Friday, March 27, 2009

Wrong and Wronger

The Columbus Dispatch this morning reports that Rep. Ron Maag, a Republican from Lebanon, Ohio, is crafting a bill to make "sexting" a first class misdemeanor. Specifically, the bill targets only those under 18, outlawing the "exchange and possession of nude materials between minors."

Wake up, people in Ohio. Lawmakers are targeting your children. Make no mistake - any law which criminalizes teen sexuality not only is harmful to children, it is harmful to families, and to society as a whole. It puts parental responsibility directly into the hands of the government.

Never mind that these same children are engaging in sexual intercourse and every other type of human sexual behavior that you can imagine. Oral sex, anal sex, group sex, unprotected sex, lesbian sex, gay sex - you name it, your kids are doing it because they are human and possess strong sex drives.

So now you want to charge them with crimes for mere photos?

The answer here is to EDUCATE children, not to criminalize them. Teach them to be responsible with their sexuality, teach them to wear condoms, take the birth control pill, not to sleep around, to respect their bodies, and the bodies of others. Making the human body a crime not only sends the wrong message, it further alienates this generation from the hysterical adults that don't understand them. In fact, the adults are not even trying to understand, they are only capable of knee-jerk reactions.

A misdemeanor for merely exchanging and possessing nude materials means that any teen with a National Geographic magazine, or a Playboy, or even an art book, could be charged with a crime. And is there a teenager alive that has not surfed for porn on a computer? This proposed law is beyond stupid, it's downright insane.
Maag also noted the suicide last summer of 18-year-old Jessica Logan, who sent a nude picture of herself to her boyfriend that was later spread throughout her Cincinnati-area high school. She was harassed daily at school by a group of girls.

Jessica's mother, Cynthia Logan, has taken Jessica's story on a national campaign to alert teens of the dangers and implications of "sexting."

Maag said, "I think what these teens need is education about how this type of behavior could affect their lives."
It was inevitable that lawmakers would latch onto this tragic story and turn it into political capital. Maureen Kanka, the mother of the girl who inspired Megan's Law, has come out against the criminalization of sexting, saying that prosecutors are harming children instead of helping them. Teen suicide is a real problem, and a complicated issue, but does anyone really believe that adding legal consequences on top of the problems already piled on our kids' backs is the answer?

Adults are always taking about the dire consequences of sexting. Well, those consequences are all legal, and man made. We need to UNDO these laws which make criminals out of our kids, and not create new laws which only further serve to complicate the matter.

Debra J. Dickerson at Mother Jones has weighed in on the issue.
Why is it illegal to take/send someone dirty pictures of you, whatever your age? Granted, I will break my kids arms if/when I catch them doing something so stupid—and I certainly wish young girls, especially, wouldn't disrespect themselves this way. But a crime, a sex crime?...I'm so confused: Who are the minors being sexually abused? Unless the photos were taken without the consent of the subject, I don't see the criminal justice issue. To this DA, possession of a dirty photo of yourself is a crime. To me, it's just really, really stupid.
First of all, we need to get away from calling these "dirty" pictures. We have all these incendiary words - dirty, lurid, pornographic, lewd, obscene, smutty, bawdy, raunchy, vulgar, nasty - to describe nude photos. Throw all these words around when talking about teen sexuality and you will get people all riled up.

However you feel about teen sexting, whether you think it's just a technological manifestation of normal young sexuality, or if it's the work of the devil, think hard and long about if you really want this made into a prosecutable crime against your child. Think about if you want law enforcement officers storming into schools and confiscating cell phones, raiding lockers, rifling through backpacks, just to track down a nude photo. Once this is made a real crime, then police with search warrants will be able to come into the privacy of your own home looking for nude photos under your kids' beds.

Think, America, if this is what you really want.

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