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October 17, 2008

Modern teenagers, society's sexuality and the internet

ABC News has this interesting new piece highlighting how today's teenagers may be pushed by societal influences into becoming unwitting sex offenders.  The piece is headlined, "Inside the Minds of Teens Who Post Sexual Images of Themselves: Internet Facilitates Self-Nude Photos but Teens Miss the Implications," and here is how it starts:

Despite specific warnings from prosecutors, the 15-year-old Ohio girl who was arrested last week and accused of sending nude pictures of herself to classmates probably doubted that she could ultimately be forced to register as a sex offender under state law, psychologists and Internet experts say.  More than likely, they suggest, she was only after a sliver of notoriety, the product of a culture where pornography has gone mainstream and fame can be had in an instant by simply distributing a sexually explicit video with a cell phone or on the Internet.

"They think they're going to get attention -- that it makes them stars of their own reality show," Internet privacy and piracy lawyer Parry Aftab said of the growing number of U.S. teenagers who publish sexual images of themselves online. "They don't understand the consequences," said Aftab, an ABC News consultant. "They don't think about where that video is going to go, or how long it's going to be on the Internet and the 50-year-old who is going to be drooling over it."

If convicted, the girl, whose identity has not been released, could face a sentence of anywhere from probation to several years in a juvenile detention center. The high school student in Newark, Ohio, denies the charges; authorities are also considering charges for the students who received her photos, which are considered child pornography under law....

There are other examples. Earlier this year, an Ohio boy reportedly made a sexual cell phone video of himself and sent it to female classmates, one of whom then forwarded the video to at least 30 other people.  Similar incidents have been reported in Wyoming, New York and Pennsylvania.

Such incidents are a symptom of a culture where sexual imagery like the infamous photo of Britney Spears' exposed crotch or Vanity Fair's seminude photos of 15-year-old "Hannah Montana" star Miley Cyrus have become the norm, said Jean Kilbourne, author of "So Sexy, So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids."

October 17, 2008 at 07:53 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Oct 17, 2008 8:24:14 PM


Dont anybody ever remember growing up. Good God- - The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. -
Whats new about it? How long has the penis and vagina been around? Good God people.
Maybe people should read some studies by ohnson and Johnson on human sexuality. We dont become sexually aware when we turn a certian age, it varies per person. There also is no proof that early sexual contact is really harmful.
Many children play doctor, or post office with no ill effects. There are people who live nude -(nudist) men woman and children, and theres nothing bad or wrong about it. But if you send a naked icture of yourself its the end of the world.

I thnk one day a year we ALL go NAKED ! Make it manditory, after a while peoples eyes will go up, after a while it ceases to be strange. Just like a OBGYN, after a while they all look the same.

And looking at pornography is a far step from doing the actual act, and should be treated the same. Otherwise whoever watches Scarface should be put in prison for murder and racketeering.

Posted by: Dave | Oct 17, 2008 12:01:35 PM

It's a real challenge facing situations like this. What if the 15-year-old girl sends nude photos to some guy a school unsolicited, but the computer belongs to the dad? So if anyone investigates, the dad has child pornography on his computer. He goes to jail for 5 years right? It's just amazing how scary a situation this is for people.

Posted by: JT | Oct 17, 2008 12:10:22 PM

I thnk one day a year we ALL go NAKED

That'd be every Sunday in my house. TMI?

Posted by: | Oct 17, 2008 1:26:57 PM

I have my own thesis. It's fundamentally a reaction to the gay rights movement. There just seems to be something in the American psyche that requires us to repress someone's sexuality. Once upon a time it was repressing women, then when they got liberated we started repressing gays, now that gays are liberated it's the child's turn. There is nothing new about childhood sexuality. Back in the early 1900s the age of consent was 10. As a historical matter, the age of consent did not reach the teen years until the mid 1900s and wasn't 18 in most states until the 1970s.

One of my favorite examples to use in this regard is the brother of Louis Carrol (Charles Dogdson). He was 25 when he married an 11 year old. What terrible pedophiles those snicker-snacking Dogdson brothers were!

In all honesty, I am not arguing that we as a society should go back to 10 years old as the age of consent. There are solid psychological reasons why that is too young. But the idea that childhood sexuality is somehow new, or something to be shocked about, I find ignorant.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 17, 2008 1:34:28 PM

"And looking at pornography is a far step from doing the actual act, and should be treated the same."

Maybe, maybe not.

Posted by: | Oct 17, 2008 2:21:49 PM

Any prosecutor that would bring down the hammer of a sex offender registry for something like this is truly warped.

Posted by: | Oct 17, 2008 4:02:07 PM

I think it is time to divorce the penalties of promoting child porn from the mere fact of possession. As I understand it, there are to rationals behind the ban on possession of child porn, first that the methods of aquiring the porn leads to more production, and second that the mere viewing of the porn is an act of revictimization. As far as revictimization is concerned, there is nothing unique about child porn as opposed to other recordings of victimization, and as illustrated here, sometimes the recording leaves no victim at all.

So what about the notion that to possess the child porn, you have acted in a way that promotes its creation? Certainly when much of the original child pornography jurisprudence occured, to possess child porn required that you either create it, or aquired it from another. Because even the most generous producer would incur signifigant reproduction costs, it was very unlikely that the person in possession didn't pay for it. Things have changed alot since then, whith many things that once cost money available on the internet for free. News, Reference materials, and legal porn included. I question whether the link between possession and encouraging the creation remains strong enough to support criminal prosecution for mere possession.

My response would be to create a sort of mere possession defense. If the gov't can not prove you engaged in child porn commerce (paying, trading, exchanging any consideration for it), then mere possession should not be prosecuted. However where a person has engaged in the commerce, it should create a presumption that all child porn they possess was aquired as a result of the commerce. Thus, those who take actions that encourage the creation will still be prosecuted, and the government will not need to make a case for the commerce in each immage, but the law would more honestly reflect the reason for the 1st Amendment exception.

Posted by: | Oct 17, 2008 4:13:05 PM


That's an idea that sounds good but would be hard to implement in practice. One of the major reasons that the "market theory" is used to justify possession is precisely because it's so hard to track down those that create the child porn. I remember reading somewhere (don't quote me here) that something like only 10% of the victims police have pictures for have actually been identified.

The real reason that the internet has been a boon to child porn prosecutions is because it allows the police to create more criminals (their job) with the same amount of work. Unlike finding drug producers, cracking child porn rings is difficult work. I don't buy the thesis that the internet has resulted in a growing market for child porn, rather it has simply revealed what a terrible job the police were doing in this area in the past.

No, eliminating the possession charge will never be accepted. It would mean the police would have to go back to tracking producers and that is too much money for too little result.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 17, 2008 5:47:55 PM

"Any prosecutor that would bring down the hammer of a sex offender registry for something like this is truly warped."

I am personally familiar with the prosecutor in questions, and "warped" hardly does him justice. He seems to be particularly interested in convicting people of sex crimes and sending innocent people to prison (as he has done to two of my friends). Before the primary election, which he won handily, he was touting the idea of getting rid of grand jury indictments and just assigning everyone who is arrested a lawyer and getting them to plead, since "most of them are guilty anyway."

However, if he likes you he will find a reason not to prosecute. Not long ago, a group of local police officers were found to have sold guns to a city councilman in another town who was a convicted felon. Our fearless prosecutor said that they could not be prosecuted because they couldn't have known he was a convicted felon. Indeed, he said, it would have been illegal for them to have looked this person up on the FBI database. Well, I looked the gentleman up on our local county court website, and there were his convictions for any citizen to find quite legally. (This is all documented in the Newark Advocate, by the way.)

Being aware that "Gee, I didn't know" is not an acceptable defense for the ordinary citizen, I was tempted to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper. Then I began to wonder how long it would be before some drugs magically appeared in my car or house, causing me to be arrested. So I decided not to write.

Several attorneys of my acquaintance have rolled their eyes and opined, "Well, it IS Licking County." That's an excuse?!!! It infuriates me that I should have to be afraid of this person. I am outraged that I do not feel safe expressing my opinion as a citizen. Why have we given prosecutors so much unchecked power? Why don't you people have the guts to stop this kind of behavior? This is America, after all. Or are freedom of speech and "innocent until proven guilty" just outmoded concepts?

Posted by: angry in Ohio | Oct 19, 2008 10:48:58 AM

I have been wondering for a while now....

Didn't the supreme court rule that a nude picture of a child in a 'non sexual position' is protected under the first amendment? Or is there something i missed? I've seen quite a few of these cases come through the news outlets and i alway wondered whats the catch? If it was 'just' a picture of her boobs then wouldn't that fall under the category of art?

Posted by: Mark | Dec 14, 2008 6:51:49 PM

Teenagers are always modern. But then they became conservative.

Posted by: celebrity movie archive | Nov 28, 2009 8:22:46 AM

Here are some articles referencing "Sex and the City" that address the
influence of sexy shows on television. I've not reproduced the
articles in full because of copyright protection so I hope you will
visit each link for the complete article text.

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