Sexting is when a person sends sexual messages, pictures or videos to another person. It’s up to each person to decide for themselves if they’re comfortable with sexting, and it’s okay to tell someone if you don’t want to receive sexts.
You have a right to feel safe and comfortable – if someone is sending you unwanted sexts, they should respect your boundaries when you tell them that it’s not okay.
Receiving unwanted sexts, for example when someone sends you nude photos without your consent, can be uncomfortable and even distressing. Here’s some advice on how to deal with the situation if this is happening to you.
Unwanted sexts from someone you are involved with
If you are texting someone you like, have started seeing or are in a relationship with and they send you an unwanted sext it can difficult to know what to do. You may feel worried that if you tell the person you do not want to sext they might get offended or embarrassed and not want to continue to message you.
As with any sexual activity, sexting must be consensual. This means that it should only happen between two people who both want to do it, who are sober and able to give consent, and that both people feel comfortable to stop sexting at any time without the other person reacting negatively.
What to do if you receive unwanted sexts
If you do not want to sext you should message, call or speak in person to whoever has sent you the message and tell them that you do not want to receive messages or photos that are sexual. Most people will respect how you feel and agree not to send sexts unless you both want to.
If someone gets angry, sulks or tries to convince you to send sexts, you should not feel under pressure to do so. Tell them that you do not want to sext and that they should respect how you feel. If they persist you may decide to stop messaging the person until they agree to only message in a way that you are both comfortable with.
Unwanted sexts from someone you know
If someone you know sends you a sext, such as someone in school, college or work you should not feel that you have to respond to it. If you would like to do so, you can message them and tell them that you do not want to receive those sort of messages and that it is inappropriate. You can also block the person online or on your phone and, where possible, report their profile on the social media platform.
Unwanted sexts and sexual harassment
If someone sends you unwanted sexts, this is a type of sexual harassment and you do not have to accept it. If it happens in work, school or college, you can report the person to management, your teachers, or to the students’ union. By law your employer has to protect you from sexual harassment in the workplace and this includes receiving unwanted sexts.
If someone is sending you unwanted sexts you are within your rights to report this to the Gardaí.
Someone I don’t know is sending me sexts
If you receive sexts from someone who you don’t know, it is best not to engage with the person and to block them from contacting you on your phone or across social media.
Sometimes people send naked photos or sexual messages on dating apps such as Tinder or Grindr, to people that they do not know, if you do not want to receive these messages you can block them from your profile on the dating app. If you would like to get to know someone on a dating app but do not want to engage sexually with them, message the person and let them know what it is that you are looking for. If they respect what you want, then you may be able to continue to talk to them and get to know them.
If you are underage and the person who has sent it is also under 18
If you are under the age of 18, it is illegal to send sexual messages or media (photos or videos), even if you are sending them to someone who is also under 18. It is also illegal to be in possession of sexual messages or media from someone who is under the age of 18.
For example, if someone sends you a naked photo of themselves and they are under the age of 18 they are technically creating and distributing child pornography by sending it to you.
If you are sent a naked photo of someone without their consent, such as being sent a picture of someone in your school by someone else, the person who sent the photo to you is distributing child pornography and this is a serious offence.
Originally the laws on having sexual images of people under the age of 18, were meant for people trading child abuse images, and not for young people sending nudes. For this reason, the punishments for having naked images of people underage are harsh and can include imprisonment, a fine and also being put on the sex offenders register. It is hard to say for certain what the punishment would be if an underage person was brought to court for exchanging nudes with another underage person.
What to do if you receive naked pictures of someone else
The safest option is to never share sexual images of yourself or someone else online or through text messages. If you do decide to sext and something goes wrong, speak to someone you trust, such as a guardian or teacher, and they will be able to help you decide what to do next.
If you receive a sexual image of someone under the age of 18 you should delete it straight away and never share it with anyone else. Report the person on the platform you receive the message on and block them. If you want to take the matter further you are completely within your right to report the person to the Gardaí.