How the COVID-19 Pandemic Led to a Sexting Epidemic
Here is one unexpected side effect of the coronavirus pandemic: Americans have become sexting pros. Research shows that sexting has skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 shutdown, and the NYC Health Department and Toronto Public Health actually have recommended sexting as a way to safely enjoy intimacy during this difficult time. But is there such as thing as safe sexting?
Many respected health sources are suggesting people try sexting right now, and Americans are listening. And sexting can offer a way for lonely Americans to partly satisfy their need for intimacy and connection, but it is not without risk.
While sexting is touted as a way to enjoy sexual intimacy without the risk of coronavirus exposure, there are other pressing concerns to consider.
New research from Indiana University shows that 91% of people with a sexting history say that they have received an unwanted sexual image. And receiving such images is not harmless: 70 percent of women who have received an unwanted sexual image say that they are left feeling violated and disgusted.
People still need to become well-versed in the concept of consent as it relates to sexting and X-rated video calls.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the importance of consent and looking for an enthusiastic and sober-minded ‘yes’ from your partner before engaging in sexual activity, but we haven’t spent as much time examining digital behavior. You need consent before ever sending a person a sexual image.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just say, ‘Can I send you an intimate photo?’ or ‘Do you want to exchange nude photos?’”
Don’t proceed until you have consent. And once you have consent, be aware that anything you send is no longer under your control. Meaning, it can be saved, or screenshot, or sent to other people, or even put on the Internet. This can have a long-term impact on your mental health, your career, your relationships, your reputation and more...so never sext with someone who you don’t fully trust because you’re truly putting your body in their hands, even though you might be separated by many miles.
It's important to keep in mind that video chats can be recorded or shared without a participant’s knowledge. Remember, it’s the Internet. Even if your partner is 100% trustworthy and ethical, you never know who might be listening or who could hack in.
Does this mean that sexting should be avoided at all costs?
No, it’s important to be realistic and to understand that this quarantine is leaving many Americans, especially young people, and single people, without any outlet for intimacy and connection. But, we can’t tout sexting as a risk-free activity. Sure, you might not be exposed to the coronavirus, but it is still not 100% safe.
Instead, turn to activities like Zoom dating, online happy hours, and enjoy socially-distant meetups outdoors while wearing a mask.
Socialize as much as possible in a careful and distant manner. Then, you can meet your own intimate needs at home, by yourself, via self-stimulation, without the risks associated with sexting. Self-stimulation is a completely safe and healthy activity that can help you get through this difficult time.