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Mumbai Takes Note of Sexting, the Seamier Side of Texting

by Prasad Krishna last modified Jun 23, 2011 09:55 AM
When Chitra started getting SMSs and emails laced with sexual innuendoes from an unknown individual, she didn't tell her mother or rush to the police. The 21-year-old grew so despondent that she dialed a psychologist for help. This article was published in the Times of India on June 19, 2011.

When Chitra started getting SMSs and emails laced with sexual innuendoes from an unknown individual, she didn't tell her mother or rush to the police. The 21-year-old grew so despondent that she dialed a psychologist for help.

But last week, a 17-year-old student of L S Patkar College in Goregaon didn't react like Chitra (name changed) did when she got lewd SMSs from her teacher. The teenager approached the police and got her computer hardware teacher, Rahul Sarangle, arrested. Sarangle was subsequently released on bail, but not before Mumbai had sat up and taken note of the seamier side of texting or sexting as it is known.

Sexting is, in simple terms, text messages with a sexual overtone. It's not new; in fact, every state in the US has worked out guidelines and laws to keep a check on unsolicited sexting, especially when children are the recipients. The American Academy of Pediatrics has coined a definition: "Sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images via cell phone, computer, or other digital devices."

Sexting has been at the forefront of news and online search engines due to the 20-day drama of US Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned on Friday after it emerged that he had sent explicit pictures of himself to six women using various online tools.

The moot question is why do men such as lecturer Rahul Sarangle or politicians like Anthony Weiner sext when it can be easily traced back to them?

Experts said unsolicited sexting is about sex and perversion. Psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said, "Such sexting occurs when the mind is obsessed; sexual thoughts are supreme and reasoning fails." He believes that a person who sexts also feels a sense of power. "The person's fingers work faster than the vocal cords. In such individuals, rational thought that should stop such urges seems paralysed," said Dr Shetty.

Said psychologst Hingoranney, "Some people are obsessed with sex or have supressed sexuality problem. They would derive sadistic thrills by sexting."

India is not without its share of sexting tales; the most infamous being the widely circulated MMS of two Delhi high school students in 2004. Said Nishant Shah, director (research) of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet & Society, "Sexting is essentially about mobile phones. While there is no study in India on sexting, it's obvious from our sessions with youngsters that sexting is a part of the new communication patterns emerging among young people."

At times, sexting can have disastrous outcomes. While Chitra is a nervous wreck who feels she may have invited the sexts with her behaviour, American teen Jessica Logan committed suicide in 2008 after her ex-boyfriend circulated nude pictures that she had earlier in their relationship MMSed him. Shah said, "During our research in Bihar, we came across youngsters in Bihar who have suffered a great deal when an older family member read SMSs that they had sent." Any SMS to a male friend could be misconstrued as sexting in non-metro parts of India, he added.

All experts said that measures should be taken by families, schoolscolleges and society at large to protect youngsters from the ills of sexting. "Victims could feel shocked, violated and frightened,'' said Dr Shetty. "The words jump from the screen bringing a deep sense of disgust and a feeling of pain. The experience may be converted to bad memories if counseling is not done.''

Read the original published in the Times of India here

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