ACLU suing overzealous sexting prosecutor

Parents of three teenage girls and the ACLU are suing a Pennsylvania prosecutor who threatened to bring child pornography charges against the girls unless they agreed to probation and counseling. The complaint filed by the ACLU explains:

In February 2009, [DA] Skumanick sent a letter to the parents of approximately twenty Tunkhannock students, including the ACLU’s clients, threatening the students with criminal felony charges if they did not agree to be placed on probation and participate in a counseling program he devised. A course outline indicates that the program will help the girls “[g]ain an understanding of how [their] actions were wrong,” “gain an understanding of what it means to be a girl in today’s society,” and “[i]dentify non-traditional societal and job roles.”

The complaint also argues that the photos in question don’t fit child pornography laws and that if convicted, the girls would be required to register as sex offenders if the state adopts the guidelines of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act by the July 2009 deadline to retroactively include all offenders over age 14 on the registry.

More info at Daily Kos, ACLU, and a Reuters story. The US District Court hearing is today.

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Shaming, not “sexting,” was behind Jesse Logan’s suicide

Commentary from Sex in the Public Square:

Jesse Logan killed herself last July not because of the “dangers of sexting” but because of the dangers of sex stigma and “slut shaming.” … Jesse Logan did not fall victim to the “perils of the Internet”. She feel victim to the perils of cruel high schoolers who used our culture’s negative messages about women’s sexuality to shame her mercilessly over something that lots of teens do. This was not about the “electronic exploitation of kids.” This was about ordinary teenage exploration and unfortunately also about ordinary teenage cruelty.

Today Show guest on sexting: “It is normal for them”

Teen ‘sexting’: Youthful prank or sex crime? – Today Show:

[Attorney Larry] Walters pointed out that if an adult shares revealing photos of nude adults with other adults, it’s not a crime. But if kids share similar photos of other kids, it may be. … “We are holding kids to a higher standard than adults who do the same kind of thing,” Walters said. … “These teens don’t see themselves as children. They see themselves as teens. They don’t see what they’re doing as child pornography,” Walters replied. “Teens believe it is normal. It is normal for them. To use child porn laws to punish teens for behavior the law was never designed to address is overkill, number one, and it dilutes the effectiveness of child pornography laws for everyone else.”

Matt Lauer is unconvinced.

Dr. Laura blames everyone for sexting suicide

Dr. Laura weighs in on teen sexting. Girls have “always” been hopefully desperate, yet are now corrupted by an “openly sexual environment”:

The openly sexual environment that children are exposed to makes these behaviors (like oral sex in middle school classrooms and bathrooms across the country) seem like the norm for the day. Girls have always wanted to make boys love them, and cell phone texting technology just gives young people another avenue to express their hopeful desperation to be wanted and loved.

Meanwhile, everyone seems to be about equally at fault for the suicide:

It was pathetic and stupid of her to send the picture; it was unconscionable of her ex-boyfriend to expose her to ridicule; it was disgusting for girls (competitive little witches that some can be) to make fun of her; it was brave for her to use her experience to warn others; it was too bad her family didn’t get her mental health support or transfer her to another school; it was a deadly coincidence that her friend committed suicide; it is an unspeakable anguish that she thought this was the best solution for a “temporary” problem.

Sexting-related suicide

Friends Hope Teen’s Death Warns Others Against ‘Sexting’: MSNBC article about an 18-year-old’s suicide due to the harassment that ensured after her boyfriend shared a nude picture of her without her consent.

This article is more sympathetic to the girl involved than most news stories on sexting. However, it still essentially blames girls for taking the picture in the first place:

Logan’s friends and family hope her story will serve as a reminder for teens and anyone else who would consider sending nude photos across the Internet or by cell phone.

This and other articles also blame “bullying” for her death, but miss the point by using this gender-neutral word—the girl was tormented and called a ‘whore’ and a ‘slut’ simply because she was female and seen as sexually active. Her suicide was not caused by sexting, as so many headlines seem to claim, it was precipitated by culturally pervasive sexist and misogynist reactions to young women’s sexuality.