Half of Americans agree that there should be less stigma around consenting adults sharing intimate photos

According to a new survey, the average American has accidentally sent six intimate messages or photos to the wrong person throughout their lifetime.

A survey of 2,000 Americans split evenly by gender and age examined their thoughts and views on intimate photos and found that a third of all respondents admitted to sending an intimate photo in the past, sharing a preference for social media and text messages (54%, each).

Still, 43% think that nude photos are considered “taboo,” according to the survey, with Gen Z being the most open-minded.

More than half of Americans want to change this perspective, agreeing that there should be less stigma around consenting adults sharing these photos (53%).

The survey run by OnePoll in partnership with Avast Photo Vault found that, on average, people receive more intimate photos of others than they share of themselves.

Half of those who send intimate photos said they do so at least once a week (52%), and another 29% send them once a month or more.

Many cite long-distance relationships (46%), their partner asking for them (45%), or feeling attractive (44%) as the top reasons for sending these photos, while 42% said they just felt like it.

On the other hand, those who have never sent an intimate photo worry about the prospect of them being shared with others (21%) or impacting their reputation (19%).

However, four in five worry their intimate pictures could fall into the wrong hands, and 69% are worried these may be held against them. Similarly, 79% are concerned that others have these photos saved on their devices.

An equal amount of men and women, 39%, said they keep intimate photos of themselves on their devices.

Perhaps this is because a third of respondents admit they’re not sure how to safely send an intimate photo (32%).

Most respondents admitted keeping their own photos (79%) and others’ (82%) saved on their personal devices in a password-protected folder (48%) or on their device’s gallery (46%).

"Are we all really doing it? Why, yes. A third of Americans have shared a nude photo, and 73% do so as often as once a month,” said Shan Boodram, intimacy expert and certified sexologist. “It can be a healthy expression between you and your partner! Here's some advice: before even considering sending these photos, establish a code of trust with the person you're sharing them with and have an open conversation to ensure privacy on both parties' end. Be aware of the ways to share and send photos safely.”

Protecting yourself is more important than ever, as nearly three-quarters of those who shared intimate photos found that they were leaked or shared without their permission (73%).

In response, they pursued legal action (43%) or confronted the person (34%).

“We don’t see the sharing of intimate photos as a fad or trend, but as a part of our ever-growing digital lives, so the need for critical online safety measures is more important than ever. People need to consider a digital shoebox for this content,” said Emma McGowan, privacy and security expert and writer at Avast. “Mobile security products that contain features to protect users like photo vaults allow users to move photos to an encrypted folder are safe options. These should be protected by a passcode or Face ID, and remove these images from the device’s ‘Photos’ app.”