Monday, March 30, 2009

Daring to Ask

Temple Law Professor Jaya Ramji-Nogales dares to ask: "What's wrong with teen sexting"? It's something I've wondered myself.
Posing for or simply allowing semi-nude photos to be taken of oneself seems to me to be typical teenage risk-taking behavior -- standard slumber party fare. The difference in today's world, of course, is the technology that can spread the image virally and have a real impact on a teenager's reputation and future. Rather than recognizing the problem as one of immaturity and perhaps naivete, the district attorney's heavy-handed approach seeks to brand these girls as immoral miscreants while letting the boys responsible for spreading the images do so with impunity. The message, then, is that girls must be chaste at all times or else they will face serious repercussions, but "boys will be boys." Moreover, this "blame the victim" mentality assumes that the girls are the sole cause of a rather complex problem. Perhaps that's what the district attorney plans to teach at his re-education program in which those charged are to "gain an understanding of what it means to be a girl in today's society."

Well, it's a good thing these girls have the nice DA to tell them "what it means to be a girl in today's society!" As far as I can tell, being a girl means that society can treat your body as its property and condemn you as a harlot if you choose to be sexually active.

The latest flurry of these stories, if nothing else, has shown that the cure is worse than the disease: the putative "victims" (the young women) are being met with the full fury of the law -- including threats to have them permanently labeled as sex offenders. The young men who are receiving the pictures are typically getting off with a wrist slap (no pun intended).

Nobody is denying that sexting is generally a foolish thing to do, but that applies to a lot of teenage behavior. Given that I don't actually have a problem with teenage sexual activity (so long as it is safe, consensual, and uncoerced), it is difficult for me to justify this reaction based on anything but the catch-all of slut-shaming young women.

1 comment:

PG said...

If the boys are just recipients, then I don't see why they should be punished as much as or more than the girls. If they are forwarding the images, then they should be punished as distributors.