Sexting Legalities

Matilda Keunster

The term sexting refers to sex-related or nude photos taken and shared via cellphone, whether that be text message, Snapchat or a different form of digital communication. Sexting also encompasses sexually explicit texts sent or received between two parties.

While the practice is not illegal when these photos or texts are shared between consenting adults, once a minor is involved sexual-exploitation and child-pornography laws can come into play.

An amendment to Iowa’s harassment law, concerning what is referred to as “revenge porn,” was put in place in July 2017. The amendment ensures that an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend who has distributed a nude or semi-nude photo of their previous partner will be held accountable by law. Under Iowa Code Section 708.7, the ex-partner could face up to a two-year prison sentence if their intent was to intimidate, annoy, harm or harass.

With technology and people’s opinions of sexting in general ever-changing, it’s a hard thing for law enforcement and legislatures to constantly update. Writing and implementing a law can take months if not years, and by the time it is being put into law, there can be new technologies out there that blur the lines of the laws. A great example would be Snapchat.

When interviewed about their knowledge on the legality of sexting, many students were unsure of the exact law, but knew if they were a consenting adult it was not illegal.

“Sexting, like normal intercourse, is only legal if both parties are of age,” said Leo Livingston, senior in English.

When asked how she felt about sexting, Christina Funseth, senior in hospitality management, said “I think that both sending and receiving nudes is extremely dangerous because that is something that can stay on your device forever and resurface at anytime.”

Riley Kirk, senior in hospitality management, said “I’m not big into sending nudes at all. If I were to though, I would only do so over Snapchat, never text message.”

A simple question posed to students asking if they had ever received a sext that was unwanted or unsolicited really opened up a can of worms. Livingston shared his own personal experience.

“I have received a sexual image without consent and really did not enjoy it,” Livingston said.

Some students made it quite clear they had received images or sexually explicit text messages they were not interested in, and it made them very uncomfortable.

“I’ve definitely opened up my Snapchat and there was just a dick there, unsolicited,” Kirk said.

With the revenge porn amendment in place, anyone who sends a photo without the consent of the person in the photo could face jail time.