Textual Misconduct: What to do about teens and their dumb naked photos of themselves, by Dahlia Lithwick and featured both on Slate and in Newsweek, addresses the now extremely hot topic of sexting and child pornography. Like many others including myself, she recommends that minors who send sexually explicit photos of themselves NOT be charged with child pornography distribution and their hapless friends should not be guilty of receiving and possessing it. Yet, while researching for this piece, Lithwick discovered that when such cases do result in criminal charges “prosecutors have charged the senders of smutty photos, the recipients of smutty photos, those who save the smutty photos, and [/or] the hapless forwarders of smutty photos” — it just depends on the jurisdiction! Such inconsistencies surely provide an example of how the law is not really equipped to handle this phenomenon.
Despite my overall affinity towards this article, I did want to point out a sensationalizing misrepresentation of the recent survey conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy — according to “Textual Misconduct,” this survey has “one teen in five reporting he or she has sent or posted naked photos of himself or herself.” In actuality, the survey reports that one in five teens have posted a “nude or semi-nude [emphasis added] pictures or videos of themselves. Big difference, because in the latter example, a boy would say “yes” to this question if he has a picture of himself shirtless at the beach — a gal might say yes if she has posted a photo of her scantily clad (but not naked). These latter examples of pictures may be problematic, but they do not qualify as child pornography. And thus, the law would not be applicable.
While I hope to see more intelligent dialogue on this topic, I really hope it will be accurate.