What is Sexting?
Sexting and Canadian Law
Sexting is legal in Canada between consenting adults 18 years of age or older and when anybody in the photos or videos being shared has given permission. (And yes, that means that unsolicited pics are not legal, since the person on the receiving end hasn’t given consent.)
It is illegal to:
- Share intimate photos or videos of someone else without their permission
- Take intimate photos or videos of someone without their permission (called voyeurism)
- Threaten to share someone’s intimate photos or videos to pressure into doing something (called extortion)
- Send or save intimate photos or videos of anybody under 18 years of age, even if you are sharing photos of yourself if you’re under 18 (this is child pornography)1
Consent to sexting is not consent to any in-person sexual activity, and consent to in-person sexual activity is not consent to sexting.
If intimate photos or videos of you are being shared without your consent, you might be feeling a sense of shame or embarrassment. Know that this is not your fault. Visit NeedHelpNow.ca for step-by-step guides to removing these from social media or search Ontario’s Legal Aid Clinics to find a lawyer near you.
Sexting and Pleasure
When everyone’s really into it and gives consent, sexting can lead to greater relationship and sexual satisfaction2 with casual or committed partners of any age or gender. Make sure you’re engaging in sexting with someone you feel comfortable with and that you’re creating a comfortable space for the other person. Asking for consent before sending an intimate picture, video or message, and respecting a “yes” or a “no,” is a simple and effective way to get going. But just because sexting can be great, doesn’t mean it’s necessary for relationship success.
Talking about boundaries and desires can be a great way to explore sexting that’s fun for everyone. Our boundaries and desires are unique.
Some examples of boundaries might be:
- Designating times for sexting (like weekends), or specific times for not sexting (like dinner time)
- Leaving your face, birthmarks, or tattoos out of pictures
- Reserving a specific app for sexting
- Using features that don’t store messages, like Snapchat or Instagram’s vanish mode and selecting “view once” for photos sent in direct messages
Some examples of desires might be:
- Communicating what kind of language or words excites you and what kind of language or words are a turn off
- Communicating if you prefer texting, pictures, video, or audio recordings
1Department of Justice. (2017, August 8). Age of Consent to Sexual Activity. https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/clp/faq.html
2Stasko, E. C. & Geller, P. A. (2015, August). Reframing sexting as a positive relationship behavior. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/08/reframing-sexting.pdf