Assvisories: Sexting advisory for parents

I just received this from my son’s all-boy high school. I realise that it’s almost certainly a Department of Education advisory that they’re just passing on, but why are the only visible faces in this advisory those of girls?

If I thought this was commentary on how it is probably more likely to be girls who are manipulated into uploading provocative or sexually explicit content onto their mobile/Facebook/MySpace account, perhaps I could accept its validity. But surely I’m not the only one getting a whiff of victim-blaming from this?



Categories: gender & feminism, media

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6 replies

  1. The male half of the equation is always left out of these discussions. In most of the “sexting” incidents I’ve heard about, the girl sent a picture to one boy, usually her boyfriend, that she intended for only him to see. The boy then forwarded the picture to all his friends, who forwarded it to all of their friends, and so on and so forth. But then there’s a big media blowup about this promiscuous girl who sent lewd photos of herself to every student within a 30-mile radius, complete with lots of superficial “examination” of Our Materialistic, Attention-Seeking, Super Slutty Society. It’s just like all the handwringing and condemnation over “girls who get themselves pregnant”. There’s no mention of male responsibility in any of it, I suspect because it’s just taken for granted that teenage boys want to see pictures of naked girls and they want to have sex, so once again it’s the girls’ job to be gatekeepers of someone else’s sexuality. It’s all part of this notion propping up rape culture that Men Just Can’t Control Their Sex Drives. Apparently, the only way women can have privacy or safety is to stay in our homes and never go outdoors and never communicate with anyone, especially via the evil internet or demon cellphone.

  2. The cases I’ve heard of follow that pattern too; the one doing the violating is a boy, but he’s never characterised as the one in the wrong.

  3. Yes – and another message they seem to be trying to send is that girls are the only ones who could possibly be harmed by sexting; even if boys did it (with pics of themselves), it would just be a “hur hur” moment and could not cause them all the harm and violation and difficulty that (we’re told) it causes girls. And their girlfriends (because everyone’s het, right? /sarcasm) are pure and nice little things who would never send on photos of the boys anyway, (because of the converse of what plainjane said: everyone knows – as in, “knows” – teenage girls never want to see teenage boys naked). So there’s no possible way that it could ever harm a boy to send a naked pic of himself.
    [“We’re told” in brackets because while it is incredibly violating for someone you trusted to distribute private photos of you, I’m sure that a good proportion of the harm they’re thinking about doesn’t actually exist.]
    /snark
    Having said all that: I don’t actually know what the prevalence of boys sending pics of themselves is. But it must happen.
    Oh, and there’s the possibility of naked pics being sent as a way to harass the person they’re being sent *to*.

  4. I heard about this booklet being sent out to schools in a news article yesterday and my first thought was about the title … “Safe Sexting: No Such Thing”. Huh? I see no problem whatsoever with sexting – sending images back and forth between partners (even when those partners are teenagers) is completely harmless, unless (as Jo Tanar) says, they’re being used as a way to harass the person they are being sent to. I myself have done this with partners in the past, and I think it’s a perfectly normal thing for teenagers, who possibly have a limited amount of time that they can spend being intimate with a partner, to do.
    The harm only comes in when the pictures are passed on, digitally manipulated, or otherwise distributed without the subject’s permission or knowledge; or where the images are unwanted by the receiver. There is such a thing as ‘safe sexting’ and, while there’s no need to encourage it, I certainly don’t see any reason to discourage it.
    Why not use this matter for talking about ownership of images, and other property matters? It’s a subject that could be nicely used to educate on all sorts of related matters that most teenagers will actually find useful as they get older and enter the workforce (things like, can I use this image in my assignment? Can I copy the text from this book to use in my speech? Can I copy the format of my mate’s resume for my own?).
    All they’ve done is create hype over a non-existent problem, fostered fear of retribution amongst teenagers, implanted yet another non-problem in parents’ minds, and completely failed to use this message in a positive way.
    When my daughter comes home with this pamphlet it’ll be yet another thing that I will debrief her on where the education system has given her a bum-steer.
    L
    Loquacity’s last blog post..Lamb Rendang, now with pictures!

  5. @ Loquacity:
    You’ve hit some nails on the head there. The issue is indeed not so much the sexting itself but what can happen afterwards, and to be fair, the leaflet does address this reasonably well. My post focussed on the images because of the implicit message they send, which reinforces our old friend “let’s all have a moral panic about young women being sexually active”.

    Why not use this matter for talking about ownership of images, and other property matters? It’s a subject that could be nicely used to educate on all sorts of related matters that most teenagers will actually find useful as they get older and enter the workforce (things like, can I use this image in my assignment? Can I copy the text from this book to use in my speech? Can I copy the format of my mate’s resume for my own?).

    Paraphrasing an email I’ve received, the three key points to discuss with kids should be these:
    1. sharing around explicit pictures of children is a crime with (in theory) jail terms of up to ten years for each image, regardless of the age of the perpetrator (in the USA there are even cases of girls being prosecuted for sending images of themselves, which is a whole ‘nother level of stupid)
    2. young people should remember that when they send an image to someone else, especially to the internet, they lose control of the use of it forever
    3. technophobic parents should make themselves aware of the capabilities of the phones and computers to which kids have access, and talk about it
    i.e. there are serious legal consequences for those who share these kinds of images – it’s far more than just shame and humiliation – and especially anyone who uses such images to bully someone else can expect the police to take an interest.
    The leaflet is online for anyone who wants to read it.

  6. Tigtog,
    Thanks for your response. I should have mentioned that I agree with your post wholeheartedly. The choice of images reeks of victim-blaming.
    I’ve now read the leaflet (thanks for the link!), and for the most part I agree with their “Tips for Parents”. What I don’t like are comments such as:

    potentially devastating experience –
    with young girls most at risk.

    Lock up your daughters, Dads!

    The message to young people is –
    don’t post images of yourself

    ZOMG! Teh pedos gonna get u!!1!
    There really needs to be an emphasis on what is right (or OK) in this situation, and what is wrong. All the department are doing with this is labelling the whole thing as “ZOMG! Bad sex stuff! Teh internets will destroy you!”. It’s not helpful, it’s fear-mongering. And what do teenagers do when they think that the parents are going to have a big moral panic over the thing? You got it!
    By giving them boundaries over what can hurt them, and what can not (like, what is illegal here, and what isn’t. What is socially acceptable, and what isn’t), they can make informed choices, and become well-adjusted adults. By saying “Sexting is bad – stay away!”, for starters you’ll encourage a certain population do it just to find out what’s so wrong about it, and for second you’re taking away their ability to make a decision about their future.
    And we wonder why our teenagers are so f*cked up.
    L
    Loquacity’s last blog post..Lamb Rendang, now with pictures!

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