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Is Sexting Sassy or Stupid?
YCteen staff
Sex Advice Column

Names have been changed.

Recently, there's been debate over how common sexting really is among teens: First, we were told that 20% of teens sexted, but a new study published in a journal called Pediatrics found that only 2.5% of teens did it. So, was sexting just a bunch of media hype?

We don't think so. Here at YCteen, a magazine written by New York City public high school students, most of us know someone who has sent a sexually explicit photo, or we've seen websites where our peers' nude or semi-nude photos have been posted (sometimes called "smut pages"). Some of us—the girls, anyway—have been pressured to send nude photos to boys via email or cell phone.

Whether the real number of teens sexting is closer to 2% or 20%, it's definitely happening and it's clear that it can result in a lot of emotional pain. So why do some teens take that risk?

Below, two YCteen writers tell their sexting stories.

Sven says: What’s the big deal?

Last year, after a few weeks of dating, my girlfriend offered to send me some keepsake photos of herself. I told her that she should and she sent me a close-up of her showing off her underwear. She looked great and I promptly showed the photo to my friends for bragging rights. However, I didn’t mention that I’d sent her a nude picture back when she asked me to match her investment. I didn’t want my friends to think I was whipped.

Sharing her picture backfired when she called and a friend answered my phone. She asked my friend if I’d ever shown him a photo of her. To my horror, he told her that the only picture he’d seen was of her ass.

She had trusted me to keep it to myself and she was angry. I promised I wouldn’t show the photo to anyone else, and she got over it after a couple of days.

Even though it caused a fight, I still don’t think sexting is a big deal. I wouldn’t have minded if she’d showed my picture to her friends, though I don’t think she did. (She tends to be more virtuous than me.)

image by Edwin Yang

If you’re happy in your own skin and comfortable with your partner, it can be a good thing. Just don’t mess it up by showing off to everyone like I did.

Shakira says: It’s for suckers with no self-esteem

Freshman year, my friend confided that she’d been text messaging a guy in our class one night when he asked her for a picture. She sent him one, then he sent her one of himself, and so on. As she told me the story, she showed me pictures of his face, his fully clothed body, his bare chest, and, finally, his penis.

Throughout her phone slideshow, she never showed or described the pictures she had sent him. But I immediately caught on. I don’t usually judge my friends, but I was disappointed that she would share those types of images with someone.

Sexting can result in public humiliation, like it did for one Massachusetts girl whose photo was passed around to 100 phones before police got involved. Maybe worse, several teens have been prosecuted for sending or receiving sexual images. For example, in 2009, three Pennsylvania girls were charged with disseminating child porn for sexting their boyfriends. The boys were charged with possession.

Even if you’re not worried about getting in trouble, you should ask yourself why you’re sexting. We teens like competition. For some—probably guys more than girls—that means accumulating as many suggestive images as possible on your phone’s memory card. For others, it means showing you’re not afraid to do something daring. I think at least the girls who send “sexts” want to look like bad chicks; they think this will help them get or keep a boyfriend. It’s a competition for attention.

But even if sexting gets you attention from your peers, it’s for all the wrong reasons. At best, you’ll be acknowledged for your looks. I’d rather be acknowledged for deeper qualities.

Several times, guys have asked me for intimate pictures through text or instant message, but I’ve never sent them. My self-esteem is high enough to wave the boys’ demands away with a flick of my wrist. My friends and family make me feel loved, so I know I don’t have to do anything I’ll regret just to get a couple of eyeballs on me.

No teen should have to send sexts to feel good about himself or herself.

For information, forums, and advice on navigating relationships in the digital world, visit thatsnotcool.com.

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