There’s a big article in this week’s Sunday Telegraph about Professor Sherry Turkle and her fears over the potentially harmful effects of new technology and especially about the hazards of sexting. The article reports that:

‘An estimated 40 per cent of people under 18, some as young as 11, have sent or received sexually explicit photos, with the same proportion believing there is “nothing wrong” with sending or receiving a topless photograph.’

Could it be the reason they think there’s ‘nothing wrong’ with it is that, indeed, there is nothing wrong with it?

There are reasons it may not be a good idea to sext a picture of your breasts, your vulva or your penis to a boyfriend or girlfriend. But that’s not because there’s anything ‘wrong’ with breasts, vulvas or penises.

I always feel very disturbed when words such as ‘lewd’, ‘obscene’ and ‘pornography’ enter this discussion. They make people feel bad about themselves and bad about sex. Some youngsters have felt suicidal over private photos finding their way onto public websites and that kind of language, and the attitude behind it, makes the situation even harder for them. To be told that your photos are ‘obscene’ or ‘lewd’ is only going to make you feel worse.

I would counsel any young person not to sext unless they’re perfectly happy for their classmates, their colleagues, their friends and acquaintances, their relatives and their parents to see the pictures. But if a youngster does sext, and if the pictures are subsequently distributed on the internet, that youngster needs to know that she or he has done nothing wrong. There’s nothing to get upset about, apart from the breach of trust. There’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Every female has a vulva, every male has a penis. It’s not a big deal.

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