Before you read on . . . I suggest you give this fantastic episode of the great podcast (new to me, with thanks to my friend Walker) "Note to Self" a listen. It is thirty minutes and if you have a kid between the age of 8 and 88 (the range of people who may be sexting this late in to 2015) you will likely find it interesting.
Have you listened? No, you haven't. But - whatever. You'll regret it when all you get is my hot-take on its content.
Here's the thing . . . as the podcast points out there is nothing really "different" about the rise of teen sexting. It is just kids using the means available to them to test, explore, and enjoy their bodies and sexuality while approaching these "exciting" opportunities from a place of insecurity, anxiety, and fear.
Don't agree? You should. I remember, very well, sneaking around friends' houses and looking at their parents' porn stash or swapping alcohol from my parents' liquor cabinet for dubs, of dubs, of dubs of porn on VHS tape. And that was in a room full of other adolescent boys where confusion was met with shame . . . but never eye contact.
So how is this different? I think in three "simple" ways:
- Kids seem to be exploring sexuality younger and younger these days.
- Taking and sharing nude photos of yourself - something new to this (or maybe one previous) generation of t(w)eens is a (semi) permanent thing that can't be undone.
- Technology and the isolation of it is even more obvious in this generation than previous ones.
- They are also hitting puberty and starting their sexual exploration earlier. Blame chemicals, blame food and obesity, blame genetics, blame Canada. It is a real thing that can't be - as far as we can see - undone.
- To be clear it is an actual criminal offense to send and share photos of under-aged children no matter how consensual and if you happen to turn 18 (while still in high school) and you look at pictures of a classmate (much less share them) who is under 18 . . . you can go on a sexual offenders list for actual ever. Not to mention that these photos, now matter how "proud" of them you might be (lighting, angle, and filtering perfect) are no longer yours or special or intimate the minute you share them with anyone else. That is not the same with sexual acts or exploration between two, consenting, people. They can share memories and even skew the occurrence but they can't share actual evidence of it. When you take and share photos - you're essentially giving them to the world forever and ever (amen).
- I was a late bloomer (I've made NO bones about this and I'm not at all embarrassed by it) but I remember enjoying the act of exploring and figuring out sex with, well, actual women in the actual flesh. Sure, sure, I was over-saturated by porn for at least four decades before (I kid, slightly) but none of that was ever even sorta presented as "for" me or "by" me or "of" me. I worry that kids who get their proverbial kicks trading "selfies" (like so many binary baseball cards) will either not value the real thing as much - or at least the awkward fumbling of the early goings with a partner you don't, yet, know the geography of.