Prepare to be appalled. A young assistant professor from the University of Colorado has taken to the pages of the New York Times to defend sexting. To be more precise, Amy Adele Hasinoff ends up encouraging children to send explicit images of their genitalia to their friends and acquaintances. She does not say it’s a good thing. She does not quite say that it’s a bad thing.
She encourages sexting by normalizing it. She says that everyone is doing it and that everyone will continue to do it, no matter what we say. Cosi fan tutti, as the saying goes.
Ostensibly, Hasinoff is looking at the laws that would define teenage sexting as child pornography. One understands that parents and responsible government officials would want to stamp out this plague. One understands that applying child pornography laws might be a bit excessive. I will refrain from offering an opinion on it. I will say that state authorities are stepping in because parents have been derelict and because people like Hasinoff have been trying to normalize sexting.
For her part, Hasinoff is generally insouciant about this practice and has very little concern about the potential negative consequences, especially for teenage girls. She sees it as a question of risk management. Let us note that teenage girls are being targeted and are the most likely to be abused by sexting.
She explains that sexting has reached near epidemic proportions:
Studies have shown that roughly one-third of 16- and 17-year-olds share suggestive images on their cellphones. Among young adults, rates are above 50 percent. In the past, partners wrote love letters, sent suggestive Polaroids and had phone sex. Today, for better or worse, this kind of interpersonal sexual communication also occurs in a digital format. And it’s not just young people: An article in an AARP magazine describes sexting as “fun, easy and usually harmless.”
Like any sexual act, consensual sexting is somewhat risky and requires trust, but it is not inherently harmful as long as partners respect each other’s privacy and are attentive to consent. Studies have found that around 3 percent of Americans report that someone has distributed private sexual images without their permission, and around 10 percent of sexters report negative consequences. The risk of distribution is significantly higher among those who were coerced into sexting.
“somewhat risky” should be “extremely risky.” When the image of your genitals is out there in cyberspace, the chances of exposure multiply. No one really knows how many of these images have been distributed and how many children have been hurt by them. Surely, we know that the cloud can be hacked. And no one knows how many of these pictures will be sent around in the future.
And how, pray tell, do you coerce someone into sexting?
But, consider this. Even if the images are not distributed, the fact that you know that someone else has the power to do so puts you in his thrall. As a rule, the people who are getting hurt in this are female, so naturally feministically correct thinkers do not see a problem.
Once someone has the power to humiliate you—images are extremely powerful and the exposure of sexual images to third parties causes extreme emotional damage, roughly akin to being sexually molested—he can use that power to oblige you to do things you would never consent to do under normal circumstances.
Once the pictures are out there, you lose control. You cannot manage the risk, except by remaining on very good terms with the person who has them on his iPhone. Which means that you cannot manage it at all.
None of it would lead Hasinoff to criminalize the action:
The victim of a sexual privacy violation can be traumatized and humiliated, and is often blamed for his or her victimization. Unfortunately, the criminalization of sexting worsens this problem because teenagers know that if they report the incident they may be punished at school and possibly charged with the same offense as the perpetrator. In most jurisdictions, distributing a sexual image of a teenager is illegal, regardless of whether one is consensually sending a nude selfie to a partner or maliciously distributing a private photo of another person without permission.
And, where do parents figure in this equation? I am confident that most parents tell their children not to sext. I am confident that all mothers warn their daughters against this activity. If children do it anyway, it is not just peer pressure. One should not discount the influence of other adults, teachers and counselors who tell them that it is alright.
As for how much you can trust the fifteen year old boy who now has a picture of your genitals on his iPhone, keep in mind that teenage relationships, even young adult relationships, almost never lead to long term commitments or marriage.
Feminists have told girls to put career ahead of marriage. Thus, unless they are fully engaged in their careers they should not choose partners who might be good marriage material.
Following this advice, young women made hookups and other transitory relationships the norm, not the exception. When a girl is choosing a boy for something other than his marriageability she will not be looking for someone who is responsible, reliable or trustworthy. She will be looking for hotness or cool… as the case may be.
Now, she is being encouraged to sext with boys whom she has chosen for other than their good character and with whom she will almost inevitably break up. Does this spell trust?
Unfortunately, it seems that many older women, especially of the feminist persuasion, do not care about what happens to girls. Hasinoff argues that sexting is inevitable, that children will do it no matter what we say. She does not recognize that she is effectively normalizing sexting and thus encouraging children to do it. By telling them that it is a normal part of growing up she is giving those who would abuse girls more ammunition.
Because she and others like her believe that having more sex at any age is good for one’s mental health. They no longer say it in quite those terms, but that little piece of Freudian silliness underpins their efforts.
In her words:
What parents and educators need to do instead is help young people learn how to navigate sexual risk and trust. Whether or not it is criminalized, we cannot prevent sexting, just as we cannot prevent teenagers from having sex. What we need to focus on is preventing acts of sexual violation, like the distribution of a private image without permission, pressuring a partner to sext or sending a sexual image to an unwilling recipient. Though not all teenagers are sexting, those who are (and those who will when they are older) need to learn how to practice safer sexting, which means that it always has to be consensual. [boldface mine]
As the old saying goes: What do you mean “we,” kimosabe?
In truth, throughout human history, it has been the case that teenage sexual activity is not inevitable. It is anything but inevitable. It becomes inevitable when people like Hasinoff tell children that they are abnormal if they do not have sex and are not sexting.
In the old days young people abstained more often than not. And one might ask whether the Asian students who seem to be leading the nation in getting into the best universities are having sex in high school and are sexting their friends. Do you think that the Tiger Mom would not have known whether her daughters were or were not sexting? Do you think that she would ever have permitted such activities?
One understands that the culture warriors are trying to convince everyone that Asian children, who continue to win the vast majority of places in New York’s most prestigious and competitive high school—Stuyvesant—are neurotic and suicidal.
One suspects that this is slander. At the least, it is part of the culture war, a way to allow other students to compete against those who work harder and who sext far less. It’s about sharing the decadence and dysfunction… because we should never allow anything to get in the way of the fun.