Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent by Amy Adele Hasinoff

Part II – Alternative Ways to Think About Sexting

4. Sexualization and Participation

  • Unfortunately, girls are often blamed for promoting sexual abuse and are expected to help solve the problem. At the same time, attention is diverted from privacy violators and harassers. Men and boys are seldom asked to help. Amy argues that sexting can be a valid and authentic choice. It’s hard to blame girls for being sexualized as they grow up surrounded by such images. Documentaries about sexualization make media seem like a force that acts upon teenagers in a way that is overwhelming, unstoppable, and even violent although this is not Amy’s view. There is therefore, an obvious and common sense reason why teens sext.
  • Child pornography laws were passed in the 1980’s in response to the proliferation of affordable video recorders, and they weren’t designed to apply to consensual sexting. Now it’s impossible to change the laws as politicians do not want to be seen as soft on child porn. While girls do take a risk sending a text, there is little evidence that private sexts are widely shared online. There are no peer-reviewed studies on child porn as researchers cannot legally view it for scholarly purposes. In the meantime, there has been a steady and significant decline in reported cases since the mid-1990s. It’s also odd that prison sentences for possessing child porn can equal or even exceed those for committing acts of sexual abuse. In most states, teenagers can marry earlier than they can legally have sex. Sexting between casual partners is linked to porn and exhibitionism and is thus viewed as unhealthy and a negative effect of sexualization of girls.
  • Sexting is a form of media production, which can help youth express themselves and challenge mass culture. Media production is celebrated more by girls but don’t expect to find any potential benefits reported. The value of sexing remains unexamined. There are three reasons girls might sext without being passive victims. 1) Interpersonal Communication: Mobile phones allow for intimacy that travels with you. It may encourage men to be more emotionally expressive and both sexes use it to connect. 2) Self-Expression: Sexting is a tool for self-exploration, which offers new ways for the young to negotiate, respond, and speak back to the media. Girls who sext are most likely impressed with their growing bodies. It’s daring, exciting and they think of it as safe. It certainly isn’t a sign of low self-esteem. Sexts can be creative and allow for learning new technical skills. 3) Pleasure: This is the basic motivation for sexting, which is often unmentioned. It can spice up a relationship and is useful for long-distance couples. (Doug: It’s also safe when it comes to STDs and pregnancy.)
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