Have you ever wondered where your “sexts” will end up?

By Jonathon Van Maren

So the latest politician to get taken down over allegations of sexual misconduct is Michael Harris, a Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario. Harris, who was promptly turfed as a candidate by the Progressive Conservatives, had apparently been sexting with a young intern. According to the PC caucus chair:

The evidence presented to us included a written complaint from 2013 by a former intern about how she had been passed over for employment. There was also a series of text messages from the same time period, between the young intern and the MPP. These text messages were of a sexual nature. They included a discussion of potential part-time employment, as well as a request for her to send him photos, an invitation for her to meet with him late that evening, and reference to something that may have previously taken place in his legislative office.

This story highlights a question that I believe everyone in our society should be asking: What are the potential consequences of sexting?

Sexting, which generally refers to the exchange of nude photographs, is now nearly ubiquitous in high schools and on campuses everywhere. Vanity Fair journalist Nancy Jo Sales found that nearly every high school in America had a “slut page” where boys aggregated all the photos they had received from high school girls. These pictures have frequently been used as blackmail, giving rise to the phenomenon of “revenge porn,” and have even caused suicides. I know of instances where these photos were used to blackmail girls into sex. Famously, of course, these photos often get hacked and spread around—not even celebrities are safe.

But beyond that, these photos are often permanent. Once taken and sent, those in the photos have relinquished control of these images—images which may one day come back to haunt them. Today’s generation of young people have tens of millions of amateur porn photographs of themselves floating around the Internet, waiting to wreak havoc on their lives later on. In many cases, boys (and men like Michael Harris, it turns out) ask for these photos, and even badger the girls until they relent and finally send them. I have talked to many high school students who caved to these demands under pressure, and now live in fear of where those images might crop up.

Never has there been so much opportunity for adolescents and teens to make permanent decisions with the potential to destroy the rest of their lives at such a young age. MPP Michael Harris got rightfully booted from the PC Party over revelations that he requested photos from a young intern as part of what appears to be a very sexually inappropriate relationship. What minefields are today’s young people planting in their future? What sexually explicit texts, social media messages, and photos exist, waiting to ruin a career or a relationship? How many people will live in the fear that messages and photos they sent in a moment of weakness, or passion, or stupidity, will one day materialize to ruin something they have worked so hard to build?

Michael Harris is not the first man to be toppled by such allegations, and he won’t be the last. This social media sexting experiment our culture has embarked on is far bigger than anyone realizes, and the consequences of this experiment are just barely beginning to be felt.

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For anyone interested, my books: The Culture War, Seeing is Believing: Why Our Culture Must Face the Victims of Abortion, and How To Discuss Assisted Suicide, are available for sale here

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