It's 2013. We are in a 'sexier than ever' age. Thanks to parents who encouraged discussion, and an exciting culture of female thinkers, writers and peers, my attitudes to sex and being a woman are not as constrained as my mother's generation were at the same age. I sometimes talk about it and my generation's attitudes to it on the radio to an audience of thousands. It doesn't embarrass me, but should more be done to encourage healthy conversations about the physical and emotional sides of being in positive sexual relationships?
Especially as our sexual landscape is changing and we are facing new challenges.
The sex tape/naked photo/sexy text, or as I like to call it "sext", be it verbal or visual, has surged in popularity, largely due to the digital age we are living in. Celebrities are exposed via Twitter, some doing so quite obviously for publicity, others quite clearly not, and couples keeping the long distance love alive.
There is no denying that it has never really been seen to damage a celebrity's profile, but what about the feelings or integrity of the ones who never intended for us to see them that way? We may say they have been stupid to send the pictures out into the world, but do we ever really consider that they really didn't want this. Or are we so desensitized to celebrity that we don't need to credit them with the same human emotions as you or I would if our private texts, long distance screen shots and emails, popped up in our Facebook feeds?
I only know a small percentage of the horror this might induce myself as I recently accidentally uploaded my entire iPhone's contents to my own Facebook and actually died inside at the thought of my peers seeing my potential day by day life in pictures over the past year. Imagine your own phone's picture content up online for all to see? I doubt there isn't at least one thing in our phones we wouldn't be traumatised at the thought of our Facebook friends seeing.
It is not just affecting celebrities, there are school girls whose explicit pics are being spread among their peers in BBM chat groups, often resulting in trolling. Trolling, the passive aggressive bullying online that can result in devastating and destructive scenarios affects celebrities and young teenagers the same. We recently read the shocking and heartbreaking story of the Bullied 13-year-old girl who fell 60ft to her death 'after mobile phone footage of her being forced to perform a sex act was passed around her school'
As adults in relationships, we all 'sext', varying degrees of sexting depending on what we are comfortable with, enjoy/ or want. Some claim to never doing it, and until recently I may have accepted this with little or no argument, until accidentally stumbling upon my own mum's stash of Sexts. I KNOW!
Luckily, bar the immediate horror and the violent flinging of the brand new iPad half way across the living room on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I was able to laugh to myself at the irony. Something that quite clearly shows technology is unavoidably and undoubtedly changing the way sexual relationships are experienced and enjoyed across age groups, but I don't find any humor, only horror at the fact a 13 year old lost her life because bullies and abuse drove her to endanger herself in desperate attempt to keep a awful thing from going public.
While the take down of celebrities (notably more often female) has brought 'sext culture' to the limelight, it is not a 'celeb' issue, and using women's sexual vulnerability as a tool to entertain or bully through digital means is affecting women of all ages. Consenting and not.
A Channel 4 News investigation reveals: "explicit pics are 'the norm' for teens sending and receiving explicit naked pictures is everyday life for teenagers aged between 13-16 across Britain - and it is changing how they see sex"
So why are we so quick to condemn, point and publicly ridicule legally consenting women who find themselves exposed and ashamed by what may well be new ways, yet still intended to be private ways, of exploring and conducting sexual relationships? And how is this going to impact on the generation Channel 4 are talking about?
What message does it send to young boys and girls starting out on their sexual discoveries? By exposing a celebrity's private sext moments so casually, are we teaching young people firstly that a woman should be embarrassed or ashamed of things they do in private and committed relationships?
David Cameron's new advisor on childhood, Claire Perry MP, says parents should take clearer responsibility for seeing what their children are saying on Facebook and texting on mobile phone, but i'm not sure spying is the answer. Should we not be talking to them about this 'new way' , be we young, old, famous, or not , who seem to be having fun sexually?
Isn't it time we talk 'safe sext' so the risks of trolling and bullying women based upon their sexual experience is not 'the norm' and girls as young as 12 and as old as 60somethings are thinking twice before taking that picture? AND when was the last time a man's sexy picture made its way online in an outcry of embarrassment and shame?
It's time to stamp out bullying online and teach people that firstly a woman's private sexual experiences are not to be used against her as a way of torture or ridicule. Until we as adults and media are shown to set that example how are our own young people supposed to follow suit? The irony in websites that report on the grave effects online bulling in one breath and takes part in online bullying happily the next, confuses me as a adult.
I know I'm not alone in receiving, sending, or having something private, I don't intend for anyone else other than the intended recipient to look over them, in my eyes these are private things meant for only one other person.
While I'm not a celebrity (thank god) if someone wanted to hurt me by making public something that was always intended to be private , on any of the social media platforms, I suppose they could do so with ease among my peers, but why should this be entertainment?
Is it not more of a worry that our 12 year olds are doing it and being taught by our media and own behavior online that using 'sexts' is a acceptable way of ridiculing, trolling and causing hurt to people on a scale incomparable to what used to be just the school playground.
Be we young, old, celebrity or ordinary, people are using new ways of entertaining sexual relationships. These should be done in safe and trusting relationships, and while there is no knowing that one day the person you trust might break that trust, we know we can discuss, teach and change attitudes. Sex should never be used against a women as a tool for punishment. We should be talking about and acknowledging 'Safe Sext' and anti bullying full stop.
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