Credit: Getty Images. Adolescent women feel intense pressure to send sexual images to men, but they lack the tools to cope with their concerns and the potential consequences, according to new research. Sexting, or sending nude or semi-nude sexually suggestive images or messages to others, is a reality for an estimated 15 to 25 percent of teens growing up today. Though some research points to sexting as a potentially low-risk way to explore sexuality, it also is associated with increased risk of ostracism, depression, and suicide. Thomas explored the challenges teenagers have while debating whether to send photos and the problems that can surface when they do.
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Sex, Gender, and Body Image
A teenage boy in North Carolina has been prosecuted for having nude pictures of himself on his own mobile phone. The young man, who is now 17 but was 16 at the time the photos were discovered, had to strike a plea deal to avoid potentially going to jail and being registered as a sex offender. Experts condemned the case as ludicrous. The boy was, however, punished by the courts, and had to agree to be subject to warrantless searches by law enforcement for a year, in addition to other penalties. The young man was also named in the media and suffered a suspension as quarterback of his high school football team while the case was being resolved. Cormega Copening, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was prosecuted as an adult under federal child pornography felony laws, for sexually exploiting a minor. The minor was himself. Copening was charged with four counts of making and possessing images of himself and one count of possessing a naked image of his year-old girlfriend. His girlfriend, Brianna Denson, took a plea deal after being prosecuted on similar charges for having naked, suggestive pictures of herself on her cellphone.
Raymond Arthur does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Young people have always explored their sexuality and shared these experiences with others. A lot of these young people will then go on to share these images with someone they know. These figures, suggest that sharing self-generated sexual images has become just another way for young people to express their sexual selves. But, for some young people, sexting can lead to criminal prosecution along with classification as a sex offender. It counts as an offence of distributing an indecent image of a child and meets the legal definition of child pornography. And this year alone, across the UK the police have investigated thousands of children for sexting including a five-year-old boy in County Durham, and a year-old boy who was cautioned by Northumbria Police. A stark illustration of how cruel the criminal law has become in this regard is illustrated by the example of 12 year old girl in the south of England who was being groomed online by a paedophile. The girl was pressured to send him topless photos. The paedophile cannot be found as he was using an anonymous Instagram account.
Then she sent the full-length frontal photo to Isaiah, her new boyfriend. They broke up soon after. In less than 24 hours, the effect was as if Margarite, 14, had sauntered naked down the hallways of the four middle schools in this racially and economically diverse suburb of the state capital, Olympia. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of students had received her photo and forwarded it. In short order, students would be handcuffed and humiliated, parents mortified and lessons learned at a harsh cost. Only then would the community try to turn the fiasco into an opportunity to educate. But adults face a hard truth. For teenagers, who have ready access to technology and are growing up in a culture that celebrates body flaunting, sexting is laughably easy, unremarkable and even compelling: the primary reason teenagers sext is to look cool and sexy to someone they find attractive. In the fall of , Margarite, a petite, pretty girl with dark hair and a tiny diamond stud in her nose, was living with her father, and her life was becoming troubled.