The Child Pornographer Next Door

Maggie Gallagher
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Posted: Mar 03, 2009 11:03 AM
The Child Pornographer Next Door

Lately the phrase "unlimited texting" is taking on a whole new meaning:

"In Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah (at last count) minors have been arrested for 'sexting,' or sending or posting soft-core photo or video self-portraits," The American Prospect reported.

Among the recent cases:

Six high school students from Greensburg, Pa., were charged with possessing, manufacturing and distributing child pornography this month after nude pictures of several underage girls were confiscated from one of the boys' phones. The three 14- and 15-year-old girls who sent the self-made child porn and the three 16- and 17-year-old boys who received it were arrested.

In Fort Wayne, Ind., a teen boy faces felony obscenity charges for allegedly sending a photo of his private parts to several girl students.

Nor is this always kids' play. In a suburb of Phoenix, the assistant principal of Buckeye Union High School faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted on charges that he received (voluntarily) sexually explicit photos sent from a 17-year-old girl student's cell phone.

In Tennessee, the Memphis City Schools system is launching a new task force to deal with "sexting." In Utah, according to the Daily Herald of Provo, Republican state Rep. Sheryl Allen has introduced a bill that reduces the first child porn offenses by teenagers from felonies to misdemeanors, with repeaters subject to felonies.

North of Seattle in Bothell, Wash., two cheerleaders sent naked photos to their boyfriends, only to find that the images rapidly passed through the entire school, ending up in the office of a school administrator who punished both girls for violating the high school code. (The girls' parents are suing the school district for its staff members passing on naked photos of their daughter to several other school personnel.)

No wonder Larry Flynt is standing in line for some government stimulation. Oh, for the good old days when men were actually expected to pay for porn!

By now the way in which modern technology makes the consumption of pornography universally available is old hat. The sexting craze underlines the way the creation of pornography has been equally democratized -- in this case right into the hands of suburban 15-year-old girls pathetically trying to attract or keep the attention of porn-jaded boys.

Why do girls act like this? In his book "Boys Adrift," Leonard Sax writes about asking a 16-year-old girl "as gently as I could, why she was wearing a Hooters outfit to a school Halloween party."

"If you don't dress like this, nobody will even notice you," she told him.

The savvy scholars at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy uncovered the news that more than half of teen girls who send sexy photos of themselves do so in response to pressure from some guy -- usually boyfriends or potential boyfriends. It took an intrepid New York Post reporter to discover these and even sadder reasons why some suburban teen girls cave to ex-boyfriends' pressure for self-made porn.

A 15-year-old New Jersey high school sophomore explained that she fired off 40 naked pictures to her ex-boyfriend in a failed attempt to win him back. One 16-year-old from New Jersey offered a different reason: "(My ex-boyfriend) kept asking me, and it was annoying," so she finally gave in and sent him photos.

Gee, what could possibly be more pathetic than a girl who sends an ex-boyfriend naked pictures to win him back? How about a girl who sends an ex-boyfriend naked photos to make him go away?

Right now we have a decision to make: Is underage porn (these aren't really children) a crime or not? If so, how do we treat girls and boys who engage in it "for fun" and not for profit?

After all, if the thought that their fellow students, their teachers, their employers, their college admission officials, the entire football squad, their mothers and the local district attorney may well see these cell phone photos is not enough to discourage teens -- then we really have a problem on our hands.