A new study by Comartin, Kernsmith, & Kernsmith, examines whether people think sexters should have to register as sex offenders. There is some support for registering sexters regardless of age (the survey asked about young people 15, 18, or 22 years old), though they found more support for registration the older the offender.
What’s interesting is that the scenarios in the study described consensual behavior. This means that a significant number of people believe that sex offender registration–a devastating and life-altering consequence–should be required for convicted consensual teen and young adult sexters. What purpose do they imagine this would serve? Do they think consensual sexters are truly a threat to public safety? Or do they see the registry as a purely punitive measure that should be applied to deter people from sexting? Qualitative research that could get at some of these questions would be really interesting.
The study also found that people are more likely to support sex offender registration if the young person is in a same-sex relationship. Despite rising support for gay marriage, I imagine the myth of the “homosexual menace” is still not yet extinguished.