in In the news, Opinion pieces


There’s a new moral panic this week.  Teenagers are ‘sexting’ each other and, using magic new distribution channels, sometimes these images are distributed way beyond their original recipients.   There’s concern that once set free, sexts are being seen by paedophiles.  As the Mirror newspaper puts it Sex texts sent by teens found on pervert websites.

Paedophiles again eh? They’re everywhere! The Reds have long since ceased to be found under our beds, and this group now cosy up with the equally disparaged – and by and large mythical – terrorists.  They’re all so busy that I doubt they get to meet much.  In reality I expect that paedophiles supposed connection with sexting is tenuous at best as unfortunately they have no need to content themselves with grainy mobile phone videos and they have been inserted into this story to obscure unacknowledged disapproval of teenage sexual relations and to bolster the sense of outrage.

Not that it’s not worth pointing out the dangers of engaging in this sort of thing.  I’m sure that some teenagers have found themselves severely embarrassed when compromising pictures of themselves have been widely aired, and we all remember what happened to Tommy in Trainspotting.  But I find it hard to suppress my feeling that for these unfortunate few, and painful as it is, this could well be the sort of life lesson that we all have to learn from time to time about considering the possible future consequences of one’s actions and sexting will be as passing a concern as happy-slapping was a few years ago.

But to leave the discussion here is to miss the greater issue.  This week there’s an advertisement all over London for Chelsea Handler’s E! show in which someone with a baseball hat is looking up her skirt.  Last year there was a popular film called Zac and Miri make a porno. In my local gym they offer pole-dancing classes, and in every newsagent there are countless soft porn mid-shelf magazines.  Inevitably all this raunch has been marketed to us as a way for women to empower themselves but it’s not clear exactly where empowerment ends and good ol’ sexual exploitation begins.  A market driven society which views people as consumers and uses visions of sexual availability to sell products has led the young to view themselves as equally consumable.  When one of the most prominent models for femininity is the sex kitten, is it surprising that lustful teenage boys, now see nothing wrong about requesting revealing pictures of women of their acquaintance, or that their female peers, who do not yet have the sense that adulthood brings, feel compelled to comply.

BBC: Police warn of teenage sexting
Guardian: Don’t you know what sexting is?

“I don’t think what I’m doing is anything different to what Britney does in her new video. Plus, I love the attention” – Nancy, 14

Comment is free Guardian: Why I welcome the decline of the Twittering classes



Reviewed March 2019 – gosh the world has moved on since I wrote this…

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  1. Kids will be kids and it’s rather cute people are talking about this as something we could stop if we wanted to…

    I knew a girl who had nude pictures of her boyfriend on her mobile. Then she was mugged, they took her wallet & phone. She asked for her phone back, they gave it back funnily enough (it wasn’t a very good phone).

  2. Ian – we clearly live in an ‘highly sexed’ society. I have no figures but as I recall the UK has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe and I suspect that STDs aren’t far behind. It might be stretching my point too far to suggest that we can blame this on advertising, but sex as a consequence free consumable is unlikely to help matters.

    Neuroskeptic – it’s a long story, but someone once broke into a flat in which I was sleeping and took the television. I ran out after them in my dressing gown and said ‘give that back!’ after which the TV was placed into my hands in a kind of ‘sorry, thought you didn’t need it’ sort of a way. This and your acquaintance’s experiences would suggest that ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ also applies to robberies!

  3. Very interesting article — just one more thing for parents of today’s youth to be cognizant of. Of course the question surrounding all modern technology; “when is enough, enough?” As long as technology progresses, such threats are inevitably going to follow. Is there a solution?

  4. Do teenage girls feel ‘compelled to comply’ with requests for these pictures? I’m not so sure there aren’t plenty who’d be more than willing to provide them unsolicited.

    The concern is that teenagers need to be protected sometimes – more from themselves than others, perhaps.

    Overall, I tend to agree with you, though.

  5. I’m an 18-year-old girl that has never taken part in the whole “sexting” craze. My parents are careful to monitor my cell phone and internet use – if I did something inappropriate online, they would be sure to find out about it quickly. I have a good relationship with my parents, and I would never want to do anything to ruin the trust they have in me. I think that another reason why I have never taken part in the “sexting” craze is my involvement in extra curricular activities and my community. These activities are a positive use of my time, and I really enjoy them.

    I believe the best way to make sure teens avoid sexting is building strong relationships between parents and their children. If you’re a parent that would like to have a stronger relationship with your child, the website is an excellent resource – check it out!

  6. This is the power of Social trend and texting. We can never blame the youth the is doing this thing in their mobile phones.