What we need to learn from the Tony Clement sexting scandal

By Jonathon Van Maren

Conservative Member of Parliament Tony Clement has been kicked out of the Conservative caucus following a brief and sordid scandal wherein he, “shared sexually explicit images and a video of myself to someone who I believed was a consenting female recipient,” in his words.  Unfortunately for Clement, he was actually sending these images to someone who promptly blackmailed him, threatening to release the images to the public if he did not cough up 50,000 euros. Since then, other women have complained about Clement’s online behavior, resulting in his expulsion from his party’s caucus.

I’m not writing this in order to draw attention to Clement’s downfall. He has a wife and family, and this very public humiliation must be awful for them. But I do think that this scandal has highlighted something that we cannot be reminded of too often: Do not engage in sexting. Period. Ever. Regardless of whether you are married or single, a high profile person or an average joe, someone with political aspirations or someone who fully intends to say out of the public eye, sexting can destroy your life and the lives of those closest to you.

Tony Clement isn’t the first politician to be destroyed by this behavior–former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting famously landed him in jail and wrecked his family. Prominent Hollywood stars have had their intimate images hacked and spread round online. Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales described a surge in teen suicides in her book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, many of which were causes by intimate images being shared around high school and on the Internet. “Revenge porn” sites upload nude selfies sent to them by bitter ex-partners, and sometimes demand exorbitant amounts of money to pull them down. Teenage boys have ended up on the sex offender’s registry for sharing images that can be legally defined as child porn.

Sexting has become ubiquitous in our digital age, especially as so many of our relationships move online. But it is essential to remember: Pictures can be forever. Once you send an intimate image, it is out of your control. It can end up anywhere. Even years later, when you’ve long forgotten even sending them, they can crop up and haunt you, impacting your career and relationships and causing pain and humiliation. Many of these images are out there, floating in cyberspace—and they are landmines you have planted in your future. If you engage in this sort of behavior, you should stop immediately and attempt to have any images that do exist destroyed. Even if you are not worried about the recipient sharing the images, hackers can quite easily obtain them. This doesn’t just happen to Hollywood stars. It could happen to you.

Considering the prevalence of sexting, I suspect that many people will be suffering Clement’s fate in the coming years. There are millions of these images out there, and more than enough people who are willing to use them. We should learn a lesson from all of this, and take steps to protect ourselves, our families, and our futures. Stop sexting.

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For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.

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