Is Sexting Considered Adultery in the Military?

by | General | 1 comment

When you’re in the military, the rules about personal conduct are clear and strict.

However, as we have already covered we get a lot of questions here on on various adult oriented topics. For instance OnlyFans being against UCMJ policy.

“Is Sexting considered Adultery in the Military?” is another question we get asked a lot and will be a topic we will explore today.

Let’s dive into the complexities of how the military views sexting and whether it could impact your military career.

What is Adultery in the Military?

As most of you already know, the military has its own legal system that is separate from state and federal law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

The UCMJ outlines specific doctrine that military service members must follow. It also outlines offenses that can lead to disciplinary action in the military.

Unlike in the civilian world, under the UCMJ adultery is a crime that is taken very seriously. Adultery is defined as an act that involves sexual relations with someone who is not your spouse when one or both of you are married to someone else.

The key element in these cases is the potential to disrupt order and discipline within a military unit.

Military adultery charges can be brought against a military member under the UCMJ if 3 conditions are met:

  1. At least one party to the act is married.
  2. The sexual encounter was voluntary.
  3. The conduct has a direct impact on order and discipline or discredits the military.

Proof of sexual intercourse traditionally requires more than just text messages or other digital evidence.

However, with sexting, there’s an evolving debate over what constitutes proof and whether digital intimacy crosses the line into adulterous behavior.

UCMJ Article 134 – Adultery

Under Article 134 of the UCMJ, adultery can lead to multiple consequences.

If found guilty, a service member could potentially face several disciplinary actions;

  1. Dishonorable discharge
  2. Forfeiture of pay and allowances
  3. Confinement.

To determine guilt, the court will evaluate the accused’s marital status, the nature of the sexual relationship, and the impact such behavior has had on the military and the unit that member is serving in.

In the digital era, the interpretation of “sexual relationship” has changed.

Court-martials have had to consider whether sexting is purely a method of conversation or if it’s an extension of the physical act, welcoming the same penalties as traditional adultery.

Sexting, in light of these regulations, can blur the lines, complicating what constitutes a breach of military law.

What is Sexting?

Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit photographs, videos, or messages via digital devices.

Typically this is via a mobile device such as a smarphone. Although it can be via chat messaging platform such as Discord, Telegram, etc.

Although sexting between consenting adults is generally a private matter, in the military… it’s different.  There is professional conduct governed by the UCMJ that service members must follow.

In the military context, sexting can blur the lines of appropriateness and can be considered conduct unbecoming of a service member, especially if it involves someone who is not your spouse.

To be clear, The Uniform Code of Military Justice does not specifically mention sexting. 

However, digital messages can potentially be used against an military member in a court martial. The charges could also fall under existing offenses like adultery, fraternization, or conduct unbecoming an officer.

If the person you’re sexting with is married or you’re married to someone else, these interactions may be subjected to scrutiny under Article 134, concerning adultery.

As sexting is digital, it leaves a footprint that can be traced, documented, and potentially brought forward as evidence in proceedings under the UCMJ by the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corp.

This digital trail differs from the traditional concept of proof required for sexual intercourse but reflects the evolving realities of modern communication and relationships.

The Military’s Stance on Adultery

As we already know, Adultery is explicitly addressed within the UCMJ. It is deemed a punishable offense.

The complexities of a case often boil down to three main elements:

  1. That the accused actually had sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse.
  2. That, at the time, the accused or the other person was married to someone else.
  3. That the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

Each case is evaluated on an individual basis, taking into account these factors and the context in which the alleged adultery occurred. It’s not just about whether the act happened or not—circumstantial evidence and the overall impact of the offense on the military’s integrity are heavily weighed.

In the age of digital communication, sexting poses new challenges to the interpretation of what constitutes adultery under military law. The lines between personal privacy and service-related conduct can become blurred, making it pivotal to stay judicious about engaging in any form of digital intimacy.

Service members are often advised to seek legal counsel if they’re unsure about how their personal actions could be perceived in a military context. This guidance is especially pertinent when it involves the exchange of sexually explicit material, considering the UCMJ’s approach to adultery and its potential career-altering ramifications.

Education on the boundaries set by the UCMJ is an essential part of military training, as ignorance of such regulations offers no protection from disciplinary action. Adequate knowledge of the rules not only safeguards your career but also upholds the honor and structure of military life.

The Impact of Adultery in the Military

When you’re serving in the military, engaging in adultery can have far-reaching effects that extend beyond personal relationships. Adultery in the military is taken very seriously due to its potential to undermine discipline and moral within the ranks. The implications are influential enough to possibly jeopardize unit cohesion and overall effectiveness.

It’s important to note that trust and unity are the cornerstones of any military operation. If you’re involved in adulterous conduct, it can erode the trust your comrades and superiors place in you. This breakdown in trust can lead to a decrease in morale, which is vital for the high-stress situations service members often find themselves in.

The consequences for adultery under military law are strict. If you’re found guilty of adultery, you can be subject to:

  • Dishonorable discharge or dismissal
  • Forfeiture of pay and allowances
  • Reduction in rank
  • Confinement

Cases of adultery can also work significantly against you if you’re up for promotion. Merit and ethical behavior play crucial roles in evaluations, and a tarnished record can halt advancement opportunities.

Additionally, the repercussions extend to social relationships within the military community. Your family could face ostracism, and the respect of peers and officers may be lost. This can cultivate a challenging social atmosphere for you and your dependents, making day-to-day life on base difficult.

Educating yourself on the UCMJ and seeking professional advice if you ever find yourself questioning the legality of personal conduct is paramount. Keep in mind, the nuances of what constitutes adultery in the military, especially with the rise of digital communication, are continually under scrutiny. Military lawyers stay abreast of evolving legal interpretations and can provide essential guidance to help protect your career and position within the military structure.

Policies and Consequences for Sexting in the Military

In tackling the sensitive subject of sexting among service members, understanding the policies governing such conduct is crucial. Although sexting doesn’t automatically equate with the UCMJ’s definition of adultery, it can still fall under other punitive articles. Specifically, Article 134—the General Article—addresses behaviors that bring discredit upon the armed forces or are detrimental to good order and discipline.

Sexting can potentially violate other UCMJ articles such as:

  • Article 92 if it’s in violation of a lawful general order or regulation
  • Article 133 for commissioned officers, where conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman can be cited

The consequences for sexting range extensively depending on the context and the perceived impact on military discipline and cohesion. Violations can result in:

Consequence Possible Scenarios
Non-Judicial Punishment Minor infractions, counseling
Court-Martial Severe cases with substantial evidence
Administrative Separation Continuous conduct issues, pattern of misconduct

Service members found guilty of conduct in violation of UCMJ policies can face severe penalties, including reduction in rank, forfeit of pay, or even imprisonment. Each case is examined on its unique facts, and the discretion of the commanding officer plays a significant role in determining the outcome.

Moreover, service members who participate in sexting may also be compromising operational security, especially if they’re sharing sensitive information or images using non-secure platforms. This risky behavior can lead to additional charges related to the mishandling of classified or sensitive information.

It’s vital to be aware of both the written rules and the unwritten expectations of professionalism and conduct within the military. With evolving technology and social practices, the military continuously updates its regulations, which means staying informed is key to navigating the complex landscape of military law. Seeking legal counsel before engaging in any questionable behavior can help protect your career and your future within the military.


Navigating the complexities of military law reveals that sexting carries significant risks for service members. It’s essential to understand that such actions can lead to serious consequences even if they don’t strictly meet the technical definition of adultery. Your career, reputation, and freedom may be at stake. Remember, maintaining professionalism and adhering to military codes of conduct is paramount. If you’re ever in doubt, seeking legal advice is the best course of action to protect yourself and your career in the armed forces.


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