CBS This Morning

I was on CBS This Morning today talking about the opposition to Colorado’s proposed sexting misdemeanor bill:Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 8.23.48 AM

I don’t really understand the analogy to voting rights that the anchor makes at the end. After all, it’s not like all teens technically can vote, but then if they do cast a ballot, it’s a crime. That’s the difference with sexting that is so important to understand: one-third of 16- and 17-year olds are sexting, whether it’s a felony, misdemeanor, or not. We have to deal with that reality rather than dreaming that we might bring that rate down to 0%. It’s not going to happen.

Criminalizing all sexting  doesn’t stop it from happening, it just harms victims (because they won’t report if it means they’re guilty of the same crime), sends a dangerous slut-shaming message to girls who sext consensually, and gives law enforcement too much power to police consensual teen sexuality.

Sexual assault is a problem, but we don’t try to solve it by banning all sex. Instead, we have laws that are only against sexual assault. Sexting works the same way–it doesn’t make sense to ban all sexting, we need narrowly tailored ways of addressing harmful behaviors like sharing or creating a sexual image without permission.

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3 Comments

  1. I read your op-ed piece in today’s New York Times and while I agree with you about how laws should not punish teens sexting each other, I strongly disagree about not telling teens not to sext. Sending revealing pictures of yourself is very risky. I suspect that you have heard of revenge porn although you didn’t mention it. If a girl sends a revealing picture to a current boyfriend she trusts, she has no idea what might happen to it when he becomes here ex-boyfriend. The idea of trusting any teen male with nude photos boggles my mind in the first place. The idea of letting students make mistakes and learning from them is big in the education literature today, but when it comes to social media, we want students to learn from the mistakes of others. I often post examples of such mistakes at my blog to help students avoid them. I agree that abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t work. But sending or posting anything you don’t want everyone to see makes no sense. Once something hits the Internet you never know where it will go and you can’t stop it. Please reconsider your advice as I see it could have negative consequences that you have not considered. Please check my brief bio to get an idea of where I’m coming from. http://bit.ly/1yVS19a Also feel free to continue the conversation via email dgreen@stny.rr.com or phone 607 237-7149.

    • Hi Doug, thanks for the comment. I agree that what’s called “revenge porn” is a serious issue that’s very traumatic for the victims. This is the distribution of an image without permission, and is one of the abusive and exploitative ways mobile phones can be used. I am glad we’re in agreement that criminalizing consensual teen sexting is the wrong approach. And I completely understand that many parents and educators want to tell teens not to sext. Maybe the op ed was too short to express all my opinions on this issue, but if you look at my book and my tips on this website, my position is that telling teens not to sext is not effective; that there’s a lot more educators need to talk to teens about. There are lots of good reasons not to sext, and it’s certainly worth talking through the risks with teens. But some teens will do it no matter what, and they need to learn harm-reduction skills. So my point is that if educators only say to teens “don’t sext,” they’re doing teens a disservice. Just like sex ed, abstinence ed doesn’t work and they need to learn safer sex and safer sexting skills. The other problem is that many people deliver the message of “don’t sext” by slut-shaming girls, which then leads to victim-blaming. But if an adult can tell teens, “don’t sext” without blaming or shaming, and they’re willing to follow that up with, “but if you do…,” then by all means, say “don’t sext.”

      • Amy: Wow. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I think my point can be summarized by saying that teachers and parents should share with students stories about how sexting can result in bad outcomes. I do this on my blog when I find them. Even if a girl’s photo doesn’t end up on a revenge porn site, many boys do share pictures with their friends just as they talk about sexual exploits.

        If you have looked at my site you have seen that I summarize books to promote sales and help people who have read books review and internalize key concepts. I started doing this during my doctoral work and it put me several steps ahead during discussions. I would be happy to give your book the Dr. Doug treatment if you like. Here is my address: Doug Green, 427 River Terrace, D3, Endicott, NY 13760.

        Also, have you done anything on the notion that most kids get their sex ed via Internet porn? I’ve seen some studies from the UK but it seems like most folks in the US are looking the other way. Parents should have some Internet porn conversations with their kids and some guidance and encouragement is needed.
        Thanks again. Doug

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