‘I’d been chatting with someone online for a while, when suddenly his messages became very sexually explicit,’ said the email. ‘When I withdrew, he called me a coward. It was horrible to be insulted for not participating in inappropriate behaviour. To suddenly go from affectionate to sexually explicit is weird and creepy, and not what I expected on a Christian dating website.’
I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve heard this kind of story, but it’s not. No doubt a fair number of women reading this (and I daresay a few men) have been brought up short when friendly online banter takes a sudden diversion into sleaze. It’s not what you imagine when you sign up to a Christian website! But while most members wouldn’t dream of it, there will always be exceptions.
So, picture the scene. There you are, thinking how well things are going, how charming this person is… and out of the blue, you’re assaulted with a barrage of filth! It beggars belief why anyone would do this on a Christian site. I mean, why not just go and perv on one of those websites where it’s the norm?
Perhaps you think I’m going all Mary Whitehouse on you. Look, I get it. Being a Christian doesn’t make you immune to sexual frustration, and many of us really struggle with that. There may be a temptation to escalate a nice chat with an attractive person into sexy talk. I mean, it’s just a bit of fun, isn’t it? It’s not like you’re actually touching someone physically. No one’s getting hurt, right…?
Wrong. When someone has dirty talk foisted upon them unexpectedly, it can be shocking, upsetting, disappointing and even threatening. They’ve come to a Christian website with high hopes of meeting a life partner who shares their faith and moral standards. To discover that the seemingly decent person you’re chatting to actually views you as a sex object or (sorry to say it) a masturbatory aid is insulting and depressing. You often don’t know how to react or handle it. It can leave you feeling cynical and hopeless about ever meeting someone worthwhile. For those with a history of abusive relationships or sexual abuse (and that’s a lot of people), it can be a serious trigger.
So… don’t do it. Really, just DON’T. Check your Christian morals and ask whether you’d send that text if Jesus was looking over your shoulder (spoiler: He is). Remember all that stuff He said about lust and committing adultery in the heart? Remind yourself that the person on the other end is a human being, precious to God, who should be honoured and protected. They won’t be flattered, they’ll be insulted, distressed or scared. You have no idea of their history and how sexting will affect them, but you do know they’re hoping for better. So have some respect!
Now, to the victims of that unwanted sexting or grubby emails… Be assured that you aren’t to blame for the other person’s behaviour, even if they imply you’ve led them on or encouraged it (that’s a standard manipulation technique). There are a million miles between a little mild flirtation and explicit messages. Never allow yourself to be drawn into any exchange you’re not completely comfortable with (first it’ll be sexy talk, next it’ll be requests for nude photos and webcams…).
If someone sent me a dubious message, they might get one warning if it wasn’t too explicit and I felt it may be an error of judgment or a misunderstanding. But most likely I’d shut the communication down swiftly and without warning – a simple, ‘I don’t appreciate that kind of talk’ and then block them. I know it’s not easy – we’ve all been taught to be polite. If we’ve been chatting for a while, we might feel some obligation or investment in the ‘relationship’. But it’s important to protect your boundaries, and you have every right to bail without warning if someone makes you uncomfortable. While you’re blocking them, send a report to the website administrators, to alert them and protect other potential victims.
Crucially, don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all misjudged people. We’ve all been disappointed. We’ve all felt hopeless. But most people aren’t perverts or predators, so don’t give into cynicism or lose hope. Once you’ve dusted yourself off and licked your wounds (or if you’re like me, turned it into an entertaining story!), get back on that horse – a little wiser and ready to meet someone better.