Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Sexting Definition:

The sending of digital text messages containing suggestive, provocative, or explicit sexual photographs.

Related Terms: Cyber-bullying, Privacy

Distribution is typically through posting on the Internet, especially on social medias sites, or directly to another mobile phone or electronic device.

In the 2013 reasons of Justice Robert Filmore of the Court of Appeal of Texas, Terry v State, these words of the trial court were not disturbed:

"Sexting is the sending of digital text messages containing suggestive, provocative, or explicit sexual photographs."

Eric Latzer wrote:

"Sexting occurs when someone sends via text message or posts on the internet sexually charged messages or images, including nude or semi-nude pictures.

"Although not limited to younger people, a growing number of teenagers continue to engage in sexting and consequently, the issue has become a source of widespread discussion among parents, lawmakers, and society generally.

sexting"Fundamentally, teenage sexting is a product of sexual curiosity, poor judgment, and a modern trend in which teenagers utilize electronic file sharing as their primary method of communication."

Some jurists tend to exclude from the definition of sexting, text-only transmissions that though pornographic by some definition, do not include images, such as when two individuals "talk dirty" to each other by text.

For example, Joanna Lampe wrote that sexting is the:

"... digital transmission of sexually suggestive or sexually explicit photographs or videos, intended for personal use, through a medium that affords a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a text message or personal email.1

But the Parliament of Victoria, Australia Law Reform Committee, Inquiry Into Sexting proposed this definition which is inclusive of "sexually explicit messages", the talking dirty variety of sexting but then spoke of the legislative movement towards capturing image-only conduct:

"...the creating, sharing, sending or posting of sexually explicit messages or images via the internet, mobile phones or other electronic devices by people, especially young people.... (and) the receiving or sending of a sexually explicit photograph or video clip on a mobile phone.

"While sexting referred to text-based messages with sexual content when it first came into usage, it is now commonly understood to refer to the sending of explicit images."

This conduct often occurs with persons not of the age of majority who do not fully understand the consequences of sexting images of themselves or of others, especially the permanency of it:

"The topic of sexting, particularly by young people, has become an issue of national, and international, interest and concern over the past few years.

"With the advent of smartphones and the increasing take-up of technology by teenagers and young people, the intersection between sex and Inquiry into sexting technology has widened, with technology playing an increasing role in young people’s exploration and expression of their sexuality."2

Some jurisdictions are moving towards a prohibition of sexting even as between consenting minors. This, retrieved on August 13, 2013 from the webpage of the Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne:

"... sexting ... whereby minors send sexually explicit messages or photographs to one another, primarily through mobile phones. So prominent is the issue that several states have adopted legislation criminalizing sexting. Arizona became the seventh state to enact such a law in May 2010, which places both the sender and the recipient at risk for legal repercussions including charges of possession and distribution of child pornography."


  • Lampe, Joanna, Victimless Sex Crime: The Case for Decriminalizing Consensual Teen Sexting, 46 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 703 (2012-2013) [NOTE 1]
  • Latzer, Eric, Search for a Sensible Sexting Solution: A Call for Legislative Action, 41 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1039 (2011)
  • Miller v. Skumanick, cited as 605 F. Supp. 2d 634 (2009)
  • Parliament of Victoria, Australia, Law Reform Commitee, Inquiry Into Sexting, May 2013, Parliamentary Paper, No. 230, Session 2010-2013 [www.parliament.vic.gov.au/lawreform; also NOTE 2]
  • Terry v State, Texas Court of Appeals, 5th District, 2013, actions 05-12-00279-CR, 05-12-00295-CR

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