Is sexting illegal?
Is sexting illegal?
Sexting is not illegal when everyone involved is above 18 years of age and consenting. However, there are a number of laws around sexting that exist in order to protect people, particularly young people, from harm and exploitation. Sexting can become illegal when anyone involved is younger than 18 years of age, even if everyone has consented.
Sexting is an offence when it involves harassment. For example, someone may continue to pester or try to convince you to send or share an intimate image or video of yourself. Or they may send sexual messages, images, and videos that you do not want to receive, even after you have told them to stop. This is harassment and can be considered a crime.
There are specific laws against sharing, or threatening to share, nude or intimate images of someone without their consent. This is called image-based abuse, and is illegal under Commonwealth law, regardless of the persons age.
Sharing intimate images of others without their consent applies to sharing content both online and in-person, and includes showing, sending-on, and/or posting online to a social media site or platform. An intimate image or video is one that shows: a person’s genitals, breasts, or anal area; someone who is nude, or partially nude; a person performing a sexual act; or a person doing anything they would usually do in private (e.g. showering, undressing, going to the toilet). Intimate images do not have to be real photos or videos. They may also include cartoons or drawings, as well as images that have been edited or photoshopped without the consent of those pictured.
For consent to be valid, the person in the image must give free and voluntary agreement for the image to be taken and shared in that specific occasion. However, if someone shares an image of themselves, it does not mean they consent to the image being shared further. Consent needs to be given on every new occasion.
Many young people use technology to negotiate, develop, and explore their sexuality and their sexual relationships with others. However, it is important to be mindful of the legal, emotional, and social outcomes that could occur when you engage in sexting and be aware of effective help-seeking strategies.
It can be harmful for everyone involved if a nude is shared without the senders’ consent. Sharing images of someone without their consent is illegal, and can often be humiliating, cause emotional distress, and lead to bullying and harassment of the person pictured. This can happen especially if the nude is shared online. Often, when something is shared online it is difficult to have control over what happens with it, including who may access it. Therefore, it is important to only share intimate images, nudes, and sexts with people who you trust, to be fully aware of the laws, and possible implications if something goes wrong.