Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 7 News List

FEATURE: Mexican sexting school teaches women safety

AFP, MEXICO CITY

Marytrini Aguilar, a 43-year-old Mexican woman with a stable marriage and two grown children, might not be what most people have in mind when they think of the word “sexting,” but she is proud to be part of a small but enthusiastic group of women shedding their clothes — and their taboos — to explore their sexuality and spice up their relationships by sharing racy selfies snapped on their cellphones.

“Sexting makes me feel free to express my sensuality. It flatters my vanity and makes me feel secure. It pleases me to please the person I’m sending the picture to,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar recently joined seven other women for a workshop in Mexico City on sexting safely.

Sponsored by the Mexican government, the free workshop — organized by women’s rights group Luchadoras — is called “I sext, do you?”

It encourages participants to view sexting as a form of freedom of speech and sexual liberation, but also to be aware of the dangers.

“I haven’t told anyone about it yet,” said Aguilar, who takes pride in subverting the stereotype of a 40-something Mexican mom.

“I think [my friends] do it too, but they would never admit it. They see it as something for young women. Why would a married mother of two do it?” said the tattooed businesswoman, who has a 22-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter, and enjoys sexting with her husband.

She said the workshop — taught in three four-hour sessions — made her feel empowered.

“We learned we’re all the same, that we all have things to share, to keep exploring our sexuality and sensuality, and that everyone can be sensual,” she said.

However, in our hyperconnected world, sex and technology can be a dangerous mix.

Intimate messages and photographs are leaked online by erstwhile partners so often a term has been coined for it: revenge porn.

Various governments around the world have outlawed it, including 40 US states and countries from Britain to Japan.

Hackers have also made a twisted hobby of breaking into people’s phones and stealing their intimate photographs.

In 2014, the problem drew worldwide attention when hackers leaked pictures of celebrities, including actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst, model Kate Upton and singer Rihanna.

In Mexico, a country with a long history of machismo and alarming levels of violence against women — seven women and girls are killed there every day, according to the UN — eight states have outlawed revenge porn.

“It really is an attack and an invasion of privacy, and it is widespread throughout the country, on a massive, organized level,” said Lulu Barrera, the founder of Luchadoras and leader of the workshop.

She is adamant that women should not be the ones who are shamed in such cases.

“This idea that women who sext ... have to be careful, that they shouldn’t express themselves sexually ... what it does is make them the guilty party and revictimizes them,” she said.

The workshop includes lessons on cybersecurity, where participants learn about things such as metadata, geolocation, apps that let users hide their faces, and secure sexting platforms with secret chats and self-destructing messages.

Gisela Rubio, another workshop participant, started sexting at 17.

Now 22, Rubio, a psychology student, is writing her thesis on sexting among high-school students.

She said that it is nearly always women and girls who are the victims when sexting goes wrong.

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