Mar 27, 2009

naked pictures

I can't call myself anti porn. I know that sex and sexuality in our society are often messed up and dangerous. I also don't think "sheltering" everyone from that mess protects us. When I don't like something, or think it's hurtful, that doesn't automatically translate to illegality. (Should I have that woman in the gym locker room with all her pubes shaved off arrested?)

Take the case of the kids arrested for making and distributing child porn for taking pictures of themselves. Under laws made to protect children from sexual predators, we are now criminalizing kids who are exploring their own sexuality.

Is it stupid to send a naked cell phone picture of yourself to a kid in your class (now called "sexting")? Yep. Can it have disastrous results? Yes, like the young woman who killed herself after her ex-boyfriend shared her naked photo with others. She was a victim of bullying. But what if that picture had been forwarded in a world where people weren't such prudes? Where we addressed kids' sexuality, instead of pretending it didn't exist? Where she knew her sex life was a part of her, not shameful, and not the sum of her. There's part of it that's impressive. She felt great about her body, her sexuality, her attractiveness. It went sour, later, but there was a moment there of bold pride that I can't imagine having had as a teen.

Don't get me wrong—I'm terrified for kids. A friend's nine year old is so pretty that it's causing her problems at school, with too much unwanted attention from boys, and strains on her friendships. A sixteen year old girl on the St. Patrick's Day train wearing strap-on prosthetic boobs that doubled as beer bongs broke my heart some.

But poor judgement and an obsession with one's own sexuality are standard teenage fare. Standard human fare. One that arresting kids and posting their names on sex offender registries will never change.

As someone who got a Catholic version of sex "education", and so had a lot of messed up ideas about sex and desire and my body, I really believe that educators, parents, other kids have an enormous responsibility to talk with children honestly about all aspects of sexuality. It's impossible, probably, for kids to completely understand the concept of consequences, but an introduction to the idea is not a terrible thing.

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