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The legalities of sending that pic

For many taking part in LGBTQIA+ hookup culture, sexting is to be expected. Hannah Head explains what you need to think about before you send the next pic.

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The first documented ‘nude’ image was sent in 1828 yet laws governing nude images remain confusing to this day. Governments work to catch up with state-of-the-art technology and the possible opportunities for criminals to exploit victims through those mediums. However, something as basic as sending a nude image is complex in Australian law.

Each Australian state sets its own ‘age of consent’. In the majority of states and territories, this age is 16 (17 in South Australia). Laws around sexting are much less clear-cut with both state and federal governments having the authority to create laws around online nude images.

Federal laws take priority over state laws, making the legal age of sexting 18. This is due to the legal age of the ‘child’ being established as 18 by the Commonwealth government. This means that a person who is old enough to engage in sex may still be legally too young to sext.

More than 52.5% of sexually active gay and bisexual boys between the ages of 14 and 17 use apps like Grindr to find sexual partners, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health. Ticking a box to say you are 18+ is inherent to younger generations who have lied about their age to access social media for the majority of their adolescence. 

With apps like Grindr designed to make hookups as easy as possible, many queer men/masc people have found the process of sending nudes to be inherent in the pre-meeting process. This makes proof of age when talking to a younger potential partner imperative.

 

Sexting with a person under 18 can result in child pornography charges for both parties. A person over 18 can face imprisonment and listing on the sex offenders register. A person under the age of 18 can be charged for possessing a nude image of themself. Even photos/videos that do not depict nudity, such as someone under 18 dancing in their underwear, can result in child pornography charges for the subject. 

These laws are complex and lack clarity, resulting in young people interested in exploring their sexuality inadvertently putting themselves at risk of criminal charges. Additionally, the lack of regulation of online dating apps means that the protections to ensure all users are above the age of 18 simply aren’t there. Be safe and diligent, as these laws and online regulations are not designed with queer hookup culture in mind.

 

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