Metro Weekly

Oklahoma Wants to Prosecute People for Texting Nudes

A proposed law in Oklahoma would punish people who text sexually-explicit pictures with up to 20 years in prison.

An Oklahoma bill would punish who send, and those who receive, sexual images to each other with jail time. – Photo: Rido, via Dreamstime

A proposed Oklahoma law would make sending nudes from anybody other than a person’s spouse a crime.

SB 1976, sponsored by Sen. Dusty Deevers (R-Elgin), seeks to criminalize sending or displaying adult sexual content unless the content is not considered “patently offensive as found by the average person applying contemporary community standards” or has “serious literary, artistic, educational, political, or scientific purposes or value.” 

The bill defines “unlawful pornography” as any visual depiction or image of sex — including oral sex, anal sex, BDSM, and masturbation — or displays of nudity, including pictures, live video, drawings, or animations that depict genitalia, buttocks, or breasts.

Under the bill, people who send “unlawful pornography” to others can be fined up to $25,000 and imprisoned for up to 20 years — unless they are married and only sending nude or sexual images or videos to their spouse.

Meanwhile, people who pose for nude pictures, act in pornographic films, print, publish, sell, distribute, or even give away (without receiving any financial gain) images or content defined as “unlawful pornography” to a person who is not their spouse can be punished with a fine of $2,000 and up to a year in jail.

The bill’s language is so vague that some critics have speculated that, if courts were to adopt a strict interpretation of the proposed law’s text, any person who receives or views “obscene content” or “unlawful pornography,” even unwittingly, could be prosecuted under the law.

The proposed law would also effectively place a bounty on any person or company that produces or distributes so-called “unlawful pornography,” allowing any person to sue the producer of such content in court.

If they win their court case, the person who filed the lawsuit can receive a reward of at least $10,000 “for each image or depiction produced or distributed” in Oklahoma.

The bill inserts the prohibitions on “obscene content” and “unlawful pornography” amid reasonable restrictions on child pornography.

It has become common, in recent years, for right-wing politicians proposing various censorship restrictions to lump restrictions on adult sexual content together with content involving minors.

This tactic allows proponents of censorship to intimidate or cajole lawmakers into supporting the restrictions and to potentially assert — falsely — that their political opponents either don’t care about protecting minors or wish to “groom” them by exposing them to sexual or age-inappropriate content. 

As Hemant Mehta, an atheist advocate who reports on efforts by right-wing politicians to remake the United States into a Christian theocracy, noted in his Friendly Atheist Substack, not only would the law criminalize anyone with an OnlyFans account or who livestreams sex performances, but even platforms like X could ultimately be banned in Oklahoma due to the proliferation of adult-oriented material on the site.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, a senior editor at the libertarian publication Reason Magazine, noted in a podcast for the Daily Beast that the bill’s language is so broad that it could potentially include live performances in a play that includes full or partial nudity and could even be applied in a way that would outlaw strip clubs, burlesque performances, and drag performances.

Reporting on the bill for Reason, Nolan Brown wrote that the law “could also lead to lawsuits or charges against a wide range of distribution platforms…. This would incentivize platforms to either block Oklahoma users entirely or — especially if more states follow suit — to start strictly moderating even remotely adult content.”

While Deevers said in an interview with Conversations That Matter — a conservative Christian podcast — that he doesn’t believe Senate leadership will allow his bill to receive a vote, the bill is a way to test how much political traction such ideas have. According to Mehta, while the bill is considered unlikely to pass and would likely be ruled unconstitutional, it could serve as a proving ground for pushing more extreme bills.

“It’s straight out of Project 2025, the Christian Nationalist playbook for a future GOP-led government,” Mehta warns. “Even if Deevers’ bill fails, it’s a harbinger of what’s to come if Republicans retake control of Congress and the White House. Just more extremism and a curtailing of freedom.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!