sexting

The Pressure to Sext: What You Need to Know About Sexting Coercion

You’ve probably heard teachers or parents say it a million times:

Don’t sext!

But what if your partner is pressuring or forcing you to do it?

A recent Indiana University study indicated that one in five young adults who sext experiences sexting coercion. Sexting coercion is when someone pressures or forces their partner to digitally send explicit pictures or sexts. It’s a form of digital and sexual abuse and, as the study found, can be very traumatizing to the victim. We know that digital abuse is serious not only because it is traumatic, but also because once you send something electronically to someone else (whether it’s words or pictures) it’s no longer under your control. It can be copied, altered or shared with anyone else, and never completely erased. This can often intensify the trauma that a victim feels.

Sexting coercion is a form of abuse that we hear about a lot at loveisrespect. Some people think this is normal behavior; that having your partner pressure you into sexting is just “something that happens” to everyone. We want to make it clear that it isn’t “normal,” although it may be common, but it is abusive. You have the right to protect your own body and choose when/with whom to participate in any kind of sexual activity — that includes deciding when not to sext with someone.

What Should I Do?

My partner is pressuring me to sext, and I don’t want to.

It’s important to understand that this is a form of digital and sexual abuse. You have the right to say “no” to anything you’re not comfortable with, and that includes sexting. Pressuring or guilting you into doing something you are not comfortable with is not okay and never something you deserve. If you feel safe doing so, tell your partner that you are not comfortable sexting and would like them to respect your boundaries.

It’s also important to know that there is the potential of being charged with possession and/or distribution of child pornography if anyone involved is under 18 years old. If you think it would be safe to bring this up to your partner, you can remind them that they (or even both of you) can get into legal trouble for engaging in sexting.

While we never advocate for someone to send explicit pictures of themselves because we know this can be a safety threat later on, we do believe that each person is an expert in their own situation. If you feel like sending an explicit picture is the best way to protect your immediate safety, there are some things you can do to stay as safe as possible. For example, if you’re afraid to say no to your partner’s demands for explicit pictures, consider leaving out identifying features (such as your face, tattoos, birthmarks etc.). This precaution can help protect your anonymity if your partner tries to use the pictures for blackmail later.

I sexted with my partner, and now they’re threatening to share it with everyone if I don’t do whatever they tell me to do.

This is such a difficult situation to be in, and you never deserve to have your partner threaten or intimidate you in this way. These types of threats are often referred to as “revenge porn.” Many states are starting to pass laws around revenge porn, and you can learn more about these laws here. If this is happening to you, we may be able to put you in touch with a legal advocate who can help you explore your options. There are some useful resources, like undox.me, that help survivors of revenge porn get explicit photos taken down.

You do not have to go through this alone. It’s a good idea to turn to your support system - which can include trusted friends, family members or a counselor – to help support you during this time. This can be a stressful situation, so we also encourage you to take time to practice self-care whenever possible.

Is your partner pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do? Get in touch with a loveisrespect advocate any time by phone, chat or text!