Here’s a brief history of sexting.
- Some students got in trouble for sending sexually explicit pictures of another student around a school.
- Local news reported on it, after all it contained “teenagers” and “sex” in the same story. Brittany Spears must have been on vacation.
- In another town a similar case was reported.
- To make it more interesting, a regional or national news editor aggregated the two stories and gave it a sensational title: sexting.
- A single national news organization ran a story with the title “sexting.”
- Other news organizations and certainly those not in the media but whom enjoy making comment on news items (aka– bloggers) picked up the story and repeated it.
- Remember, this was 1-2 isolated cases aggregated together as an emerging trend.
- Someone does 45 minutes of research into teen texting behavior from an unrelated marketing survey and determines that 20% of teenagers have sent a sexually explicit text message.
- Forget that fact that the study was likely unscientific and didn’t study sending/receiving photos or videos… the thing that gets codified is that 20% of teenagers send sexually explicit texts.
- Any new case similar to this, among the millions of teenagers in America sending trillions of text messages monthly, was now labeled as “sexting.”
- Sexting began appearing in the vernacular of the public… and an assumption formed that “sexting is something a lot of teenagers do.“
- Sexting, now a thing, begins to be written about as if it is a real trend affecting millions of teenagers.
- A news agency, not to be outdone, labels sexting an epidemic.
- Legislators, keen to make it on the news, murmur about the teenage sexting problem.
- School boards and soccer moms start to talk about the horrors of sexting.
- “Sexting cases” start to get aggregated with ANYTHING teenagers do. Any music trend. Prom. Sports. Everything now has a sexting potential.
- Some students actually start sending explicit photos of one another around… because they hear about how prevalent it is among teenagers on the news.
- Sexting begins to appear in the litany of prevention literature. Teenagers and their “malformed pre-frontal lobes” can’t help themselves. Left alone for more than 14 seconds, they will drop their pants and send pictures of their privates to everyone they know. At least that’s what you’d learn from these “concerned organizations.”
- Soccer moms, parenting from a cocktail of fear and living vicariously through their children, buy the whole thing. They start looking through their children’s texts while they sleep.
- Sexting becomes something every adult assumes is happening rampantly among teenagers.
- Someone actually does a study and proves that the whole thing is a fabrication. About 1% of teenagers have ever sent or received a sexually explicit text message.
- And of course the news machine makes money talking about why sexting isn’t happening at the rate everyone thought it was.
“Even if you look at 1% or 2% of kids in a high school of a thousand kids, that’s 10 to 20 kids, and that’s plenty of people for whom this is a big issue and for whom this is a troublesome problem in their lives,” says Lenhart, who has researched teen sexting but was not involved in the new study.
1% of teenagers isn’t something we need to have a prevention focus on. Stop this perverted fascination on adolescent sexuality! As long as humans could write, people have drawn and written sexually explicit messages.
As advocates for adolescents, we need to call this stuff out. Our cultures bias against adolescents, including the false creation and labeling of phenomenon, is a form of discrimination that we need to root out.
Want another example? Look at this Fox News piece.
It has every stereotype of teenagers in one story. Teenage sex is bad. (Er, look at history. We wouldn’t exist as a society without teen sex.) Malformed teen brains. Negative brain development ties with experiencing sex in the teenage years. (The study is of HAMSTERS!) Fear, fear, and more fear.