Is sex an intimate, loving act between two people OR something to show your 2768 closest friends on Facebook or Instagram?
Enter the case of the sex selfie – or sexfie, if you will – whereby an increasing number of Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr accounts are popping up on social media, urging people to post before, during and after sex selfies, presumably taken with another consenting adult.
If this repulses you, as it does me – the horrors cannot be unseen, once you’ve chanced upon it online – perhaps we’re not the target demographic, as it seems to be the latest popular social media craze primarily among teenagers and twenty-somethings.
So, what are the repercussions of sex selfies? Is it just a bit of fun or something much more sinister? And how should you react if a friend or family member is posting such risqué shots of themselves online?
Leading Australian sexologist Dr Nikki Goldstein is no fan of sex selfies either, saying it cheapens sex and is degrading to both men and women. “It’s wrong – I worry about the way social media makes teenagers and young adults disconnect with the meaning of sex,” she says. “They’re so consumed by sharing it and copying what other people are doing. It’s like: ‘I’m flaunting to everyone else that I just had sex.’
“It goes beyond peer pressure, it’s societal conformity! It’s FOMO (fear of missing out) as its worst and this is amplified by a thousand because of social media.”
As to what posting sex selfies offers people, Dr Nikki says the enjoyment comes from the psychological buzz. “For teenagers and young adults, it’s about the attention you receive once you post it – getting the social media ‘likes’ and the ego boost from boasting about it to your mates.
“The loss of intimacy is a massive thing – young people aren’t being taught about the joys of intimacy by positive role models.”
So, what if young girls are being coerced into having their sex pics posted online? Dr Nikki says this is also an issue as young people are so desperate to just fit in.
“Sex selfies might get young women in precarious situations whereby they’re doing things they’re not wholly comfortable with.
“And it can potentially be degrading to both sexes – they’re both seeing each other as objects.”
As to what impact sex selfies have on relationships, Dr Nikki says the outlook is bleak. “The big risk is for future relationships: will they be based on intimacy and pleasure? Or will this sex selfie craze lead to more relationship and marital breakdowns and infidelity?
“People are looking for the wrong thing.”
Another red flag, she says, is sex selfies’ enormous potential to embarrass the participants.
“A lot of young people aren’t aware of how easily accessible social media pictures are,” Dr Nikki says. “A lot of people’s families are on Facebook. And there are a lot of people being shamed on social media without their consent and this can even lead to bigger societal problems like suicide.”
Of course, telling young people not to do something can have the exact opposite effect, especially given the practice is trendy, in part, due to the shock factor. But Dr Nikki advises people to openly discuss the dangers of sex selfies with their peers and family members.
“Today’s fast-paced technology often means a total disconnect for young people,” Dr Nikki says.
“Where does it go next? There’s a lot of mind-numbing going on right now.”
For more information on Dr Goldstein, visit drnikki.com.au.
What do you think? Are sex selfies just risqué fun or something much more dangerous?
- Once a picture leaves your control it can easily and quickly be shared with many people. A recent study by the UK Internet Watch Foundation showed that up to 88 per cent of self-generated images, including sex selfies, have been collected and put onto other sites.
- If you or a loved one is at risk of abuse, or have been abused online or offline, or had your image shared without consent you can report the abuse to the Australian Federal Police at https://forms.afp.gov.au/online_forms/ocset_form. You can also report it to your local police station and may also want to seek independent legal advice.
For counselling, contact:
- Kidshelpline via www.kidshelp.com.au or phone 1800 551 800.
- Headspace via www.headspace.org.au.
- Lifeline via www.lifeline.org.au or phone 13 11 14.
For information and advice, visit:
Images, in order, via www.thestar.com.my; www.huffingtonpost.com and eatmorecake.co.uk
Nicole is a Queensland-based writer and bona fide word nerd whose first love (apart from heels) is feature writing. Follow Nicole on Twitter.