Now that the pandemic has got us all cooped up inside, more and more horny folks are heading online to get off, whether it be furiously bopping off nudes or scheduling video-chat sex dates on the reg. But how do you keep your privates…well, private? Welcome to Spectrum Journal’s two-part series on practicing safe sext. First up: securing your smut 101.
With great nudes comes great responsibility. As enraging as it is, private nude photos can be mishandled by the recipients—and turned into non-consensual pornography, or NCP for short. (This term is more accurate than revenge porn.)
The reality is that nudes get leaked, people upload videos, and sometimes devices get lost, stolen, or hacked.
“A lot of people think that online sex is inherently safe sex because there’s no physical contact,” according to matchmaker and dating coach Claire AH of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking. “The reality is that nudes get leaked, people upload videos, and sometimes devices get lost, stolen, or hacked. Anything we do online has the potential to get out. The biggest challenge is in accepting that and understanding that there is risk; it’s just a different kind of risk. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t engage in sexual contact online: it just means that they need to be risk-aware and do what they need to do to feel safe.”
We asked AH, along with a few other experts, for their best tips for becoming more smut-savvy.
LIVE YOUR LIFE
A lot of the narrative around leaked pics is that the only way to prevent it is to not share any content in the first place. But what fun would that be?
“Pretty much everyone would recognize that, if you handed your credit card to a waiter in a restaurant and that waiter then used that card to buy himself a fancy car, there is not only unethical behaviour that has happened, but also a violation of the law,” says Dr. Mary Anne Franks, professor of law at University of Miami School of Law, and president and legislative tech policy director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. “So the same is true for non-consensual distribution of images.”
Misogyny and sex negativity also plays a part in folks doling out this advice. “As soon as we’re talking about sex, especially talking about women’s bodies, there’s just this overwhelming and long-standing tradition of pointing to women’s behaviour and seeing a problem, as opposed to the fact that boundaries have been crossed or violations of privacy have been committed,” according to Dr. Franks. “Saying the only safe way is to not take any pictures is like to say don’t ever use your credit card or don’t ever give out any kind of information. Don’t go to the doctor, don’t talk to a therapist. That’s obviously not the right way to live and it’s not a possible way to live, and it also takes the pressure off the wrongdoer. The wrongdoer is the person who knows this was private information not to be used in any way.”
Consider the growing number of NCP victims who never even took photos or video in the first place, including people whose sexual assault was recorded, or people whose photos are manipulated into sexual imagery. “No one can actually be safe from this,” Dr. Franks says, “And that’s why it’s even more important to focus on wrongdoing and on action as opposed to suggest people change their behaviour.”
Talk about non-consensual pornography with your potential online sexual partner and make it very clear that it's not okay.
MAKE SURE YOU TRUST YOUR PARTNER
One way you can lower the chances of your private nude pics getting out is to make sure that you really trust the person you’re sharing this content with.
There are a few things you can keep an eye out for, according to Dr. Frank: anyone who tries to push your boundaries in one area is probably going to try to cross those boundaries in another. “So if someone is pressuring you to send certain types of photos or has indicated in some other way that they want you to do things that you’re uncomfortable with, that’s a pretty good red flag for their ability or willingness to betray your trust later,” she says. “Be aware of the fact that people can and will [betray that trust], and it’s very easy to share these kinds of images and videos without consent.”
ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES BEFOREHAND
We all know that consent should priority #1 when it comes to sex…but it’s important to make privacy a part of that pre-boning discussion, too. “Talk about non-consensual pornography with your potential online sexual partner and make it very clear that it’s not okay,” AH says. “Sometimes people don’t even understand or see that behaviour as wrong until someone calls it out.”
This may seem extreme, but it adds a level of emotional security and you can treat it like a conversation about safer sex before engaging in face-to-face sexual activity.
USE A CONTRACT (SERIOUSLY)
It sounds like a bit of a boner-killer, but it doesn’t need to be a 15-page legal document for it to be effective. Some people opt for informal “contracts” where both parties simply agree beforehand, in writing, to not record screens or disseminate any materials and keep those nudes private, according to AH: “This may seem extreme, but it adds a level of emotional security and you can treat it like a conversation about safer sex before engaging in face-to-face sexual activity. Is it awkward? Kind of. Is it useful? Yes.”
Dr. Franks agrees: “Anything that helps you clarify consent between the parties is good. Partly because, if we’re thinking about this as a legal issue, in many cases, the question will turn on whether or not the person who disclosed the information viewed that they were not authorized to do so. So if you were able to show, ‘oh look, I have a document that clearly communicates they were not supposed to show this,’ that can be helpful.”
Once that image or video is pushed out into the world, it’s really difficult to ever undo the damage that it might do.
One caveat, however—just keep in mind, says Dr. Franks, that once that image or video is pushed out into the world, it’s really difficult to ever undo the damage that it might do.
“You can have an NDA, you can have a contract, but what if the other person doesn’t care about the contract anymore? What if they have no money, and you sue them, how do you plan to collect? What if they don’t have a good job and you can’t garnish their wages? What if they don’t care about getting arrested again because they have a lengthy criminal record?” says lawyer Jordan Donich of Donich Law. “People assume [contracts] might be safe, but in reality, it could just be a false sense of security.”
“You might eventually prevail in terms of a lawsuit or even a criminal charge against someone, but the damage may have already been done,” Franks says, “so I would recommend not relying too much on a sense of false security that any kind of contract’s going to provide.”
WHEN IN DOUBT, CROP IT OUT
Sending naked photos? If any of your content gets out, there’s some easy ways to ensure folks are less able to ID you. Here are AH’s pointers:
—Wear a mask, or pose or perform so your face is not visible.
—Hide or obscure tattoos or other identifying features.
—Take pictures or videos in parts of your home without any obvious links to you.
ADD SOME PRIVACY APPS TO YOUR ARSENAL
There are also a few different app options that will protect you when you’re sending nude pictures, according to AH.
—Apps like Signal help by encrypting any messages you send.
—Apps like Confide include mechanisms to make your private images screenshot-proof.
“It’s worth looking into the privacy of whichever video service you use for camming, as some like Zoom have been particularly vulnerable to security issues,” AH says.
Next up: in Part 2, where we share what to do if your nudes are leaked.