"Sexting" Uncool, but also Wrong


I’ve been told that if I’d been a parent in the 1950s, I probably would have spoken out against Elvis Presley’s pelvic thrust as a dance move. The theory is that teens of every generation will find their own ways to rebel against the cultural norm, and that parents from one generation to the next always object with questions such as “What is this world coming to?”

Perhaps. But that doesn’t stop me from asking the question, “What IS this world coming to?”

These days I’m becoming increasingly convinced I should have walked the earth in prehistoric times. Clearly, I’m a dinosaur, especially when it comes to parenting and culture.

I’d happily accept Elvis’ pelvis over the twisted notions of sexual normality that now permeate our culture. To wit: Last week’s feature on ABC’s “Good Morning, America” about “objectum sexuals,” defined as folks who develop intimate relationships with things, not people.

Apparently, a sexual relationship with a park bench now is considered simply an alternative lifestyle. If this is true, we’d have to decriminalize public indecency laws on the grounds that they discriminate against those who choose to express their affection for their loved ones. After all, we can’t dictate the yearnings of our hearts, can we? We love what we love.

If that sounds absurd, here’s another one for you. The Vermont legislature this week will conduct hearings on a bill that already has passed its Senate and will now be considered by its House Judiciary Committee, which would legalize the practice of “sexting” among teenagers 13 to 18.

Currently, it is illegal to electronically distribute sexually explicit photographs of children and teens. People who do this are prosecuted and go to jail, where even the other hardened criminals think they’re creepy.

Problem: the new fad among teens is to take dirty pictures of themselves and send those photos via cellular phone to their adolescent lovers. It’s “consensual” as long as the person who receives the photos doesn’t forward them on to the guys in the locker room without his girlfriend’s permission. (Don’t be silly. That never happens.)

Vermont doesn’t want to prosecute and punish teens for what it deems an act of poor judgment. Legislators have gone on record as saying they think the practice is foolish/stupid/wrong, but that teens should not be marked as sex offenders for what is essentially self-exploitation.

Good plan, Vermont. Declare something is wrong and then legalize it. No, really. I get it.

Not that it´s easy to get teens to do what´s right. They don´t operate in the world of moral absolutes, since that world went the way of the woolly mammoth.

This is why, in an article about this insane legislative effort, an expert on talking to teens says adults should not try to convince kids that sexting is wrong, but rather we should focus our moral laser beams on the fact that sexting is “uncool.”

The logic: Teens don´t care about what´s right or wrong, only about what´s cool and uncool. Therefore, if we want to manage their “sexting” behavior, we have to convince them that truly cool people don´t do this.

Clearly, Vermont ought to spend its time declaring what is and isn’t cool, since they don’t seem to care about what is and isn’t wrong.

On the other hand, Vermont might consider holding responsible the person who holds the contract on a particular cell phone. Since teens can’t enter into a phone contract, but rather they get their phones from mom and dad, parents (gasp!) could actually be held accountable for supervising their own children and monitoring the appropriate use of cellular phones.

Oh forget it. That would never work.

It’s enough to make you want to sit on a park bench somewhere and think about how weird our world has become.

Then again, that might not be such a great idea.

Copyright 2009 Marybeth Hicks


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  1. Colin Principe on

    So what you’re saying is that this behavior of teens should carry the same penalty under law as a 40-something man who preys on teenage boys at a scouting camp, for example? The penalty being that the teens must go on a national sex offender registry for the rest of their lives?

  2. Colin beat me to the punch. “Legalizing ‘sexting'” has *nothing* to do with authorizing and encouraging it, and *everything* to do with making a distinction between teenagers doing dumb things and paedophiles preying on children. “Sexting” is morally wrong, but that does not mean a law that fails to distinguish between that and child pornography ought to stay on the books.

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