We hear from many folks on the Games and Online Harassment Hotline who are blackmailed after sending intimate images or videos. We wrote a guide on dealing with blackmail when it happens, but we also want to push back on some of the shame, regret, and victim-blaming that often happens in blackmail situations. There’s nothing wrong with sharing nudes! It can be sexy and fun way to build intimacy with someone! Everyone should be able to send as many nudes as they want to consenting recipients, and we want it to feel exciting, rewarding, and empowering.
The only person who can 100% stop blackmail or other types of sexual threats and violence from happening is the blackmailer themselves. It’s never your fault for getting blackmailed or harassed, regardless of what you did or didn’t do to prevent it.
But if you’re interested in thinking through some safety considerations around sending nudes online, here’s our quick rundown. We hope it empowers you to feel more free and confident when sending sexy pics.
The one directive we will state in this guide is don’t send nudes to anyone who hasn’t asked for them or expressed interest in them. If you really enjoy showing off parts of your body to strangers online and want to do so in a consensual way, there are dedicated NSFW communities on Reddit, Discord, and elsewhere that welcome nudes to be posted, viewed, and/or reacted to without needing to obtain advance consent in each interaction.
Think about your own consent as well. There can be many reasons to want to send pictures to someone; it’s okay to have more than one motivation, but it’s worth being intentional in understanding what those motivations are.
Watch out for these red flags:
- Are they repeatedly asking you to send pictures even after you’ve expressed hesitation or said no outright?
- Is picture-sharing being used as a marker of proof that you like them?
- Is picture-sharing being used to ask you to prove your identity, gender, age, or other fact about yourself? “I want to make sure you’re not a guy.” This is a manipulative tactic.
- Are they using expressions of love as part of the pressure to get you to send pictures? This is sometimes referred to as “love-bombing” and can feel very intense.
- Do you feel guilty or responsible for their needs?
- Do you feel like every time you bring up a fear or concern or nervousness, they argue, explain it away, dismiss it, or shoot it down?
Trust your gut. If you don’t feel quite right about the situation, or you’re feeling obligated to give in to a demand, pause and listen to that feeling. It’s not loving, kind, or okay for anyone to make you feel like you have to do something sexual for them.
Still, the situation might feel totally consensual and trusting and good when you send the nudes, but then things change. So let’s get into some other considerations that can give you a little bit of control over things.
When taking the pictures or videos, think about what exactly they are showing, in addition to your body. The less identifiable it is, the less leverage it has as potential blackmail.
- Do you want to show your face or just your body/body parts?
- Do you have identifiable features such as tattoos, piercings, birthmarks etc? Do you want to cover up those features either through creative posing, draping of clothing, or via photoshop?
- Are there identifiable objects, furniture, decorations, clothing, etc in the background that clue into where you are, whose room it’s in, or other information? Does the framing of the shot include windows to the outside, which may allow someone to figure out where you live?
Most sextortion scammers use fake website profile pictures and content to contact targets (sometimes referred to as “catfishing), and some accounts can be very convincing. It is a good idea to do online research to determine whether a person is who they say they are before agreeing to correspond privately.
Remain situationally aware. If you meet someone on a website who asks to move your communications to a messaging app, that could be a red flag and a sign to be extra cautious. Similarly, be wary of unknown friend or message requests.
In a lot of cases, folks want to send nudes over whatever platform they are already using to communicate with the person they want to send nudes to. That makes sense, and (especially when sending nudes to strangers or someone you just met) sometimes you might not want to take the interaction to another channel or account.
That said, some platforms have more security features built in than others.
- If it’s end-to-end encrypted, your nudes are less likely to be intercepted by whoever runs the platform.
- If there’s a self-destruct or disappearing messages feature, there’s a smaller window for someone to save the picture to use later. (Also, it can be flirty and fun)
- Still, someone can always take a screenshot – not all apps have a notification built in when this happens, and someone could always take a picture of the phone with another device, which won’t trigger any kind of notification..
- Some apps immediately save received photos to the phone camera roll, which means they’ll automatically have a copy that you can’t revoke.
Finally here are some other considerations, settings, or steps you could take to mitigate some concerns around hacking, identifiability, and security.
- Practice good account security, especially with any accounts you’re using to share nudes – or accounts which control access to apps where you share personal information. For example, if you’ve logged into Tinder with Facebook, you need to make sure your Facebook account is locked down with a strong unique password and two-factor authentication in order to keep your Tinder account safe.
- Does your phone make automatic cloud backups of your photos? Consider turning this off to take photos and then deleting the photos from your device before turning the cloud backups back on. Apple iOS has a feature that allows you to hide photos so they aren’t on your primary camera roll on the phone itself – however those photos are still backed up in the cloud. Whether it’s a Google, iCloud, Dropbox or other account keeping backups of your photos – make sure it’s locked down too.
- Before sharing nudes with strangers, be sure to remove EXIF metadata from the files.This prevents someone from using that metadata information to deduce other personal info about you.
- This one is going to sound obvious, but don’t use your work email to send nudes – unless they are relevant to your day job. We’re not judging! But email in general is not a great way to send nudes or other sensitive data – it can be intercepted, and accounts can get hacked. Again with the account security – strong, unique passwords, and 2FA will keep that sensitive data safe(r).
- If possible, turn off location services and geotagging when taking nudes or videos. This will prevent your physical location from getting attached to the file. Again, be mindful of how the content of the media itself, like a skyline through a window, can reveal your location.
- Read our safety guide for more digital safety hygiene tips.
Take the time to assess your own security needs, be intentional with what you send and how you send it, and talk to your partners about their security hygiene and safety needs. Happy sexting!