Sex texting is the newest trend among middle and high school students. Similar to text messaging, sex texting, or “sexting” as it is more commonly called, is the practice of taking nude pictures of bodies and body parts and electronically sending it to another person. Typically, a boyfriend is the intended receiver as girls try to impress or win the young man’s affection, but often after a bad break up, the ex-lover will forward the obscene photos to friends who forward it to their friends and so forth. Students are even uploading this material to networks like MySpace where their friends can have easy access to them.
Many parents, school administrators, and investigators are concerned, even frightened, noting that photos like these could easily get into the hands of the wrong people – pedophiles and sexual predators. Moreover, parents are concerned that their teens will encounter child pornography charges since it is illegal for children under 18 to produce, receive, or distribute sexually explicit photos on their cell phones. Even more upsetting for many is the fact that most teens are either unaware of the danger, or shrug it off as ordinary behavior.
Forgive me, but I have to ask, should any of us be surprised? In a society fixated on sex and sex appeal, is it any wonder that “sexting” has become popular in middle schools and high schools? After all, these girls – the disproportionate source of the photos – are only mimicking what they see their celebrity role models doing.
Think about it – Miley Cyrus, Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Hudgens, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, BeyoncKnowles, Jessica Alba, and Keira Knightly – all of these celebrities have either participated in provocative photos shoots scantily clad or completely nude, or have filmed “steamy” sex scenes which have marked the height of their careers. Moreover, they have been rewarded for their behavior, gaining fortune and popularity – even if it’s popularity for doing wrong as is the case with Cyrus, Spears, and Hudgens.
As Sharlene Azam from Prism magazine (September/October 2008) explains, “Bombarded with images that link a woman’s value to her sexual willingness, girls see their role models engaging in graphic, exhibitionist behavior – and being rewarded for it. Anyone who has ever stood in a supermarket checkout line knows that today’s female pop icons are sex objects to be alternately exalted, ogled, emulated, critiqued, condemned, pitied, and recycled ad nauseum” (p. 10).
Even teen-targeted television shows like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill, magazines like Seventeen and CosmoGirl, countless underwear and body wash commercials, and teen fashions glorify sexiness and tell teens to do likewise. Movies, too, not only tell teens that obsession with sexuality is good but that pornography itself is no big deal.
In the recent R-rated film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, two financially struggling best friends and roommates decide to earn a living by making a porn movie. Audiences are supposed to find the movie humorous and accept the pat message that “sex isn’t sexy without love, commitment, and fidelity,” as Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum comments in a film review. Thankfully, the movie was not a box office hit, but am I the only one utterly disgusted that a movie mocking and downplaying pornography – a known factor in rape, sex trafficking, and pedophilia crimes – would even be at the theatres?
Clearly, our culture is sending teens mixed messages, telling them it is wrong to produce and distribute sexually explicit pictures, but that it is okay to be entertained by those who essentially do the same thing. This has to end.
As Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Director and Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, notes, “Too many people shrug their shoulders and turn away as though offensive material and behavior are not their business. People are not outraged; instead, they accept images on their television screens and computer monitors that would have shocked previous generations and should shock ours.”
You and I are part of the culture that sends teens mixed messages. That is why we must give them an unambiguous message and reject sexual obscenity not only on their cell phones but also in movies, television shows, magazines, fashion trends, and even video games. Contact the clothing stores that profit from sexualizing teens. Be strict on the entertainment your teens are viewing. Hollywood and the other industries that obsess over sex understand only one thing – money. We have got to hit them where it hurts. Let us lead the way in giving teens a clear message: sexual obscenity is wrong no matter how it is packaged.