Why do we assume sexting girls aren’t expressing their authentic desires?

An article by Leigh Goldstein in Jumpcut argues that the legal and media commentary about sexting denies youth the capacity to be subjects:

By criminalizing self-produced child pornography, our government has effectively censored minors’ right to record their sexualities or erotic identities. … Having shushed the kids, we adults gleefully expound on what they must feel: duped, misguided, ultimately regretful of having exposed and/or exploited their bodies. Exploited object? Of course, it’s the part kids were born to play. But the role of subject when it comes to discourses of desire? That remains off limits.

Goldstein also raises interesting questions that I am trying to grapple with in the chapter I am currently working on:

If ample research, especially that coming out of girls’ studies, has already documented the silencing of adolescent sexuality, why do legal and media discourses continue to participate in this silencing? And what are the possibilities for bringing together these different forms of discourse so that they better inform each other?

We’ve been hearing warnings from feminist researchers for decades that the “missing discourse of desire” in sex education for girls could lead them to have trouble saying “no” as well as saying “yes” to sex. Why haven’t I seen any feminist articles heralding sexting as: “finally, look at this, a new way that girls are expressing themselves sexually!”?

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