Sexts From Last Night: When Cell Phones and Teenage Hormones Mix

Cell phones are just one way that Staples students partake in sending explicit messages to peers. | Photo courtesy of SXC

Cell phones are just one way that Staples students partake in sending explicit messages to peers. | Photo courtesy of SXC

Becca Bobrow ’11 & Farrel Levenson ’11
Opinions Editors

Cell phones are just one way that Staples students partake in sending explicit messages to peers. | Photo courtesy of SXC

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the students.

 Vanessa Hudgens has done it. Tiger Woods has done it. And Staples students have done it.

In a society influenced by the media and dominated by technology, instead of interacting in person, teenagers are sending explicit photographs and messages to each other through their cell phones, a practice known as “sexting.”

“The use of sexual messages and images are prevalent through the media, and as an advertising tool,” Westport sex therapist Amit Avara said. “So it’s no wonder the younger generation use[s] today’s technology to express their sexuality by sharing and exchanging sexual messages.”

The visual component of sexting is illegal under both state and federal law,  as the creation, possession and distribution of child pornography, is considered felony offense that can result in jail time and registration as a sex offender. However, many teenagers are not bothered by this, choosing to engage in sexting anyway.

In an Inklings poll involving 206 students, 76 reported they had sent a sext and 116 reported they had received one.   It should be noted that the poll administered by “Inklings” was often received in a humorous manner by students, which may have skewed the results.

The disparity between the percentage of students who sent sexts and those who had received them could be due to the ability of the recipients to forward the sexts to other people. 

While the sender may have only intended for one person to view the sext, it can get passed on to others at the discretion of the all secondary recipients rather than the original sender.

“From the moment a picture is sent into cyberspace, its there forever, not yours any longer, and you never can tell when it will show up, or whom is going to see it (peers, siblings, parents, teachers, police officers, sex offenders, and in the future, college administrators, and potential employers),” Arava said.

 Jenn Hoets ’11 recalled an incident in which the forwarding of sexts was evident.  

 “I remember talking to a bunch of guys and they were all like yeah we’ve all seen her naked. Who hasn’t?” Hoets said.

The distribution of sexts can, in many cases, cause humiliation and pain.

As a junior girl, who wished to remain anonymous, noted when a picture of her was sent around, “I was completely embarrassed; I was terrified walking in the hallways…I received unwanted attention from people I had never even met before.”

An anonymous sophomore girl, echoed these feeling swith a memory of an equally bad sexting experience.  “[The recipient] threatened to send the pictures to other people if [my friend and I] didn’t send more. We regretted it so much…it turned into a whole big mess,” the sophomore girl said.

Although their privacy is often violated, teenagers still are inclined to sext for a variety of reasons, one being shyness. Inklings poll showed that 18 percent of students thought that people sexted to overcome shyness. A female student, who for purposes of anonymity will be known as Jane, acknowledged this as a factor in her sexting.

“I’m a really shy and nervous person and so if you can kind of send something flirty and suggestive it makes it easier to [eventually] do something in person,” Jane said. 

Sexting makes you feel “sexy and wanted” when you are engaging in it, but regardless of this pretense, “he realizes that it’s not a porn star, it’s just me.”

Boredom has lead students to eschew these consequences. 49.7 percent of those polled cited boredom as a reason for sexting. This sentiment was reflected in the comment of an aforementioned junior girl.

“I’m not looking to date, I’m looking for a half hour of having fun,” Jane said.

This half hour of fun, however, can lead to the deterioration of a reputation. In the short term sexters may feel wanted and noticed, but the long term consequences are not always considered.

“No one comforted me: all they could do was accuse me of being a slut. It was a double standard, while I was being called a whore, he got props,” the junior girl said.

From the perspective of the recipient, the practice of sexting can be looked upon with disdain.

“I feel it is sleazy and demeaning,” said Andrew McNair ‘10, who

has never sexted. He has decided to stay away from the practice, which he calls “embarrassing.”       

Nevertheless, McNair understands why people choose to sext.

“I believe individuals sext as a means of releasing sexual tensions within themselves or as a means of catharsis – [a] purging of emotions,” McNair said.

“I would inform or persuade them to choose an alternate way of releasing sexual tensions. For those who are unaware of the [copious] amount of ways they can release their sexual tension they can see a health educator or peers,” McNair said.

Although there are other ways to deal with this tension, the Inklings poll found that 27 percent of students believe people sext due to peer pressure, which might make students more tempted to participate.

25 percent of the students polled in Staples felt that people sext as an alternative to sex.

A senior girl who sends sexy messages to her boyfriend via text expressed this feeling, saying,s “It is a fun and entertaining alternative to sex and a lot of boyfriends/girlfriends do it as an alternative or in addition to sex, which is completely okay.”

She acknowledges the possibilities of sexts being passed on and warns others to “make sure you trust the person you are sexting.”

Many people are not as careful; 42 percent of the students polled believe that people sext as a joke. 

However, this makes it even more likely for the sext to be forwarded if the receiver does not take the sender seriously.

The sophomore girl said her sexting experience started out as joke but quickly became serious when the recipient used the pictures as blackmail. 

Staples social worker Erin Buell said that sexting can “have serious social and emotional consequences,” if the messages get out and therefore, should not be taken lightly.