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You might feel under pressure to take pictures of yourself and share them. Sometimes the pressure is from others, sometimes it’s because it seems like everyone else is doing it, and people want to share pictures of themselves looking good. The important point is that no one should put pressure on you – it’s your body and you’re entitled to privacy. Trying to make someone share a picture when they don’t want to is a form of image-based abuse.
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Pressure from older teenagers or adults
Sometimes older people try to get young people to send them pictures, although they might pretend to be a similar age, which can be easy to do online. It can happen to young people of any gender. Sometimes they send out messages to lots of young people to see who replies. Often they’ll try to build up a relationship with you to make you think they like you or care about you before trying to get pictures or asking them to meet up. This is called grooming and can be part of sexual exploitation.
Once they have one picture, they might use this to try to get you to send more - maybe threatening to share your pictures if you don’t, or to tell people private information about you (like your sexual orientation or gender identity.)
Pressure from other young people
This kind of pressure can also affect people of any gender. Many girls say they face a lot of pressure from boys to send pictures of themselves. It might be boys they’re in a relationship with, who make them feel like it’s expected in a relationship, or that they’re not sexy enough if they don’t.
Or it might be other boys they know, friends, friends-of-friends etc. who use compliments or flattery and make out they like the girl to get them to send a picture. Or maybe they start with compliments but if the girls says no, the boy gets angry or insulting, or makes threats.
On the other hand, it might not always feel like pressure when someone asks. Some young people say it’s become pretty normal and although they don’t really like it, it doesn’t bother them too much. That’s OK, you don’t have to feel any particular way about it. The important thing is that people should never pressure others to send nudes.
What about consent to share pictures?
Like everything else to do with sex, consent is key. But consent isn’t just a simple ‘did they both agree to it.’ Consent means when both people really want to do something together, when there’s no pressure and it’s as easy to say no as it is to say yes. And because we’re talking about nude pictures, there needs to be really good respect and trust. If you agree to share your picture, the other person should respect your privacy and not show it to anyone else. After all, if you decided you wanted to kiss someone or be naked with them, you wouldn’t expect their pals to turn up. It should be the same with nudes. And there’s an important point about your age too.
What does the law say?
The law says you can’t take, share or possess an ‘indecent’ (eg. nude) image of anyone under the age of 18.
This law is to protect children and young people, particularly from abusers.
The law makes an exception if all of the following is true:
- pictures are taken and shared consensually (you have agreed with each other that you are both happy and comfortable doing this - remember, either of you can say no at any time, and can ask each other to delete images)
- between people in an established relationship (like a long-term relationship)
- you are over 16
- and the pictures are not shared with anyone else.
See the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52: Indecent photographs etc. of children.
So...when is it okay to share nudes?
We can’t give any firm rules, but here’s what it might look and feel like:
- You’re doing it because of some positive feeling (like excitement, attraction, love…)
- Not because you’re trying to avoid something bad (eg. you’re worried the person won’t be interested any more if you don’t, or that they’ll be annoyed, or that they’re just going to keep on asking if you don’t so you might as well get it over with)
- You know the person well enough and you both trust each other
- You both understand these pictures belong to you and you only. They’re not for sharing.
- You consent to send the picture, and person you’re sending them to consents to receive them. Find out what to do if someone sends you a picture you didn't consent to receiving.
- You’re old enough to understand enough about sex and how you feel about it, what you like, and what you don’t like.
- You’re old enough to understand and respect how the other person feels too.
- You understand what the law says – see above.
The main thing to remember is no one should ever pressure you to send an image, or share it without your consent.
Where can you get help and support?
Find out where to get support.
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Visit the That's Not OK campaign page for more information.