Court Finally Limits Persecution of Teen Sexuality

Sexting has come of age—it’s on the front page of today’s New York Times.

The good news is that our judiciary has finally told prosecutors enough is enough. A U.S. Appeals Court just upheld a preliminary injunction barring local prosecutors from filing felony child-porn charges against a teenage girl who took a topless photo of herself with her cellphone.

Eighteen months ago, sexy shots of three Pennsylvania teen girls—one showing her breasts, the others in bra or bathing suit—were taken and sent to some friends via cell phone. School officials busted them and 13 other students who had the pictures on their phones.

Sex-obsessed, insanely punitive District Attorney George Skumanick then threatened the 16 kids with felony child-porn prosecutions. Facing the possibility that their kids could be on sex offender registries for life, the parents of 13 kids caved, advising the teens to accept a lesser charge, probation, and other punishments.

But the heroic parents of the three girls fought back. This week they were vindicated.

And that’s what parents need to do—protect their kids rather than panic. See teen sexuality in a proportioned, rather than demonized, way. These parents are heroes for insisting that the government doesn’t own their kids’ bodies or sexuality. It’s bad enough millions of teens aren’t legally allowed to ask a friend to touch their breasts. But tens of millions of teens aren’t allowed to own a photo of their own breasts, because such photos are considered dangerous. What kind of crazy adult is frightened by a picture of a teen tit?

I keep hearing about the “dangers” of sexting. Specifically, I hear that these pictures could fall into the hands of predators. Without in any way dismissing the harm that actual predators do, I don’t see the connection.

* Why assume predators would get the photos? These pictures are typically shared within teen networks. Until, of course, school officials grab kids’ private cellphones and hungrily search them.

* How would having a teen’s nude photo make a predator somewhere more dangerous? Oh, they salivate over the picture and decide to target the kid? C’mon, it doesn’t work that way. Predators are sick, often obsessive, cranking up their motivation without any outside help.

* And by the way, who are these “predators”—drooling strangers going after kids whose naked pictures are floating around? No. They’re swim coaches. Priests. The boyfriends of single mothers. Strangers? Hardly ever. If, of course, you believe science and the FBI.

I’ve been writing about this latest wrinkle in America’s War On Sex for over a year. Let’s enjoy some greatest hits:

3/9/09
Kids’ sexuality being so much scarier to American society than adults’, we again show that when necessary, we will destroy teens’ lives to save them.

4/6/09
“To prove that sexting can ruin your life, we’re going to ruin your life for sexting.”

4/26/09
The primary reason most parents and all decency groups want to ‘protect’ kids from sexual material isn’t kids’ welfare, but adults’ anxiety. It’s adults acting out that anxiety that is the biggest sexual danger most kids face.

11/7/09
How should we deal with kids sexting? The way we would deal with it if we could see beyond its sexual aspect: by talking about trust, power, privacy, and fairness, and respect.

Honorable mention for Hero of the Sexting Non-Prosecution are Pittsburgh attorney Witold J. Walczak and the people who paid the enormous legal bills: the ACLU. Once again, they protected not just “liberals,” but every American.

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