Here’s the deal. Smart phones and all the attendant crap that goes with them (texts, snapchat, vines, and sexting) are here to stay. We’re not going to put that genie back in the bottle. It’s like pornography on the internet. I’m 40 now and I’m pretty sure that I’d still be in my basement room if, as a teenager, I’d had access to the kind of porn that’s out there now. A decent Sunshine Girl or really good Sears catalogue could keep me inside for hours. I have no idea how I would have navigated relationships with girls if I’d had a phone with a camera and so did she. I do know that there are a few girls/women that I’ve been involved with over the years with whom there’d have certainly been some sexting and risqué messages. (Actually, now that I think about it, I wish I’d had access to this tech back then – wow.)
All that to point out that this stuff isn’t going away. There’s been instances where sext pictures have been spread around used to bully people, to horrible effect. But the bullying isn’t new, neither is the sex or the exploration of sex. I started the exploration on my own and continue a certain amount of solo research into the subject. Around grade eight I had some help from my then girlfriend. I remember that there was a lot of innocence to our time together and at no point did we feel like we were doing anything wrong. I look back now and realize that either one of us could have taken what we learned about each other and used it to make the other person miserable. We could have spread rumours about each other and made private things public. It would have been horrible to be the victim of that and to be the perpetrator of it. There was trust between us. Granted, teenagers are not great judges of anything, including who you can trust. I don’t know that I was a particularly good judge of character, but I do know that I never really found myself in an intimate situation with someone I didn’t trust (at the time). Being a guy, it’s probably a bit less important that I feel I can trust someone before I get intimate with them. For women and girls it’s much different. Any kind of intimacy means opening yourself up to someone else. You lower any defences you have and let them in. The hope is that while they’re in there (so to speak) they’re not doing any damage. Obviously not everyone will be deserving of the trust that we give them.
My daughter is eleven years old. She’s a little girl, but one day she’ll be a big girl and then a woman. She will become intimate with people. She’ll explore and share and become a sexual person. What can I teach her? I can teach her about trust. I want her to know that she can kiss and fool around with her chosen partner (though I’ll hate knowing that it’s happening) or send them sexts and such. It’s ok to do all of those things, but I want her to know that she needs to trust them first. If someone deserves my daughter’s trust, them maybe they deserve her. She’ll make good choices and she’ll make disastrous choices. I plan on being there for all of them. My fervent hope is that if I can teach her to recognize the importance of trust them maybe we can avoid some of the bad ones.
So, if you have to send them that naked or almost naked picture of yourself then please ask yourself if they have your trust. If you have to think about the answer then they don’t. The genie is out of the bottle and it’s not going back in. Once the picture is out of your phone, it’s not going back in. The person you sent it to can keep it and cherish what you decided to share with them or they can send it out into the world for others to see. Are you ready to show yourself to the entire world?