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.