Scarlett Johansson. Blake Lively. Vanessa Hudgens. Miley Cyrus. Lily Allen. What do these young celebs all have in common? They have all been caught up in some form of a leaked nude picture or sexting-related scandal.
And even though you’d think such public, embarrassing, cautionary tales might dissuade the general public from such behavior, according to a new report, that is not the case.
The 2012 Harlequin Romance Report unveiled last week revealed 43 percent of respondents to an Internet survey of 1,500 women between the ages of 18-40 admitted to sexting: the sending of sexually explicit text or email messages. Thirty-six percent of respondents admitted to sexting after only a few dates, and 27 percent revealed that they had sent nude photos of themselves via email or text message.
Given that so many celebrities have been involved in sexting scandals in recent times, have those stars made it seem okay to be sending nude photos and sexually explicit messages?
“Young girls emulate and imitate their idols as a way to connect and feel closer to them, and thus copying bad celebrity behavior becomes another way for young girls to bond with their idols, while also creating their own identity and attracting more attention,” human sexuality expert Patrick Wanis PhD, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “Young girls still seeking their own path can easily be hypnotized by celebrities and bad behavior into thinking that any attention is good attention.”
“Because celebrities are so involved in sexting and sending out raunchy photos of themselves via text, it makes young women think that this is the only way to get a man's attention. But it is not,” she explained. “Or at least it's not the way to get the right attention from a man. No man is going to take a young girl seriously who is sending them saucy photos of themselves. They might think these women are good for a one-night stand or quick fling, but no man is going to take a woman who sexts them too early on seriously.”
And its not just celebrity sexts that can surface in the public domain.
“There are cases all over the world where a sext message from years ago has resurfaced because it was passed around by an old boyfriend or it was saved by one of his friends who has suddenly decide to release it,” Brett continued. “No matter when the sext was sent, employers don't look highly upon sexting and it can definitely ruin any chances of employment or lead to job loss.”
In some cases, a simple sext can turn into a tragedy.
In 2008, Jesse Logan, an 18-year-old Ohio teen, committed suicide after being bullied and relentlessly ridiculed when her ex-boyfriend sent a nude photograph of her, which she had sent him while they were together, to a group of younger students in retaliation after their breakup. Then there is the story of Hope Witsell, who was only 13 when she hung herself in 2009 after being the target for torment after sending a topless photo of herself to a male crush. He passed the photograph to a friend, who then capitalized on the opportunity and spread the picture to numerous kids in their school and other surrounding schools.
In addition, several teenage boys have been charged with owning and distributing child pornography after sharing digital photos of their underage girlfriends naked to other pals. A group of Alabama middle school girls were also arrested for exchanging salacious snaps of themselves.
“Sexting is a dangerous way to express unfiltered emotions of love, lust and desire because those private emotions can easily become immortalized and exposed to the world,” Wanis said. “Technology fools us into thinking communication is private, personal and intimate but what should be private, personal, and intimate ultimately becomes public and viral.”
Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay