My newest article on sexting and sexualization is out now in Girlhood Studies. In this piece, I examine the problems with using sexualization to explain sexting and suggest that we move beyond the idea that some people (who usually just happen to be structurally disadvantaged) are supposedly more vulnerable to mass culture’s negative influences than others. Here is the abstract:
Sexualization might seem like a sympathetic explanation for sexting because it positions girls as innocent victims of mass culture. However, there are problematic unintended consequences with understanding sexting, the practice of sharing personal sexual content via mobile phones or the internet, in this particular way.
One troubling implication is that it provides a rationale for holding girls who sext criminally responsible for producing child pornography. A second is that when girls’ acceptance of sexualization is positioned as a key social problem, the solution that emerges is that girls must raise their self-esteem and gain better media literacy skills. Despite the value of such skills, a focus on girls’ deficiencies can divert attention from the perpetrators of gender- and sexuality-based violence.
Finally, discourses about sexualization often erase girls’ capacity for choice, relying instead on normative assumptions about healthy sexuality. Interrogating the pathologization of girls’ apparent conformity to sexualization and mass culture highlights the complexity of agency.