These disturbing revelations paint a picture of a military culture in which men are building feelings of camaraderie around the exploitation of their female peers. Marines United is a clear illustration of how sexual harassment is about power, not sex. If the men involved in this group just wanted a trove of sexually titillating photos, they could have shared porn or naked images of any random women. Instead, they targeted their fellow Marines.

From: “Marines’ Secret Trove of Nonconsensual Nude Photos Is About Power, Not Sex,” Slate.

Exciting news! Sexting Panic won NCA’s 2016 Diamond Anniversary Book Award.

Sexting Panic is the rare book that advances scholarly conversations while also promising to enrich family conversations around the dinner table.  Amy Adele Hasinoff offers a timely, practical, and comprehensive analysis of the social understandings that spawned the current wave of public anxiety and legal backlash over youth sexting.  Challenging the prevailing views that young women are inevitably victims of sexting and that new media practices warrant moral panic, Dr. Hasinoff instead offers a more nuanced view of young women and men as active producers.  Informed primarily by cultural studies and feminist theory, her treatment of consent and agency lays the groundwork for more sophisticated, realistic discussions of the ethics of privacy and digital technology.  Rather than criminalizing communication practices based on topic and medium, she concludes that parents and policy-makers should distinguish consensual from malicious sharing of content. Well-researched and engaging, Dr. Hasinoff’s book demonstrates the value of communication scholarship to educators, policy-makers, and technology users of all ages and genders. Already reviewed in eight interdisciplinary journals and the subject of dozens of public media stories, Sexting Panic also exemplifies this year’s NCA convention theme of “Communication’s Civic Callings.”

The Denver Post supports HB 1058

The Denver Post just published an editorial supporting Colorado’s proposed sexting misdemeanor bill: “Colorado teen sexting bill gives DAs proper tools.”

It seems that they particularly disliked my NYT op ed:

In an op-ed Monday in The New York Times, Hasinoff wrote, “These new laws may seem like a measured solution to the problem of charging teenage sexters with child pornography felonies. However, once they have the option of lesser penalties, prosecutors are more likely to press charges — not only against teenagers who distribute private images without permission, but also against those who sext consensually.”

We very much doubt her forecast. In our crystal ball, prosecutors are likely to press charges when there have been complaints, and complaints will generally occur when someone’s nude photo is shared without permission or when someone receives a photo they did not request.

Many prosecutors are reasonable and will indeed only press charges on legitimate complaints, and only against those who’ve committed acts of harm.

But let’s not forget about the research on this topic. The Post no doubt saw an earlier sentence in my op ed that explained: “The University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center estimates that 7 percent of people arrested on suspicion of child pornography production in 2009 were teenagers who shared images with peers consensually.”

Given that, we cannot trust all prosecutors to only press charges against people who share photos without permission or send unwanted photos to others. I don’t need a crystal ball to predict that some prosecutors will charge consensual sexters. I have research, which says that they have and suggests that they will continue to do so. And that study is of child pornography production arrests. Many prosecutors are hesitant to press felony charges against teens. But if I’m going to pull out my own crystal ball, I’d say that they won’t be so hesitant to use misdemeanor charges against teens.

If prosecutors don’t want to charge consensual sexters or victims of sexting-related abuses, the solution is simple: amend the new sexting misdemeanor so that they can’t. It’s a simple fix that protects victims and consensual sexters alike. All they’d need to do is provide an affirmative defense that the image was produced, possessed, and shared consensually.

If prosecutors truly don’t intend to charge victims or threaten them with charges–which adds trauma and harm to someone who’s already be grievously violated–they should have no problem amending the misdemeanor to exclude people who’ve done nothing to harm another person.

Addressing harm

And while it’s all well and good to talk about the consensual exchange of nude photos between, say, two 15-year-olds, the fact is they lose control over those images forever. Are they really mature enough to understand the implications — how they’ll feel, for example, if their partner sends out those pictures six months or six years later to dozens of friends?

There’s some interesting research that sexual violence is unique among crimes in that it’s often discussed in the passive voice. Journalists writing news articles tend to give agency to the perpetrator when their crimes are murder, assault, or theft (“a man shot two people yesterday”) but erase agency when their crimes are sexual (“a woman was allegedly sexually assaulted yesterday”). So I take note here when the Post writes: “they lose control over those images forever.”

Of course it’s true that people who share any information with anyone no longer have control over it. That applies to your health records, your financial information, and your sexts. The difference is, we have laws to protect you from privacy violations for the first two types of information, but not so much the last one. You don’t simply “lose control,” in any of those cases–a specific person has to mistakenly or maliciously decide to violate your privacy. And until we can develop better ways to hold that person accountable, we are all at risk.

And finally, I agree that teens (like adults!) may not foresee the possibility that an image they share consensually may later be distributed without their permission. After all, most people do not expect their intimate partners to harm them, but it happens. Indeed, this happens to around 10% of teen sexters, and it can be seriously traumatic and humiliating.

This is the key difference between laws against teen sexting and laws against teen drinking–we owe the utmost compassion to traumatized victims of privacy violation. Giving them that compassion means laws must exempt them from being prosecuted alongside the perpetrators who violated their privacy.

New Mexico moves toward legalizing teen sexting

New Mexico recently exempted minors from prosecution for for possession of child pornography. The new legislation appears to be modeled on Nebraska’s child pornography statute, which was modified in 2009 to exclude teens from prosecution for possession. Florida’s recent sexting legislation accident not withstanding, New Mexico and Nebraska appear to be the only states that exempt teens from child pornography felonies, at least for possession.

This news from New Mexico is a significant development, since a lot of other states have passed misdemeanor or diversion bills since 2009, which still criminalize sexting but apply lesser penalties than felonies.

The New Mexico legislation still does not go far enough, since it does not protect consensual teen sexters from prosecution for creating or distributing child pornography of themselves. What we need in every state are age-span exemptions, like we have for statutory rape, in all child pornography laws so teens close in age cannot be charged. This should cover any sexting–including the creation, possession, and distribution of images–as long as it is consensual.

More coverage from Reason and The Cut. NM Governor Martinez (R) was not happy about the sexting amendment.

Sarah Lamble: Can there be justice without punishment?

Punishment lies at the heart of most criminal justice systems within western liberal democracies. But is punishment a necessary component of justice? What does punishment achieve? What is the relationship between punishment and accountability? In this talk, Dr Sarah Lamble considers what justice might look like in the absence of punishment and explores what non-punitive justice might offer for preventing, reducing and responding to violence.

Drawing from Dr Lamble’s research on community-based restorative and transformative justice practices in the US, Canada and the UK, the talk will focus specifically on cases of identity-based violence to untangle some of our taken-for-granted assumptions about punishment and explore the possibilities that alternative visions of justice might offer.

Click here to see a video recording of the lecture.

Revenge porn is named for sex work, and the outrage against it exists in the shadow of sex work. It’s not merely an invasion of trust or a terrible shattering of privacy. The harm of revenge porn comes from the illusory conscription of a nice lady into sex work.

— Sarah Jeong, in an article about revenge porn