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Sexting Again, and Sometimes I Miss Things

April 9, 2009

My fellow contributor Cara, over at her usual blog The Curvature, pointed out that I flubbed a significant issue here in the “Common Sense on Sexting” post by failing to point out that there is a huge difference between teens taking pictures of themselves and their partners and folks forwarding the pictures without consent. She’s absolutely right. I was so happy to see anyone in the mainstream media move away from the crazily punitive notion of charging teen girls with a crime for taking photos of themselves, that I didn’t stop to point out the major difference, which is something I’ve thought about before.

(1) teens taking photos of themselves, and sharing them consensually with age appropriate partners in non-coercive contexts is basically just sexual activity among teens, which parents and prosecutors ought to treat it as such.

(2) nonconsensual sending of others’ images, whatever their ages, is abuse, and ought to be treated as such.

Reasonable people can debate how much punishment is appropriate. For the first, I think the answer is probably none, or at worst a loss of cell phone privileges. It’s teens being sexual. They’re going to do that.

The second is sexual assault. I don’t think this is what the child porn laws were meant for, but neither is it a cute prank. It’s deeply hurtful, it uses sex as a locus for abuse, and it is grounds for serious sanctions.

(My gut reaction at the family dinner table when I heard about the Jessica Logan case, where a guy distributed an Ohio teen’s photos without her consent and other teens harassed her until she killed herself, was that I hoped someone killed that guy, but I distrust gut reactions like that as a basis for criminal justice policy.)

This issue was on my mind during the discussion in the Feministing thread on It Became Necessary To Destroy The Town To Save It. For that reason, my Proposed Statutory Exemption did not protect guys like the one in the CNN commentary.

I rushed the post on the CNN commentary and I shouldn’t have, and so I messed up when I shouldn’t have, and Cara is absolutely right.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Linda Lee permalink
    April 12, 2009 8:59 am

    I personally know of a case where an eighteen-year-old took videos of her seventeen-year-old sister having sex with her boyfriend. This was consensual. It is now eight years later and the older sister is a convicted sexual offender, on the sex-offender registry, for these videos. When the seventeen-year-old ran-away with her boyfriend, the videos came into the hands of the police, and they prosecuted to the fullest extent of whatever they could get. It has ruined the older girl’s life. This was in central Wisconsin.

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