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‘We blame the victim every time’
Young Australians are peppered with advice and threats over the dangers of sending explicit images of themselves. But experts say both the law and the curriculum is lagging behind experience, and too often girls take the blame and face the shame. When Erin was 17, she went along to a seminar with her year 11 class where she was told not to photograph herself naked — and definitely not to send such a picture to someone else. An older woman who had experienced first-hand how badly it could go wrong warned that repercussions could come at once, if the image was shared without her consent, or in the future, if it came to the attention of potential employers. This was coming from a fairly liberal and progressive school. Then in person, that makes sex better. But she sometimes worries that those she has sent in the past may one day be circulated without her consent.
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Then she sent the full-length frontal photo to Isaiah, her new boyfriend. They broke up soon after. In less than 24 hours, the effect was as if Margarite, 14, had sauntered naked down the hallways of the four middle schools in this racially and economically diverse suburb of the state capital, Olympia. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of students had received her photo and forwarded it. In short order, students would be handcuffed and humiliated, parents mortified and lessons learned at a harsh cost. Only then would the community try to turn the fiasco into an opportunity to educate.
Here, 50 women speak candidly about their first sexting experience, how nudes make them feel, and the unspoken rules. Nudes are not an invention of the digital era — any art museum is proof of that. Neither is dirty talk — just read James Joyce's wildly, er, imaginative letters to his crush. But the Internet sure has encouraged us to take the art of sexting to places our parents could have never imagined. AIM introduced the concept of cyber-flirting. Chatroulette gamified it. Snapchat pulled off a vanishing act. Leaks like Emily Ratajkowski and Kim Kardashian 's confirmed the realities of slut-shaming. Eggplant emojis provided a shorthand for requests. The AirDropped dick pic epidemic assaulted our inboxes.