Okay, so this? Is not okay.

A 15-year-old Ohio girl faces felony charges and may have to register as a sex offender for allegedly taking nude photos of herself and sending them to her high school classmates.

The girl, whose name has not been released, was arrested last week and charged in juvenile court with possessing criminal tools and the illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, said Licking County, Ohio, prosecutor Ken Oswalt.

Her alleged actions are part of what some in law enforcement say is a growing problem around the country.

During a court appearance this week, the teen denied the charges, according to Oswalt. The girl attends Licking Valley High School in the town of Newark. Her lawyer declined to comment.

“There’s a totally false perception among juveniles that there is no risk to this,” Oswalt told ABCNews.com. “That picture, once taken and sent, gives anyone who receives it the ability to do anything with it, forever. If a picture of you found its way onto the Internet, that’s going to haunt you, potentially forever.”

And, as noted over here at the Digital Journal, does a criminal record and registration as a sex offender not haunt you forever? I don’t know about you, but I’d personally take the naked pictures floating around on the internet. At least no one can use those to deny you housing, and someone would have to actively seek them out pretty aggressively in order to use them to deny you a job.  At least no one uses those naked pictures to compare you to a rapist.

Child pornography laws are obviously very important, but this was not their intent. This is something entirely different — this is policing a teenage girl’s sexuality. It’s one thing to try to teach teenagers, who are prone to impulsive behavior, the potential consequences of sharing explicit photographs. It’s another to arrest them when they share explicit photographs of themselves anyway. The purpose of child pornography laws is to prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of minors — not to abuse and exploit those minors for their sexual expression and doing something that has the potential only to harm themselves.

But ABC News apparently sees the need to compare the “crime” of taking photographs of oneself to actual non-consensual behavior:

Law enforcement agencies and schools across the country say they are struggling to deal with a relatively new phenomenon — teens who send nude photos to friends and classmates.

A 17-year-old in Wisconsin was charged in May with child pornography for allegedly posting naked pictures of his ex-girlfriend on the Internet. The girl had sent him the pictures. He told the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department he was just “venting” after she broke up with him.

Earlier this year, another teenager in Ohio reportedly made a sexual cell phone video of himself and sent it to female classmates. One of the girls forwarded the video to at least 30 other people. Similar incidents have been reported in Wyoming, New York and Pennsylvania.

The problem here isn’t that the teenage girls photographed themselves. The problem is that the images were distributed non-consensually. That is highly unethical and exploitative behavior and ought to be a crime. Taking nude photographs of yourself and sending them to your friends is, by contrast, merely shortsighted. And it’s something really fucked up to arrest a teenage girl for.

They also compare taking consensual photographs of yourself to very real sexual abuse and the soliciting of child pornography:

A teen field hockey player in upstate New York testified earlier this year that she took a photograph of herself in panties and bra and sent it to her coach at his request.

“It made me feel special and important,” she told a jury, according to Binghamton Press Sun Bulletin. “He would say I was beautiful, that I had a good body and was really athletic.”

The coach was convicted of child pornography and other charges.

What kind of message is it to send teenage girls that taking a photograph of their own damn bodies should be considered a similar offense to sexual abuse committed against them? Why on earth would we want to indicate to them that if someone violates their trust, preys on their vulnerability and youth, or uses their sexuality in a way they did not consent to, it’s their own fault? Really, I can’t possibly be the only one here hearing echoes of “why’d you wear that short skirt?”

If the law does allow for this, the law needs to be changed. And law enforcement officials need to stop spending so much time telling teenage girls that their very bodies are vulgar and punishable offenses, and start spending more time seeking out those who would actually attempt to harm them.

Via Renegade Evolution and Violet Blue

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{ 16 comments }

1 Jesse October 20, 2008 at 11:52 am

I took time to view the video that ABC had in its side bar. At the end of the segment the voice over informs the audience that the prosecutor may charge the students who received the video on their cells phones.

Wha?

To me, this sounds like a prosecutor running for reelection. This situation is going to garner a lot of press. And when the hoopla dies down in a few weeks the outcome isn’t going to matter in the eyes of the media. But the prosecutor will be able to say that he’s tough on “criminals” and he’s “keeping the community safe.”

2 Paul October 20, 2008 at 12:35 pm

“if the law does allow for this, the law needs to be changed”

I agree completely – but would it get past the politicians who want to seem “tough on crime” to the masses?

Jesse – that happens a lot – prosecuters and judges also win elections on how many death sentences they achieve

3 Brinstar October 20, 2008 at 1:24 pm

“If the law does allow for this, the law needs to be changed. And law enforcement officials need to stop spending so much time telling teenage girls that their very bodies are vulgar and punishable offenses, and start spending more time seeking out those who would actually attempt to harm them.”

YES. I think my brain is going to explode over how ridiculous this situation is.

4 SunlessNick October 20, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Really, I can’t possibly be the only one here hearing echoes of “why’d you wear that short skirt?”

Definitely not. This can have NO purpose other than slut-shaming.

5 Jenna October 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm

If anyone should be charged with a crime, it’s the people who distributed the images without her consent. Blaming her for taking the photos is more victim-blaming, in my eyes. Do we charge the children that appear in pornographic images for being there, or do we charge the people distributing these images? Why must this case be different?

6 SunlessNick October 20, 2008 at 3:43 pm

In this case, she is the one who distributed them – that’s the basis of the charges against her. The issue is that her actions are being treated the same way as others who have distributed images without the consent of those depicted. It’s purely a shaming exercise.

7 Neon October 23, 2008 at 12:09 am

It is what it is. A person should be able to take pictures of themselves without clothes but once you send those it becomes a felony. I have no no problem with them prosecuting her because if they don’t it will establish the precedent that possessing pictures of minors naked are okay as long as they were the photographer. They will not make her register as a sex offender because of the backlash it would cause.

8 killjoy October 23, 2008 at 7:51 am

Earlier this year, another teenager in Ohio reportedly made a sexual cell phone video of himself and sent it to female classmates. One of the girls forwarded the video to at least 30 other people. Similar incidents have been reported in Wyoming, New York and Pennsylvania.

Not to detract from the main point of the post, but what do you make of this one? Sounds like high-tech flashing to me.

9 Cara October 23, 2008 at 10:15 am

Neon — arresting her and prosecuting her for a felony isn’t any better. Failing to arrest her would not set a precedent saying that you can’t be arrested for distributing illegal pornography so long as you took the picture. It would set the precedent that you can’t be arrested for distributing illegal pornography when you took the picture of yourself. Taking pictures of yourself and showing them to other people should not be illegal.

Killjoy — I think that she violated his sexual rights. What the boy did was in fact “high tech flashing.” What the girl did in distributing the video to other people was presumably a non-consensual use of his sexual image, and I believe that is not okay and ought to be illegal, regardless of the genders of the people involved.

10 Neon October 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Showing pictures of yourself naked to your friends is a little odd but shouldn’t be illegal. Sending them via picture messaging is completely different. Pornography of minors is an illegal possession and distributing it is a felony, just because the pictures were of her doesn’t make it any less illegal. On top of this idiotic action she did a great disservice to her friends by opening them up to prosecution. I’m sure the court will let her offer with probation since she’s a minor.

The key question that this prosecution brings up is that if you take pictures of yourself in the nude when you’re a minor and you still possess them when you’re an adult are you open to prosecution for possession of child pornography?

11 Cara October 23, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Neon —

1. Do you honestly expect a 15-year-old to know child pornography laws? Because I don’t. So how about we stop blaming her as though she purposely broke them and put all other kinds of people into harm’s way. She didn’t.

2. The idea that you can be prosecuted for receiving pornographic images without your knowledge is ridiculous. That’s another part of the law that clearly needs to change.

3. Sending photographs of yourself may be a crime but it shouldn’t be, which is precisely what I said in this post. If she was selling them, that’d be a different argument. She wasn’t. She sent them the same way that you’d send any other snapshot and not for the purposes of sale or distribution. Again, child pornography laws are designed to protect the children who are being abused in child pornography. That is their purpose, it ought to be their purpose, and once we go outside of that purpose it’s a mere exercise in sexual shaming.

12 Neon October 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm

First of all I’m not saying I agree with the law but a law was broken.

1. Her competence will be evaluated in a court of law during the trial. Ignorance of the law usually isn’t a valid excuse but considering how insane this case is the defense could probably work.

2. I agree with you on that point. The fact that you can’t preview picture messages could make anyone a recipient of illegal pictures. Expect the ACLU or EFF to come out in defense of the recipients.

3. Selling and sharing are not too different when it comes to prosecution. You wouldn’t be able to tell a judge that possession of weed isn’t a crime because you were giving it away instead of selling it. Distributing illegal contraband is the same either way.

This whole case is based on the overreaching definition of illegal pornography. It’s now defined as images of anyone under 18 regardless on context. The government will not amend this definition because they believe that it will open the door to other exceptions. This whole issue is muddied even further by the fact that the current administration uses this issue to invade the privacy of American citizens.

13 kelly November 17, 2008 at 11:26 pm

HOW THE HELL ARE YOU GONNA CHARGE SOMEONE FOR “CHILD PORNAGRAPHY” AND THEN CHARGE THEM AS AN ADULT? FUCKING STUPID!!!!!!

14 hututu November 18, 2008 at 12:48 am

since she is a 15 yr old she is a minor and if she takes her nude pictures and spreads it isnt it child porn? she should not be arrested for that but if the authorities are against spread of child porn then how they should be able to stop teens from spreading their nude pictures.

i think parents should play an important part. there is an increasing pressure on teenage girls to strip and show themselves nude. they have bad role models.

the worst thing is when they take their pictures and blame some ‘cyber bully’ made them do it.

15 Anna November 18, 2008 at 4:43 am

Actually, I think the worst thing is *when* a bully makes them do it.

16 natasha June 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm

gosh, id be furious if my daughter did this.

you may call this a harmless act of expressing sexuality but she is gonna regret her decision later….i will tell her firmly not to do this again.

as for the arrest part….thats her life…what the fuck has police got to do with it when it can only harm her.

this is a personal matter.

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