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Texas Governor Rolls Out New Unwanted Sexting Law

By  Amanda
Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, July 14, 2015.
Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Texas men and women might want to think twice before hitting send on that sext. A new law set to take effect on September 1 will make sending unwanted sexually explicit images via text or social media a crime.

“Many people — especially women — get unwanted sexually explicit pictures by text or social media. It’s disgusting. Now, it’s illegal in Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) announced on Twitter Friday.

“Today we had the formal signing of a new law in Texas that makes it a crime to send sexually explicit pictures by social media or by text; it goes into effect September the first,” the Republican said in a video post.

Under House Bill 2789, offenses would include “visual material” that depicts “any person engaging in sexual conduct or with the person’s intimate parts exposed” or “covered genitals of a male person that are in a discernibly turgid state” that “is not sent at the request of or with the express consent of the recipient.”

Sending such unsolicited images would be a class C misdemeanor, carrying a fine up to $500.

Republican Rep. Morgan Meyer, who represents Dallas, sponsored the bill. “HB 2789 addresses a modern, and sadly, a growing problem across digital communication platforms such as text, email, social media and dating apps,” said Meyer, according to Houston Public Media. “Currently, if a person commits indecent exposure, it is a crime. Yet if that same person engages in such an act over texting or a dating app, the unwanting recipient has absolutely no recourse, even for repetitive offenses. This must stop.”

Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder of female-friendly dating app Bumble, testified in favor of the bill. “If indecent exposure is a crime on the streets, then why is it not on your phone or your computer? We want the standards of acceptable behavior online to match those in real life,” said Herd, Houston Public Media reported.

Concerns over the prevalence of sexting have increased within recent years, particularly among youths. In one recent study cited by The New York Times, a stunning two-thirds of the nearly 500 12- to 18-year-old female participants said they have been asked to send explicit photos.

“Using online personal accounts posted by adolescents, this study explores young women’s reported dilemmas with sending nude photographs to their peers,” the study’s abstract explains (emphasis added). “A thematic analysis of 462 stories reveals that young women received conflicting messages which told them both to send and refrain from sending photographs. In addition to sending photographs in the hope of gaining a relationship, young women also reported sending photographs as the result of coercion by male counterparts in the form of persistent requests, anger, and threats. Young women attempted to navigate young men’s coercive behaviors yet frequently resorted to compliance. Refusal was often met with repeated requests or threats. Alternative tactics were largely absent from young women’s stories, indicating that young women do not have tools to successfully navigate the challenges they face.”

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