Friday, June 12, 2009

On sexting

I recently became a member of the Yahoo! Mother Boards and will be doing a post a month on a theme of their choosing. I'm not being paid for this, but I like the idea of 1) having at least one post topic a month, and 2) forcing myself to stay in the box - at least a little.

This month, they've asked us to write about sexting. This was a topic that first came to my attention through this post by O Solo Mama. I'd made my comment and moved on. I recently returned to it and found that someone had a few comments of their own on my comment. So I'd like to take this opportunity to address that.

First, to be clear, her post was about one specific case wherein two 13-year-old girls had taken a photo of themselves in their bras. The girls were being charged for child pornography. I thought that was taking this a bit too far, and said so:

wow. Why is the DA wasting so much money and basically demeaning REAL victims of sex offenders in this manner? This is clearly set out to hurt women, if you ask me.
Another commenter, who went by the name of Think, had this to say in response:

Perhaps the DA was making an issue out of the “sexting” to educate the public, to bring the activities of the youth into discussion/media, and to provide some punishment for those who do it.

Why make the following comment?

“wow. Why is the DA wasting so much money and basically demeaning REAL victims of sex offenders in this manner? This is clearly set out to hurt women, if you ask me.”

Where do you draw the line? When is it “child pornography?” Is sexting okay if sent between two people or when one recipient sends it to the remainder of the school? Slapping someone’s rear doesn’t “hurt” anyone… A 15-year old having sex with a 25-year old might bring pleasure, be wanted, and not “hurt,” but it is a crime.

The issue is that these pictures make the participants look “easy” and “do anythings” who will do just about anything to “be popular,” “get that guy/gal,” …

You want them working for you? I don’t. No telling what they will do with company data if they are willing to get naked in front of the world. What is private any more? What is special and not shared with everyone?

However, perhaps everyone wants a swinging world… If so, I hope they can deal with the emotional issues since many can’t deal with the emotional situations that may be created in those relationships.

Sexting is like stealing the gum… stupid. I don’t mind making it illegal. My question to you is why do you want your kids sexting anyone? I’m just curious…
First of all, as far as I could see, this case wasn't about whether or not they were having sex. I don't think my comment implied in any way that I was okay with these girls having sex or swinging, but just to be clear, that was not the intent of my comment.

My opinion, in this case, is that the DA went too far to charge these girls with the crime of child pornography. They weren't, in fact, naked or even showing "private parts," nor were they engaged in sexual activity. I didn't go through and read all the links that O Solo Mama included, but in her post, she stated that one of the girls was on the phone, and the other had her hand in the peace sign. Doesn't sound like swinging to me. I also remain grateful that I'm not growing up in this day and age, when stupid mistakes I did as a kid may come back to haunt me as an adult! (And I can't think of any 13-year-olds that I would want working for me.)

Child pornography, in my mind, is when adults take pictures of children naked, either without their knowledge, or under coercion (and, in any case when a child is being asked to do something like this by an adult, it's coercion to me). Child pornography is rightfully a crime when the children are being victimized. This was not what I believed was happening in this case. Nor do I believe that these girls should have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

As far as my comment regarding it being hurtful to women, women are the majority of victims when it comes to sexual abuse, harassment, and other sexual crimes. Comparing what some women (and girls) have survived to what these girls did diminishes the value of our laws designed to protect all victims of sexual crimes. In looking up your neighborhood in Megan's Law, for instance, does it really mean anything if sexting offenders were listed along with child abusers?

Having said that, of course, I would hope that neither of my girls would engage in sexting. I suppose I am grateful that it has come to our attention so that we are aware that it's happening, and can talk to our kids about it, but I still believe that it would be wrong for the state to prosecute my daughter as a child pornographer for taking a picture in what amounts to the same coverage as a bikini.

I did have an opportunity to talk about it with both Sylvia and Riley days later when a similar report was on the news about sexting, and I let them know that it could be considered criminal behavior. Just as most topics involving s-e-x, both of them were horrified that I would even suggest they'd do such a thing! As smart as they are, as emotionally mature as they are, Sylvia still doesn't seem to show interest in the opposite sex outside of swooning over Johnny Depp with me. Checking her cell phone online, she still sends the majority of her text messages to me. (Her last text to me was this gem: "I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love you a lot!")

These issues will come up time and time again, and all I can say is, I plan to continue to keep the communication "door" open, and continue talking to both of my daughters about technology and s3x as much as they'll allow it!

Yahoo! has asked us to share their top 10 cyber safety tips:

1. Yahoo! Safely - a complete resource for all things cyber correct.

2. Create a family pledge for Online Safety.

3. Applying a filter to your child’s Yahoo! Mail account is simple by creating a family account to monitor your child’s use of Yahoo! and edit and maintain their account settings.

4. Talk to the hand, Mr. Spammer. Yahoo! Mail uses the latest technology to combat spam and to help protect you from phishing and viruses. Yahoo!’s spam guard will filter out 97% of all things bad.

5. You can flag photos on Flickr for abuse via the “Report Abuse” link that’s available in the footer of every page.

6. 4 things to know before your child goes online.

7. Report abuse on any Yahoo! property.

8. Keep private things private. Manage your online profile.

9. Yahoo!'s SafeSearch feature is designed to filter out explicit, adult-oriented content from Yahoo! Search results.

10. Keep up to date with our safety experts blogs.


Natalie said...

Wait. Let me make sure I understand this...these thirteen year old girls sent pictures of themselves in bras to each other?

Call me stupid, but aren't thirteen year old girls naturally curious about themselves and they just *might* have been comparing? Aren't they going through that little thing called puberty? I can remember being curious about my body and others at that age and I think I turned out ok.

I'm with you on this. Totally. I do not think that two girls sending pictures of themselves in bras to each other constitutes child pornography.

I could go on an entire rant on what kind of people I think are pushing this agenda, but I'll stop here.

FreedomFirst said...

Ummm.... Don't we see 13-year-olds in bikinis on the beach every summer? Pornography my ass. That is such crap. When I heard about that story I just assumed the girls were, you know, naked! Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Damn, I am so happy not to be 13 & not to have a 13 yr old. Soooo happy. As far as people making comments on other peoples comments, that gets to be a bit MUCH. I had someone email me once that she would no longer follow my blog because of a comment I made on someone else's blog. Uhm, whatever. ~Mary
ps new to your blog, just hopping around.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I didn't know you picked this up! Cool. BTW, one was on the phone and the other was flashing a peace sign (fingers). Both were wearing bras. I too immediately started educating my daughter. Of course, I don't want her sexting. (Now they have some damned kissing wall going on in the Gr. 6 school yard after class. You never know.) BUT--and this is a big but--child porn legislation was designed to protect kids and get predators; it wasn't designed to protect foolish minors from themselves. Some of these kids are facing sex offender labels. As James Marsh said so well, a mockery. . .a travesty.

Anonymous said...

As always, a well stated piece, April. I was rather aghast at some other sexting stuff I heard about and was really incredulous when I heard about this. But then, we have all sorts of idots running things these days. In a local school district a school security guard TASERED a high school kid for not stopping when asked to stop walking down the hall...TASERED for god's sake! Everyone has gone stupid I think! No common sense at all is nuts.

Bit, I digress...thanks for sharing the safety tips too!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, and would equally agree if the pics were naked. Teens exploring their sexuality should never be considered a crime on par with adults vitimizing children. We have become quite comfortable with painting all "sex crimes" with a broad brush, instead of attempting to distinguish truly dangerous situations from relatively innocent adolescent behaviors.

jenn said...

I agree with you on this. Teenagers do stupid things, and it's not like they were naked. I certainly don't think they should be charged with child pornagraphy when they are the children.