When I was sixteen and living in Germany, I sent letters to a former teacher of mine, with poems culled from Cannery Row and any other book I thought of as cool. I was in love, and the poems were strangely explicit, and her responses returned the favor. My parents didn’t ask to read them, nor did they suspect anything. Never fell a photograph from her pages onto my mother’s carpets.

That was then. Yearnings of today might still result in stolen poems, but how much more can the naked body say! A friend of mine in Michigan seems to get plenty of anatomy lessons on his cell phone, and he isn’t shy about sharing. (He’s also not shy about sharing his own anatomy with others, up close and personal). Girls take choice close-ups and send them to – let’s call him Joe. A lot. It’s a game, the girls’ way of stalking him gently, if not subtly. His showing the pictures to others is part of his refusal to give in.

Our culture is over-sexed in image and overly puritan in mind, and that makes for great bigoted drama (can anyone say “Wardrobe Malfunction” with a straight face?). And there’s real drama.

Another friend of mine, let’s call her Anna, found nude pictures which weren’t hers, on her husband’s Blackberry. She was outraged and impressed. His imagination fueled by these pictures, Rich, the husband, plunged into a new relationship that never took off. After this new woman, who had sent him said photos, told Rich to leave her alone, he stalked her by text. And then in person. When he was released from jail, the police kept his Blackberry. Rich moved back in with his wife and kids and they are all on medication.

I don’t think that sexting is particularly lewd or harmful (when not sent into somewhat still-intact marriages), however we do live in times when sex videos of stars and wannabes go YouTube, people peek through motel-room doors and post your private parts right where Mommy and Daddy can see them, plus all your fellow students, your students, lovers, soon-to-be-outraged exes, and the university administration looking into hiring you.

And now, some states (including Florida) have decided to crack down on sexting among minors. They’ve concluded that it’s best to punish both sender and receiver with jail time if they’re underage.

Which makes great sense. A Nigerian lottery king sends you a notification that you just have to wire him a small fee of $3,000 to redeem your winnings, and you get busted for it. Osama bin Laden sends you a letter bomb and you get thrown in jail. I’ll send you flowers, roses and chocolates and press my face against your night window, and then we’ll spend our vacation together in prison.

Sure, it’s not a good idea to sext. After all, nudie pictures do get shown around, and can conveniently be fed into the computer, the web, and everybody’s home. But is it criminal? When I was in high school and our class went on a camping trip in some woods outside of town, not even our teacher went to jail for presiding over the rampant exchange of bodily fluids that followed the campfire singing. What was he to do? Shackle us to the tent poles? Not even that would have stopped us.

In the end, the whole sexting debate is similar to the one about guns and violence. Sure, guns don’t kill people, people do. But hand out guns indiscriminately and people will get shot. If you don’t want your teen to send or receive sexts, if you don’t to receive pictures of wieners and valleys – don’t buy smart phones. Buy dumb phones. They are still on the market and are preferred by professionals who go to court a lot, or work in facilities where industrial espionage is an issue. Dumb phones are the smart choice. Strip clubs allow them too.

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STEFAN KIESBYE is the author of Next Door Lived A Girl. His second novel was recently published by Tropen/Klett-Cotta Verlag in Germany; the American edition, titled Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone will be released by Viking/Penguin in 2012. Stefan lives in Los Angeles with his wife Sanaz and their dogs Dunkin and Nozomi.

90 responses to “The Naked Truth – Sexting, and How Your Nudie Pictures Might End Up on the Web and You in Jail”

  1. I’d like to know more about this Nigerian king, please, Stefan.

    Nice post, man.

    Jesus, finding pictures of someone else on your husband’s phone… not a pleasant moment.

  2. Phat B says:

    Sexting is fine. I just wish I could stop my buddy from constantly sending me pictures of his balls, large dumps he just took, and sometimes both in the same frame. He just got a camera phone from work, and we are all suffering for it.

  3. Stefan Kiesbye says:

    Give him Simon’s number, please!

  4. Matt says:

    “She was outraged and impressed.”

    That, my good sir, was the biggest laugh I’ve had all day. Just made me imagine the wife screaming “You fucking bastard. But….damn, she’s hot!”

  5. jmblaine says:

    That chick
    in your pics
    didnt shave her
    pits

    I went to Verizon and
    asked for the biggest oldest
    cell phone they had.
    “Like one with a rotary dial,” I said.

    First because the bigger it is the harder it would be to lose it.
    Second, because I am so down with the dumb phone.
    Dumb it down America, dumb it down.

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      Rotary dial…ah, the days!

      • Irene Zion says:

        I got rid of our rotary dial phone in 1977.
        I know exactly when.
        My daughter five and watching two friends play catch with a big rock.
        (I did mention they were five, right?)
        The rock inadvertently landed on Sara’s head.
        Heads REALLY bleed.
        She pounded on the door and when I opened it, there she was with half her face covered in dark red blood that was dripping down her clothes.
        She was screaming, naturally.
        I ran to the phone with her and tried to dial my husband’s number.
        (He was at the hospital since he’s a doctor.)
        Adrenaline was making my hand shake so violently that I couldn’t dial anything and make it accurate.
        Finally I gave up and tried to call the Operator to get her to dial it for me.
        O was the farthest and longest to dial.
        It took me forever to get the O dialed.
        She was okay when I got her in to see a doctor.
        Heads REALLY bleed a lot.
        We got push button phones after that.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I choose not to comment on “sexting.”
          (Unless this counts.)

        • jmblaine says:

          They should make rotary dial cell phones.
          Really.

        • Stefan Kiesbye says:

          Irene, I sometimes still have nightmares in which I try to dial a number and can’t. I understand why you got buttons.

        • I get sexts from Irene all the time. She calls them “family” photos. Ri-i-i-i-ight.

        • Gloria says:

          @Irene – what a horror story. Oh my god! And, yes, heads do bleed a lot. I had no idea there was that much blood in your head!

        • Irene Zion says:

          Gloria,
          Tongues too. The same Sara was jumping on the bed when she was three. Of course, she fell off onto the floor and all four of her top teeth embedded themselves in her tongue. It looked as though it were cut in half. There was so much blood, all over her, me, her brother, the floor, the car, the waiting room.
          Did you know that they don’t stitch up tongues? At least they didn’t back then.
          Kids must have extra blood in reserve for all their accidents.
          It would be good for mothers to be color-blind while their kids are little and accident-prone.

  6. I feel bad now for having never properly sexted. I mean, sure, I’ve sent pictures of my ass to people, but there’s nothing sexy about a guy’s ass. And when I was 16 I took a blurry picture of my thumb with my friend’s phone and sent it to a girl he liked… Which I feel a little guilty about.

    Anyway, nice post.

  7. Ben Loory says:

    what is their legal ground for punishing the receiver? i get the sender, child pornography laws and all, but unless the receiver has requested the material, what are they guilty of? is possession of child pornography a crime even if someone shoves it in your window and runs away? this sounds strange.

    • Ben Loory says:

      is it because they keep it and don’t report it to the police?

      • Ben Loory says:

        actually, that i understand perfectly. lock all the little shits up, is my attitude. i’m glad i had this time here with myself. good night.

      • Stefan Kiesbye says:

        According to a 2009 article by Missy Diaz for the Florida Sun-Sentinal, “We investigate sexting like any kind of child pornography case, because that’s basically what it is,” Broward Sheriff’s Office Detective Eric Hendel said. “We get calls when a parent finds material in their child’s cell phone and they become inflamed. But they want to back off when they find out their child is just as guilty because they are actively participating in it.” And “After a report from a school resource officer, the Broward Sheriff’s Office recently investigated a sexting case at Crystal Lake Middle School in Pompano Beach. Two teen girls sent pictures of a third girl, who had photographed herself in the shower.”The parents were enraged that this was going on, but when it came down to it, nobody wanted any kind of trouble from the criminal-justice system on their kids — middle schoolers,” Hendel said. “I spoke with them and let them know each picture is a third-degree felony if deemed pornographic, and it was right on the border.””

        So yeah, seems like possessing “child pornography” is the charge.

        • Bradley Parker says:

          Ah, the wonderful world “child,” which in this context describes everything from my not-yet-two-year-old toddler to Britney Spears gyrating to Hit me Baby One More Time.

          And my wonderful home state of Florida, where the government is likely to charge a high-school teenager with creation of child pornography and then prosecute her as an adult.

        • Stefan Kiesbye says:

          Thanks for weighing in. I had never thought of how just swampy that term is, but yes!

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      It is strange, thanks for bringing that up. And even though I have read articles about it, I still don’t understand why the receiver is being punished. I see it more as a crackdown on everything minor-sexting-related, so that any incentive to sext is gone.

  8. Greg Olear says:

    I am struck by how easy it is, in modern times, to see a picture of someone naked. For most of Western civilization, nudity was frowned upon…unless they visited a brothel, most men probably did not spy a naked woman until they married one.

    I’m also struck by how insane we get about nudity. Nudity seems far less harmful for a non-adult to see than, say, Denzel Washington shooting everything in sight (a commercial they run during football games, which means I can’t watch football games with my kids). And yet the violence is shrugged at.

    Maybe sexting is a subtle, subversive way of commenting on that.

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      Good point. That one mystifies me too. That we deem violence “pure” and sex “dirty”. Richard Slotkin’s “Regeneration through Violence” is an eye-opener on that one. We go through violence to be cleansed and made new. Go figure.

    • Did you not see the Roman and Greek statues, Greg?? Nekkid!

  9. After reading this, I have a question for you, Stefan…

    What if I have a dumb phone, but a smart sidekick? Let’s say a sex expert, someone like Ian Kerner, Ph.D., sex therapist and author of She Comes First and He Comes Next.

    Am I still okay to go into a strip club or courthouse?

  10. Zara Potts says:

    When my sister got married, our brother was in charge of putting all the wedding photos on discs to send out to all the guests. He inadvertantly mixed up the shots and everyone at the wedding was treated to a disc of my brother posing nude while on holiday in Thailand. Magic!

  11. Erika Rae says:

    Sexting is such a mystery to me. I can’t imagine being uncontrollably compelled to take a shot of my parts to send to someone’s phone. Of course, I am a 36 year old mother of 3, so… ah, what the hell. It’s never too late, right? Anyone out there want a smokin’ hot shot of my big toe?

    • Phat B says:

      With or without polish?

    • Anon says:

      Wasn’t this covered in a foot fetish posting not too many months ago…?

      • Stefan Kiesbye says:

        Yes, but now it’s Erica’s foot!!!

        • Anon says:

          Excellent point. Especially with her self-professed perfectly square feet and my fondness for geometry.

          Erika Rae, I’ll pay extra if you include a carpenter’s square in the shot!

        • Stefan Kiesbye says:

          I’d like to get a percentage of all the ensuing paid sexting.

        • Anon says:

          Would that make you the sexting equivalent of a pimp? A “sext facilitator”?

        • Stefan Kiesbye says:

          For the sake of my bank account, yes, yes, and yes! Sext facilitator! I’m drawing up contracts as we type.

        • Anon says:

          Now you just need a rhinestone-studded, fur-lined Crackberry and a mighty strong e-pimp hand….

        • Erika Rae says:

          You wouldn’t need a carpenter’s square, Anon. My feet ARE carpenter’s squares. I have an amazingly blinding sense of balance. It’s very, um, sexy.

          Also, what are you? A foot stalker? What a memory!

          I don’t know where my “Polish sausage” comment went, Phat B. So disappointing. It was in response to your first question.

          Stefan…I think Anon is onto something. You SHOULD pimp yourself out to become the world’s leading sextspert. You could singlehandedly change the face of the crackberry.

          Heh. Singlehandedly.

        • Anon says:

          How do you think a pimp hand gets so strong? And, hey – balance is sexy! Have you actually worked through the Kama Sutra? Us obtuse-footed losers often topple over at the worst possible moment.

          Foot stalker, indeed…. Hmph.

        • Erika Rae says:

          I refuse to answer that question on the basis of you being anonymous, and me… not so much.

        • Anon says:

          With all due respect, oh plank-footed one, this is the Internet. We are all (relatively… at least without a lot of packet-tracking and potential Federal involvement) anonymous here. And identity is irrelevant – it is expression that is everything!

          Now… how much to include a level on your toes…? 🙂

        • Erika Rae says:

          Hey…would this be (wait for it) digital sexting?

        • Anon says:

          Well, who would want to analog sext, what with all the couplers, scratchy connections and such? Wow. There are a couple of words in there that shouldn’t be dirty but, given the context, seem a little on the naughty side.

          I wonder how long before the whole AT&T/Verizon battles devolves into one of them offering “special rate sexting plans”?

        • Stefan Kiesbye says:

          Erica, yes, singlehandedly. Leading Sextspert, what a title, I think I will change my e-signature. I smell empire.

      • that was mine and erika was pushing pics of her feet even then … erika — send the pic to me and i’ll see what i can get for it! 🙂

    • Sounds like Angelina Jolie. And I’d sext her. I don’t get why women think just because they have babies that they are incapable of risque romance, etc. And isn’t 36 the new 17?

  12. i have been sexted sans photos and am feeling a little kinda gypped (sp?) alcohol is a beautiful thing …

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      good to hear from you. Without photo? That’s sort of like phone sex without the voice?

      • sort of like voiceless phone sex, but words can be pretty hot, don’t you think? AND get you in less trouble (criminal, marital and otherwise) if someone finds/investigates your phone!

        (and, now that i think of it, i’m ok with the no photo thing … the incident i’m thinking of involved a drunk friend whose parts i don’t feel the need to see!)

  13. So, last night I was texting my friend Melinda and as I was writing “OK, Sexy,” I noticed I’d written, “OK sext.”

    Luckily I caught it in time.

    I blame this hilarious post for my subconscious seeking of sexts.

  14. “Our culture is over-sexed in image and overly puritan in mind.”

    Never have I heard a more true statement than that.

    On the topic of sexting, I do believe the younger generation (those currently in 8-12th grade) has gone a bit overboard with the sending of nude photos to one another, particularly of genitalia or during the act of sex, be it oral, vaginal, or otherwise. Years ago, I was alarmed when I was in my hometown playing basketball and overheard the younger crowd I was playing with discussing what they had received over their phones. The matter at hand is the immaturity of the individual(s) sending or receiving the image. Once it’s sent, there’s no getting it back. And they may regret it down the road. With today’s technology, the image can be uploaded and on the web in no time. As they say, “Google is forever.” And whether it is rare or not, these types of images do at times get in the hands and on the hard-drives of perverts and pedophiles.

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      “Google is forever.” Oh yes, and you’re right. We accumulate all this personal material and it just hangs there and multiplies. The funny thing is, that no spy could ever do the work we are doing ourselves, for free.

  15. Mary Richert says:

    The thought of finding nude pictures of another person on my husband’s phone is awful. The thought of any stranger seeing that kind of photo of me? Also awful. The thought of someone I know? A family member, coworker or former teacher? Oh jeeze. Just kill me.

  16. Autumn says:

    Great and provocative essay, Stefan! I think sexting between adults is a fun way to be flirty! It’s a great trick for married couples to relearn how to be naughty.

    There’s a lot of kiddie-porn issues going on right now. Some poor guy in Iowa was arrested for owning manga (Japanese comics, for anyone who doesn’t know the term) that portrayed minors having sex with other minors, adults, and even animals in a few cases.

    They didn’t bust him for “child pornography” but rather something like, “owning images of children being abused.”

    Gross, yes. Sketchy, maybe. Illegal?

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      Hi Autumn, thanks for the great comment. Yeah, i agree, the naughty side has a lot of potential. Being busted for having manga, though, is just ridiculous. Child-porn is horrible, but comic books?!?
      What I really hate is that teenagers are being busted for child pornography, when all they are is stupid. That’s when moral outrage becomes so absurd it hurts. If a grown-up is sexting pictures of 14-year-olds, alright, bust him. But another 14-year-old?

  17. Phat B says:

    a 12 year old and a 13 year old are being charged with felony child pornography in Indiana for sexting pics of themselves to each other. Lock em up and throw away the key, I say!

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2010/0128102text1.html?link=rssfeed

  18. Stefan Kiesbye says:

    Uh, oh!…Thank you for the update!

  19. […] **Indeed, apparently you can get prosecuted for having naughty pics on your phone/ipad… […]

  20. jon says:

    Oh, My Dear…
    I like it very much! Thanks!
    chian cell phones

  21. noveller says:

    noveller…

    […]Stefan Kiesbye | The Naked Truth – Sexting, and How Your Nudie Pictures Might End Up on the Web and You in Jail | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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