Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent by Amy Adele Hasinoff

5. Information and Consent

  • The main point here and perhaps of the book is that Amy suggests that scholars, policymakers, technology developers, and users alike should adopt an explicit consent standard for the production, distribution, or possession of private media and information. This would obviously apply to sexts. This means that you would need consent to distribute anything someone shared with you that they produced themselves. This establishes as the default that it is not acceptable to distribute private information. As it is, about the only thing restricted by law is child pornography. This affirmative consent model should also apply to physical activity, which could result in rape. Websites that aggregate and resell personal information would also have to obtain meaningful consent from the people involved. You could still freely purchase commercial sexual images and videos as the producers are responsible for obtaining consent. If explicit consent is already the norm in commercial media production, why not extend it to interpersonal exchanges.
  • Teens and adults are already taking steps to prevent non authorized sharing by using apps like Snapchat and others that can prevent screenshots. Other apps also allow for adding stars or pixelation effects to censor part of the images. If we are going to further prevent privacy violations, we will need laws that go beyond child pornography and copyright issues. At this point victims will need to make a case that the violations resulted in emotional distress and hope they aren’t charged for creating the images in the first place. It is also possible for anyone to adopt Amy’s explicit consent idea. Any girl can tell her boyfriend that she does not have her consent to share sexts she sends. This is no guarantee, but I can’t hurt and might reduce privacy violations.

Conclusion

  • Amy’s main points are reviewed here. 1. Resist the temptation to try to prohibit sexting. Instilling fears is unlikely to work. 2. Incorporate consent into how we think about private media circulation. 3. Accept girls’ sexual agency. Consensual sexting should not be shamed or punished. The Victoria province of Australia is looking into ending anti-sexting campaigns, not charging teens who sext with child pornography, decriminalizing sexting between minors who are close in age, giving discretion to judges to leave teens off the sex offender list. Unfortunately, these reforms are a radical departure from the response of many states.
  • The appendix contains a very valuable section on Sexting Tips and Recommendations. It includes: 1. Pitfalls to avoid like using scare tactics, banning mobile phones, and telling girls that abstaining gives them higher self-esteem. 2. Recommendations for everyone like not everything digital is meant to be public, promote the affirmative consent model, consider safer-sexting strategies, and avoid blaming the victims. 3. Recommendations for legislatures such as decriminalizing consensual sexting, address privacy violations, work on harm reduction, support sex ed programs that discuss privacy, and work to reduce harassment and violence. 4. Recommendations for parents and educators such as discuss how sexting and sex are similar, discourage privacy violations, don’t use incidents of privacy violation to advise youth, and discuss online reputation management. This section ends with some useful sample discussion questions.
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