10 Sep 2018

Sexting is the sending, receiving or forwarding of sexually explicit content of oneself or others, usually through messages, photos, and videos.

There is no consistent statutory or legal definition of sexting. For instance, it is unclear if sexting is limited to messages between romantic partners, or whether photos and messages sent under duress or pressure also constitute as sexting.

Is sexting illegal?

Since sexting via digital devices is only a recent phenomenon, with online dating apps like Tinder becoming more popular, there are no laws on ‘sexting’ in Singapore at the moment. However, there are laws on pornography that make it illegal to store or share pornographic content, which could be applied to sexts as well.

If the sexting involves a young person and is aimed to procure sexual intercourse, it may also fall under the provinces of laws that aim to protect young people from predators. This includes Section 7 of the Children and Young Persons Act and Section 376E of the Penal Code.

Is sexting dangerous?

There are risks to sharing any personal information online, and the same applies to sexting. Recently, several dangers of sexting have become more prominent, such as:

  • Pictures accidentally being viewed by someone else
  • People, especially men, making the material public to ‘show off’
  • Sexts being used as blackmail to coerce people into other sexual acts
  • Releasing sexts as revenge after a break-up

Someone is sharing my personal photos. What can I do?

  • Don’t blame yourself: remember that you have the right to privacy, did not ask or give your consent for the material to be shared, and that it is not your fault
  • Tell someone you trust: being in such a situation is very emotionally distressing, so talk about it with a friend, partner, or family member to remember that you are not alone
  • Create safe spaces for yourself: if possible, try to have physical spaces or times of the day where you can distance yourself from digital devices and create a space where you will not face such harassment
  • Save the evidence: if you see your photos anywhere, take screenshots and download the photos or videos for evidence if you later make a complaint
  • Report the material: most sites have the option to report offensive content
  • See a professional: sharing sexts is also a type of sexual harassment, so speak to a professional at the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (SACC) for support
  • Go to the authorities: speak to your parents or school counsellor about the involvement of the police or a lawyer, or your case worker at the SACC will help you better understand your options

I think I need professional help. Where can I go?

There are several organisations that can help you in such a difficult situation. Here are some:

If I still want to sext, is there any way to be safer while sexting?

  • We still strongly recommend that you do not: there are many ways of expressing yourself and your desire for someone, and this one can be particularly risky
  • Try to stay as anonymous as possible: try to keep your face or other identifying characteristics out of your photos so that you can’t be easily identified
  • Use secure apps: for Android, Signal allows you to disable screenshots and set pictures to expire after a certain number of minutes or seconds, and for an iPhone, Privates lets you do the same – Bleep is another app that works on both Android and Apple
  • Check your settings: most apps have an incognito mode of some sort, which means that the photos are not being backed up to the cloud – like ‘Secret Conversation’ on Facebook Messenger or turning off ‘Chat History’ on Google Hangout
  • Turn off location services: to make sure photos can’t be traced back to your location; for your iPhone, go to General Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera and click Never, and for your Android, go into the Camera app settings and do the same thing
  • Save sexts safely: generally, it is safer to store photos or videos on a computer than phone since computers are harder to lose; on a Mac, open the image in preview, then click File > Export as PDF > Enable Encryption and make a password for the file, and on Windows, right click the folder and click Properties > Advanced > Encrypt and make a password
  • Teach your partners: it’s good you now have this information, but make sure your partner and friends know it too – after all, it’s a two-way exchange!