I’ve uploaded a draft of a paper that’s currently under review. It’s about thinking through sexting as a form of media production. The idea for the paper came from reading Mary Celeste Kearney’s excellent book, Girls Make Media. She argues that there is inherent value in girls’ media production, regardless of the content they produce. I wondered, how far could I push that claim? What would it mean to apply it to sexting? The paper also comes from my reading of the technology studies literature on the unique benefits and opportunities new media can offer women, girls, and other marginalized populations. We already know that sexting can go wrong. But in this paper I wanted to consider, what could be good about sexting? What are we missing when we just focus on the risks instead of the opportunities?
Ultimately I argue that not only does thinking about sexting as media production lead to better responses to sexting (abstinence, for example, clearly will not work), it also demands that scholars add consent to their models of social media and media production. Here’s the abstract:
Many adults are struggling to find appropriate responses to teen sexting: they are blaming the victims of nonconsensual sexting, using harsh child pornography laws against minors, and giving teenagers the ineffective message to simply abstain from sexting. While some scholars champion girls’ media production practices, mainstream discourses since the early 2000s typically portray girls’ media production as irresponsible, dangerous, and out-of-control because it involves sexual content. In this paper, I illustrate and challenge the dominant mainstream assumptions behind some of the major concerns about digitally mediated sexuality by drawing on scholarship that examines the benefits of youth media production and digital social interaction. I argue that viewing sexting as a form of media production would lead to models of social media production that could account for sexuality and consent.