Taking a Closer Look at Sexting.

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I can’t quite describe how I felt after watching the CBC documentary Sext up KIDS. I was a little sad, sympathetic and somewhat worried but I was definitely NOT shocked. It isn’t news to me that kids – especially girls- are growing up way too soon. I have seen many of my little cousins grow up way too soon. Why do little girls want to grow up so quick? I think it is clear that there is a lot of pressure from the media for girls to want to grow up quick. Billboards, music videos, actresses, television ads, clothes, movies and so much more contribute to the pressure girls face to grow up. They are constantly exposed to images of women who are made up to look ‘perfect’. They see ads that sexualize women. They see women in music videos dancing provocatively wearing very little clothing. What is a young girl to think about her image when she grows up being exposed to all of this??

Girls are taught at a very young age that they need to look a certain way. The media pressures them to act and look a certain way to please others. Girls looking for attention from boys may take selfies in which their image is filtered to look its best. Worse than a simple selfie is taking a naked or semi-naked photo to send to a boy, otherwise known as a sexting. Kids (and even adults) often forget that once a picture is sent, it can be shared over and over. Sexting has required law makers to look at what is happening and develop new laws to prevent taking and sharing of sexual pictures.

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Photo Credit: Pro Juventute via Compfight cc

How Teens View Sexting by CBC looks at a variety of issues and findings regarding sexting. There are five sub-heading discussed in the article. Below you will find each sub-heading with a brief overview of the discussion.

  1. Sexting seen as an adult term. In the study titled Young People and Sexting in Australia  students surveyed said that they didn’t consider sexting to be an accurate term. It is a term used only by adults and they consider their images simply pictures
  2. It’s all about consent. Teens don’t have a lot of issues with the images themselves but the issues arise when the images are shared without the consent of the person in the image.
  3. A ‘culture of slut-shaming’. We are still trying to learn the boundaries of technology and deciding what is private and what is not. An image may be sent as self-expression or to show trust but if that trust is violated the girl is usually labelled and blamed.
  4. A gender issue. It is often the girls who are called sluts and labelled when they take a picture of themselves. The girl is usually blamed in a situations involving sexual behaviour. It hasn’t been until recently that we have began to discuss what the expectations are for males in relationships and what their responsibilities are when it comes to sexting. We forget that girls have sexual desires too and feel a need to satisfy them. It isn’t only boys who want to flirt or fulfill their desires.
  5. Change the Law? Two young women, Maryellen Gibson and Alice Gauntley, interviewed for the article want to see laws change around the non-consensual sharing of images. Gibson figures that if the images are shared consensually than there shouldn’t be any concerns. It isn’t until the images are shared non-consensually that laws should be considered.

I agree with a lot of what the girls had to say. I do feel that girls have always been the target of name calling and blaming even before sexting was a thing. It seems that no one remembers the male but will always remember the female from a situation. I don’t recall Bill Clinton receiving as much of the blame or shaming as Monica Lewinsky. Do you happen to know the male who was in Paris Hilton’s sex tape?? I didn’t until I looked it up just now (FYI his name is Rick Salomon). Remember the girl from the Calgary Stampede threesome, Alex Frulling? I bet you don’t remember the guys names…were they even ever mentioned? I don’t recall them ever being mentioned but I remember hearing days after the threesome was recorded that Alex Frulling’s Facebook and Instagram follows sky rocketed. Why does it matter that we don’t know the guys involved? It matters because no one seemed to care that they had no shame in partaking in the threesome in the corner of a parking lot. It matters because no one thought they were awesome for doing it. Nobody started following them on Facebook or Instagram. We are so quick to ridicule the females involved, but we rarely pay any attention to the males involved. That is something I hope changes in the future. We need to teach our children that it is not okay to have double-standards.

In terms of the laws, I don’t necessarily disagree with the comment that images being shared consensually shouldn’t be illegal BUT I do think that it should apply only to people over 18 years of age. At the age of 18 you are considered an adult and should be able to choose if you would like to send an image to another adult. The issue would boil down to the sharing of that image. I don’t want anyone to think that I am pro-sexting or think I’m all for it but to each their own. If that is what two adults decide to share with one another there should be no criminal actions. It is important to remember though that any image that is sent can be saved forever. If images were consensually shared, what happens if you decided that you no longer want the other person to have that image? Break-ups and divorces happen all the time. The saved images can become a problem after a break-up or divorce.

I decided to look into the laws surrounding sexting and I came across a few good finds. The first is this blog: Sexting and the Law in Canada from Kids Help Phone.  I was surprise to read a few things in this blog:

Most sexting images exchanged by teens qualify as child pornography, if there is nudity in the image.However, there is a narrow exception set out in the Supreme Court of Canada case of R. v. Sharpe, that may exclude the exchange of sexual images between intimate partners, provided that the sexual relationship is legal (that is, complies with age of consent restrictions) and the images are kept exclusively by those two people.

AND

Police have not prosecuted teens for consensual sexting in Canada.  However, there have been several reported cases of teens being prosecuted for child pornography offences where the sexual images were distributed more broadly, especially where there is clearly malicious intent.

Both of these quotes gave me a better understanding of some of the laws surrounding sexting. I am happy to hear that if images are being shared with others that you can be charged by the police. Hopefully this helps discourage people from sharing images without consent. In order for it to discourage people they must know about the laws. This is where we can step in and make sure that students are aware of the legal implications of sexting.

Sexting: Considerations for Canadian Youth created by Sexualityandu discusses how common sexting is, why teens sext and legal/privacy issues with sexting. It describes three categories of teen sexting:

  1. Exchange of photos solely between romantic partners in a relationship.
  2. Exchange of photos between two people not in a relationship but where one of the people sends a sext in the hope that it will help to start a romantic relationship between the two.
  3. Exchange of photos between romantic partners or the sending of photos from one person to another with the hope of starting a relationship but the photos are then sent to additional people (Pew Research Centre, 2009).

Category 2 and 3 are the categories that cause a lot of problems with sexting. This is where the legal issues arise for the most part. Category 2 makes me really sad to read. It is sad to think that sexting is used in hopes to start a relationship or to get someones attention. It is also sad that photos are being exchanged within a relationship but they aren’t staying within that relationship. As sad as it is, it comes as no surprise unfortunately.

It is important for us to be addressing these issues at a very young age. As Salem Noon from Sext up KIDS found with her iGirl Workshop for young girls it is often too late to wait until students are teenagers or pre-teens to address this issue. It may seem inappropriate, unnecessary and even feel uncomfortable to talk about at such a young age but the reality is that it needs to be discussed at a young age to prevent issues with sexting before it is too late.

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6 thoughts on “Taking a Closer Look at Sexting.

  1. Nice review of what is going on legally. This reminds me of a Facebook conversation I had with someone after she shared an article about a high school sent home because her school decided her outfit was too provocative (although I don’t know many offices that would feel the same). We talked about the assumption that female bodies are sexual by nature, which is something girls are taught. Our bodies have the purpose of sex, which is why we are not supposed to be topless (even pre-puberty). More children’s characters are being presented as older (Strawberry Shortcake now looks like a teen or maybe pre-teen when previously she looked like a child the age of kids most likely to be playing with the dolls, CandyLand revamped their designs to have more developed bodies rather than young bodies). The primary value placed on women’s bodies in our society is sex (with men, or for the interest of men). So it is hardly surprising that girls are the focus. As you said, teenage girls have sexual desire too but they are stuck in this realm of having sexual desire but being told they should exist for the desire of others. If they act on their own desire, bad. If they act for the desire of others, then that is okay.

    I’m torn. I do see the issue, the concerns with predators and also the concern that pictures could be spread. But… who is really at fault if a picture is spread? The person who spreads it. Period. Jennifer Lawrence spoke out about this when the nude photos were leaked after a hack. The people who have told and shown girls that their role is as sexual bodies but not as sexual beings are to blame.

    I haven’t watched the documentary yet but I notice that nothing in your post talks about teenage boys sharing sexual images. Is it just not a problem? Are they less likely to have their images compromised? As you said, the men’s names are usually not remembered. It isn’t nearly the scandal for the men. Why? I want to work on changing that. Make it less of a scandal for the women and more of a scandal for any man who takes advantage. With Clinton, he was in a position of power. He should have been held to that understanding. At the U of R you have to fill out a conflict of interest form if you are in a hierarchical relationship with someone you also have a personal relationship with. That means supervisor/instructor with student/grad student/employee.

    I got a little passionate about this one, clearly! 🙂

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    • That’s intersting to know about the conflict of interest forms at the U of R. I think that many work places have rules in place for inter-office dating. I too am quite passionate about this. I haven’t come across anything regarding boys and sexual images but it would be interesting to see what the numbers are. I feel the same way as you do about the sharing of images. Who is to blame? The person who took the picture or the person sending them? In the case of Jennifer Lawrence I really felt bad for her. I didn’t think it was fair for her “private” pictures to be taken from her and shared. I say “private” because unfortunately anything that is on our computers is at risk of being accessed by someone. Unfortunately for her she had images shared that she never wanted to be shared. Just like so many other people.

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  2. I agree that the blame should be squarely on the individuals who share images without permission. With many crimes we feel sympathetic towards the victims, yet with situations like this, the victim of the crime often receives incredibly harsh criticism and shaming.

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