'Sexting' no worse than spin-the-bottle: study

May 26, 2009 by Michel Comte
A mobile user sedning a text message. Youths exchanging nude photos of themselves over cellphones, known as "sexting," should not face child pornography charges, as some have in the United States, a humanities conference heard Tuesday.

Youths exchanging nude photos of themselves over cellphones, known as "sexting," should not face child pornography charges, as some have in the United States, a humanities conference heard Tuesday.

Peter Cumming, an associate professor at York University in Toronto, presented a paper on children's sexuality at the 78th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences defending the practice as a modern variation on "playing doctor or spin-the-bottle."

"Technology does change things, and there can be very serious consequences" Cumming said.

"But that obscures the fact that children and young people are sexual beings who have explored their sexuality in all times, and all cultures and all places.

"A distinction has to be made between nudity and child porn," he added.

The annual conference, held this year at Ottawa's Carleton University, brings together 8,000 researchers from around the world to discuss the latest social trends.

Sexting -- a combination of the words "sex" and "texting" -- made headlines earlier this year after students in a dozen US states were charged with child pornography for sharing nude and semi-nude photos with friends and classmates.

In March, three teenage girls sued a Pennsylvania prosecutor who accused them of peddling "child pornography," after a teacher discovered a waist-up image of two girls covered just by a bra, and another image of a girl topless.

District Attorney George Skumanik called for the girls to undergo five weeks of behavior courses and take a drug test or face , according to a letter apparently sent to the teenagers' parents.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a cosignatory to the complaint, said Skumanik's threat was unconstitutional, and prosecution could have landed the girls on the sex offenders register, blighting future job prospects.

In other cases, a "bored" Florida boy was charged for sending a photo of his genitalia to a female classmate, while another was listed as a sex offender for emailing nude photos of his 16-year-old girlfriend to her family after an argument.

According to a survey by a US family planning organization, published in December, 20 percent of American teenagers said they had participated in sexting.

Cumming said that to consider labeling a teen a sex offender because of a sexting incident -- a label that will stick for life -- defies common sense.

"It would be very unlikely to see dozens of news stories announcing that some children were caught playing spin-the-bottle, or doctor, or strip poker," he said in his presentation.

"Yet many of the cases brought forward have been on the same level of innocence and experience as those activities. In other words, kids are playing spin-the-bottle online."

Cumming also argued that such online activities are safer than traditional sexual games because there is no immediate physical contact and thus are less likely to lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

(c) 2009 AFP

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PJS
not rated yet May 27, 2009
You'd rather you have nude pics of your teenager spread over the entire internet to humiliate him/her for the rest of their high-school years, and titillate pedophiles? The problem is that digital images do not stay confined to a single device. This is a new era, your 1970's analogies don't hold up anymore... Despite that, the answer to all this is not necessarily to over-criminalize the act for minors, but to educate them of the serious possible consequences of taking such pictures...
sextingaficionado
not rated yet May 27, 2009
@ PJS

high school humiliation and pedophilia are only possible situations that may arise from sexting. saying that sexting leads to humiliation or what have you is like saying that cannabis smokers will become hard drug addicts. my point is, the worst case scenario need not always be the most likely scenario.

I agree with you on the point that students should be educated about the consequences of sexting. But I am at a standstill on whether the consequences of sexting should be taught in schools.

I however, think that BaconDatty's 1970 analogy, though dated, is a good one. I don't think BaconDatty would rather have his/her daughter naked on the internet, that is just a straw-man argument you've created.

You've laid out the two worst case scenarios from sexting, the worst case scenario from playing "11 minutes in heaven" very well may include high school humiliation, although pedophilia is out of the question, pregnancy should be considered as a possibliity.

So we come back to the main point of the argument, is sexting no worse than spin the bottle? I think it is pretty obvious that sexting is "worse" (we may need to clarify our use of this word) than spin the bottle, but kids have been experimenting with their sexuality in many other ways that are on par with, or worse than, sexting.
rdoggett
not rated yet May 27, 2009
Am I the only one who thinks an article on children's sexuality by "Peter Cumming" has got to be bogus?
Samuela
not rated yet Jun 03, 2009
This article is not Bogus...it is looking at children's sexuality from a children's studies perspective or aka Childist persepctive. Peter was one of my professor in a children's studies course and i agree with what he is saying. It is a child's right to parcipate in these activites if they choose too. You people need to be open minded and realize children have rights and if they choose to do this so be it. Now honsetly how many adults have no done "wierd" things sexually?