. I don’t even know her name!” Until recently, no one knew what to call this type of porn and thus it defaulted to ‘amateur porn’. Today there is also content from older pornographic films and international pornographic films on these sites in order to avoid copyright issues, but revenge porn still dominates the content.
Unfortunately, the new bill doesn't solve all problems associated with revenge porn, but it is a great start. The law only makes some forms of revenge porn a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine because it only applies to photos taken by others that were posted with an intent to cause serious distress. The bill does not address nude selfies, which can be given to a partner with the intent of private use only. In 2010, an article in the Iowa Law Review explained the role the state could play in protecting youth from the unanticipated, reputational and psychological consequences of sending nude pictures to a romantic partner via “sexting” (1). This bill does little to address sexting among minors, which is still legally considered “self-produced child pornography” (2), despite its growing popularity with 20-30% of teens having sent naked pictures of themselves (3).
If a woman takes a nude selfie, it doesn’t mean that she intends to make that image public. Just as we recognize that two people having had consensual sex doesn't mean later encounters are necessarily consensual, we should recognize that a picture offered as a consensual sexual gesture can later be turned into a tool to harass and abuse. Even though it is certainly more the case that girls and women are the ones in the photos and boys and men are the distributers, I teach young women not to share or distribute nude pictures and I also teach young men not to share or distribute nude pictures. I definitely think it is natural to want to share nude images with someone you trust. Sadly, sharing nude photos and videos without detrimental consequences was a luxury that was afforded to those living before a digital age, when it cost money to get “double-prints” instead of “single-prints” and you had to go to the trouble of getting your nude images developed by someone other than the person down at the local Rite-Aid. The limit in quantity potential for nude pictures before the digital age made the possibility of your entire school, company or organization seeing those photos, slim to none. The motivation today is also less internally-driven and more externally-driven by an effort to emulate sexual imagery in the media in order to compete with other women in our “pornified culture” (4). Many of the women and girls I talk with also think that providing naked images of themselves to a boyfriend will ensure that he won’t masturbate to porn, but that rarely works because pornography isn’t about nudity it is about novelty.
Even though revenge porn website enthusiasts swear their motivation is nothing but an opportunity 'to look at real naked women' in reality, the act of uploading a nude picture to punish a woman for leaving you is less of an act of sexual expression and more similar to the criminal behavior of stalking and harassment (5). It is clear that non-consensual distribution of sexual imagery and videos is intended to humiliate the victim. With that in mind, we should amend stalking and harassment legislation to reflect our new cyber-reality. Just because the abusive acts are happening in cyberspace doesn't mean the experience of being humiliated and harassed by an ex is any less terrifying. So, what can you do to help? Please sign this petition and read more about what else you can do to criminalize revenge porn in your state.
1. Ryan, E. M. (2010). Sexting: How the state can prevent a moment of indiscretion from leading to a lifetime of unintended consequences for minors and young adults. Iowa Law Review, 96, 357.
2. Leary, M. G. (2009). Sexting or Self-Produced Child-Pornography-The Dialog Continues-Structured Prosecutorial Discretion within a Multidisciplinary Response. Journal of Social Policy & Law, 17, 486.
3. Eraker, E. C. (2010). Stemming Sexting: Sensible Legal Approaches to Teenagers' Exchange of Self-Produced Pornography. Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 25, 555.
4. Hall, P. C., West, J. H., & McIntyre, E. (2012). Female self-sexualization in MySpace.com personal profile photographs. Sexuality& Culture, 6(1), 1-16.
5. Davis, K. E., Ace, A., & Andra, M. (2000). Stalking perpetrators and psychological maltreatment of partners: Anger-jealousy, attachment insecurity, need for control, and break-up context. Violence and Victims, 15(4), 407-425.
Photo Source: endrevengeporn.org
About this Blog:
I'm here to help us discuss sexuality, gender, sexual media, and social media by integrating information from academic and mainstream sources. I do this so you can be informed about what is going on in the sex research world and apply the research to your life. I hope this process produces more sexually competent people who raise sexually competent kids.
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