The NYT recently ran an expose on naked teen “sexting”
as a part of a slew of recent articles on the topic.
Unfortunately, this article failed to take into account
the fact that teens, especially girls, have sexual desire.
Having a naked picture of your significant other
on your cellphone is an advertisement that you’re
sexually active to a degree that gives you status.
Perhaps, but what about the fact that the teen might
want to enjoy the photo for themselves, too?
Inner-desire is continuously ignored in the article
in favor of the view that teens (again, especially
females) engage sexually in order to please others.
You can’t expect teenagers not to do something they
see happening all around them. They’re practicing
to be a part of adult culture,”
Teens don’t need anyone telling them to play show-me-yours.
More than practicing for when they get older, teens are
also attempting to explore and enjoy their sexuality in the present.
It’s not just adults who have sexual desires. In fairness,
the New York Times did run another article that quotes teens
on the topic, who are clear that sexting is the result of desire.
So, why do most articles dismiss this fact?
I can accept that culture influences sexual behavior.
But not bringing sexual desire into a conversation a
bout sexting is erroneous.
Acknowledging teen sexual desire should be at the center
of how to deal with the issue of sexting moving forward.
We should be promoting sexual agency, not dismissing it.
Better than shaming teens is to start a conversation around
how to best express themselves sexually at their age.
There are consequences to this perspective that views teen sexual
behavior as not stemming from desire but instead only as something taught.
Adults too often feel they can simply squash teen sexuality
through shaming and even criminalization. Teenagers are being
escorted from school in handcuffs, locked up and forced to
register as sex offenders simply because they shared nude
photos with a significant other their own age.
This over-reaction demonstrates Michel Foucault’s point:
that by seemingly ignoring teen sexual desire, we’ve only
succeeded in turning it into an obsession.