Sexting: In the Future Everyone Will Be Naked for 15 Minutes

By Matt P.

gay_sexting1One of my college sociology professors argued that gay men significantly expanded the sexual options for straight people. Not in the way you might be thinking; he wasn’t talking about straight guys going trade in bathroom stalls in urban areas. In this case he was talking about the world of socially-accepted ideas about sex.

Basically, he argued, gay men pioneered oral and anal sex. With the rise of mainstream awareness of gay lives in the 1970s came the popularization of necessary improvisations for penetrative intercourse, which in turn gave straight people ideas for having fun without getting pregnant.

It is poignant to the case that gay people started coming out in the public realm at the tail end of the sexual revolution, almost exactly when non-vaginal sex among heterosexuals became something safe to talk about publicly. Today, straight porn has it, straight teenagers talk about it, network sitcoms make jokes about it and before you know it straight President Clinton gets the most famous blow job in human history.

gay_sexting_5I’m not sure I completely buy my professor’s argument, though.

It was interesting to watch the straight college frat boys in class grapple with their new-found deference for gay men, many of them terrified of being associated with homosexuality even though they were clearly open to non-vaginal sex with girls. But I don’t know if its accurate to say gay men of the 1970s are really the reason why straight people have oral and anal sex.

My thinking is that I’ve heard of the Kama Sutra and Greek Love, and I’m pretty sure that even ancient heterosexual people were self-aware enough to find all the pleasure centers on their body, even if the Victorian era pushed those things under the radar.

But I couldn’t help but think of that Sociology class when I saw this story, about “sexting,” or sexually explicit images sent by cell phone, among teenagers, explained as a new American crisis.

“Weren’t we doing this shit a long time ago?” was my first thought. There’s a reason why we just sort of assume that a disproportionate number of men on Guyswithiphones or pictured on Lurid Digs are gay. Because when it comes to electronic communication, especially sex-positive electronic communication, gay people really are the trendsetters.

gay_sexting_6One example is our openness to the Internet in general. Finding dates has always been a little more difficult for same-gender-loving folks in isolated areas. The gay population is smaller than the straight population, and it’s generally not considered a good idea for a gay man to shoulder-tap the dude in line in front of him at the gas station to ask if he’s interested.

The Internet is one way to solve those problems, especially for those who are still in the closet. When I was growing up, spending inordinate amounts of time online was still a rare and geeky thing to do. Like most of my gay peers, I was clicking away at our computers on personal profile sites, trying to find out who the gay folks in the neighborhood were.

Meanwhile the idea of me hooking up with someone from the Internet was shocking to most of my straight friends, who thought it was an excellent way for me to get myself raped or murdered.

But they don’t think that way anymore.

gay_sexting_3Myspace was the first profile site I knew of that significant numbers of straight people joined, and Facebook, a fairly recent invention in the lineage of online profile sites, blew it up to over 350 million people. Now almost everybody I know, including teachers and older family members, has a profile there. Barack Obama has a Facebook page, as does John McCain, Pat Robertson and Sarah Palin. Send those folks an email and say “you’re welcome!” We made that socially acceptable.

Thus it should be no surprise that we also had a leg-up when it came to sexting, and all other kinds of electronic exhibition. And after my initial thought about “sexting” being a gay-pioneered activity, my second thought was “why the hell do straight people get so bunched-up over this?” Kids are kids. I was one of the “good” kids when it comes to grades and ambition, but I still sent off revealing photos of myself when I was sixteen. And I like to think I turned out fine.

gay_sexting_4But the world that most LGBT people of all ages live in is a bit different from the worlds of most heterosexual young people. I’m not saying there aren’t gay people, closeted our out, in every nook and cranny of the country — but in general there are big cultural differences that make “sexting” different for us than it was for them.

Our community has long shunned the modest, religion-influenced morality that opposes same-sex relationships and sexual openness alike. We’ve been forced by the rejection we face in that culture to ground our morals instead on a more organic, rational foundation: does it really hurt anyone?

In a concrete, definable way? If the answer is no, it’s not immoral. Amidst all the diversity and individual differences and opinions that no doubt vary in the LGBT community, this has been the general rationale of our sexual ethic. It is a system that is distinctly more positive towards human bodies and their drives, comfortable with casual sex and a more willing to discuss “personal” sexual matters openly with friends and other public realms, in our humor or anything else. Even in the presence of (gasp!) members of the opposite gender, and coworkers, and the risk of exposure to the whole world if it somehow went viral.

gay_sexting_2Maybe more and more young people are adopting similar ethical systems now, but not quite as quickly. So the problem with “sexting” is not so much that we think it’s impure or immoral, but that the images can get in the wrong hands and get people in trouble in a conservative society.

Teenagers have been humiliated to have their confidentiality breached by ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends who forwarded the pictures to the whole football team, and teenagers face stinging reprimands at school or with their parents when they get caught. It’s easy to imagine how this exposure could create problems with employment when the teens and 20-somethings of today become the senators and school superintendents of tomorrow.

Gay people who have come out of the closet aren’t as bothered by those problems, because it’s not like we stood much chance of running for statewide office anyway. And if we do, the state we do it in will be liberal enough that people won’t mind having a governor they can find naked online.

gay_sexting_8As we’ve pointed out here on Nightcharm in the past, this stuff is getting more and more common. So maybe the answer to concerned parents and cultural police about what will happen to young people when their pics go viral is that someday, it won’t even matter. Yes, your kids are doing it. No, you shouldn’t care. Everyone will have a nudie photo out there, embarrassed perhaps when it pops up in the workplace, but it won’t be something to get fired over.

Imagine how human we’ll all be in that age. As human as the fallen politician whose campaign machine imagery has been shattered, and his tawdry extramarital affair is discussed in painful detail for the microphones and cameras. Police chiefs and school principals who sneer and judge will have not skeletons in their closet but skeletons in their bay windows, and a simple Google search will find that yes, Virginia, the nice lady on the cooking show gets horny and has a vagina too!

One can only hope. In the mean time, we can be glad that the world of gays and 20-somethings is already tangibly more open than generations passed.

©2009 Nightcharm



  • Anonymous

    None of the stuff you are saying is too much of an overreach, Matt; I remember thinking everything you did at different times. Yeah, we were on the internet first; gay(dot)com and out(dot)com and all those sites I joined before Facebook.

    And yeah, I sent peen shots to dudes from Poughkeepsie to Tacoma back when I was a baby gay, and prayed I didn’t forget to delete the pics off my dad’s digital camera when I saw he’d taken it on his business trip to San Francisco (Gawd, I dreaded the wrath of having him realize, right there in the Capital of Queer, that not only is his son an exhibitionist ‘mo, but he has himself now crossed state lines with child porn).

    And yeah, I think I have just about the same explanation for the basis of my morals as you do. I buy free-range meat because factory farms cause suffering. I happily plow ass because it doesn’t hurt anyone (at least not in a bad way).

    But your professor was nutso! I mean, Jesus. Gays invented buttsex and blow jobs? Next he’ll say we invented douching, or lube. Leave it to a sociologist to find a correlation in everything where there isn’t one.

  • Anonymous

    So this is why everyone has iphones?

    Artful nudes are one thing, but does the world really need pictures of naked people in front of mirrors holding phones or cameras? That’s just tacky.

  • seanshawn

    Gah, Anonymous, I totally disagree. iphone pics are not only more democratic (I mean I don’t have to pay some photog. some shit to take them), but they’re also VERY HOT.

    And also, uh, utilitarian. If I’m on Manhunt or Adam4Adam looking to get with some guy, what am I gonna do, say “I won’t accept these self-taken photos, go talk to a professional photographer and get some classy black and whites and then I’ll look at them and tell you if I’m interested.” Eh? Doesn’t seem to work.

  • Sam

    I don’t think I put all the pieces together in my mind until I read this article. Pretty good observations. As they say, the mother of invention is always necessity, and as a smaller group, more scattered about, we needed ways of reaching out. Another group, I think that has a similar need are teens – straight, gay or questioning. That’s why it’s distressing to me to see parents try to literally block them or pull them away from unsupervised activities. Teens put up with tracers on cars, notifications back to parents on credit card activity, Internet controls, tv controls, etc. Most of their day is is pre-scheduled with organized, approved activities. Maybe that’s why they seem so out of control today, bucking social norms whenever they can, and multi-tasking between classes and after school jobs with texting, sexting, surfing, tweeting, and everything else.

    The only thing I lament is the loss of privacy. We’re losing that in every advance in communicative technology. No, I don’t want to see everyone naked for 15 minutes, and I don’t need know who my governor is sleeping with. No, Tiger’s activities are not sexy, nor are celebrity sex tapes. They’re boring. As a society, I think we need to get the sexy back (wait, isn’t that a song?), and a little more left to the imagination would go a long way toward that.

  • Anonymous
  • Matt

    your professor wasn’t “Uncle Marty” Weinberg was it?

    Anyway interesting article.. I was watching a bit on the new terror of sexting on the local news and found myself wondering what the big deal was. I too was on IRC as a baby gay sending dickpix to my first boyfriend, and my highschool friends were aghast that I’d meet someone at a nearby college for a date. I mean.. webcams and digital cams have been around for at least a decade. I attribute the current uproar about it to the fact that the people that get the most upset about these things are usually behind the times. In the past it took a little tech savy to get your naughty bits sent out over the interwebs, now you can do it through text if you have 4 brain cells to spare. Back when I was starting to do this I only knew of myself and one geeky girl friend that did this.

    I do disagree with your professor as well, at least in the sense that I don’t think gays invented oral or anal sex, however I think there is something to the fact that any gay sex or heterosexual oral or anal sex were all the same crime in the US, sodomy. We did have the advantage of having no socially “moral” way of having intercourse so I think we as a whole have fewer sexual hangups, since basically everything two men does was seen as sinful so whats really the diff between a blowjob and getting double fisted? it’s all a continuum of deviance and we’re already past the major break (anything past guy girl missionary), so why not go wild with it?

    Oh, and thanks for the guyswithiphones link… going to need a little personal time with that one.

  • Michael

    I’m also a bit mystified by the hubbub surrounding sexting. It constantly amazes me how much adults forget about what it’s like to be a horny teenager. I think you are overlooking one important aspect of this issue, though, and that’s the legality of the pictures being transmitted. Technically, they are child pornography. Not only do these images have the potential to fall into the wrong hands, but they could also be used to persecute young folks who just see it as good clean fun. A sext sent, for example, to a romantic interest after their eighteenth birthday, could land someone in hot water for something that was merely a legal gray area just days beforehand. The discussion I would like to see come out of this is our backwards approach to criminalizing the sexuality of young people.

  • Anonymous

    Is it child porn if you have pictures of yourself? That doesn’t make sense.

  • mountii

    GRAMMAR MISTAKE

    “I’m not saying there aren’t gay people, closeted *our* out”

  • http://khtrcujytvurds simon

    i think that it is fucking sexy, there should be a whole website where people can upload sexting pics amazing!!!!

 
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