Alex Blaze

Let's talk about sext

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 21, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ACLU, cell phone etiquette, child exploitation, pennsylvania, photos, pornography, prosecution, sexting

I'm so far behind the times I don't even have a cell phone, but I can see why what this DA has planned won't help children.

Mattilda posted a few weeks ago about rural Pennsylvania DA George Skumanick's crusade to shut down "sexting" (sending naked pics with cell phones) in his town. More information's out about his attempt to prosecute teens for both distributing the pictures, as well as appearing in them. (Is this the way they bust actual child pornography rings: by confiscating the pictures and putting the kids behind bars?)

Consider this from a dumbfounded parent:

MaryJo Miller was dumbstruck when she opened her letter, which targeted her daughter, Marissa. Mr. Skumanick later told her he had a photo of Marissa that showed her from the waist up wearing a bra.

Marissa and her mother say the photo was snapped at a slumber party more than two years ago when Marissa was 12. Neither Marissa nor her mother knows how it got circulated but they don't see the photo as explicit. "It was like an old grandma bra. Nothing skimpy," says Marissa.

Marissa and her parents joined a group of about 50 others at the courthouse. Before showing the photos, Mr. Skumanick explained his offer to the crowd, answering one father's question affirmatively, that -- yes -- a girl in a bathing suit could be subjected to criminal charges because she was posed "provocatively."

Yup. There you go. In case you were under the mistaken impression that these laws only reduce the exploitation of teenagers, here's all the proof you need that they have a lot to do with some adults' anxiety around teen sexuality.

Not only that, these teens, if convicted, would be forced to register as sex offenders. Which would serve that 12-year-old right for appearing in a picture someone else took in a bra (and I bet she appeared in it provocatively... we'll only be safe when every 12-year-old slut is behind bars).

But the DA thinks he was generous to offer the teens and tweens an opportunity to take a course instead of being prosecuted:

Mr. Skumanick thought he had enough evidence to charge them as juveniles on pornography violations -- not just for sending the photos, but for appearing in them, too.

With the help of school officials, Mr. Skumanick convened a series of assemblies, from fifth-graders to seniors. For the youngest students, he asked them to conjure how they would feel if their grandparents saw a photo of them that is "not nice." He warned the older students that sexting could damage their college or job prospects and could result in felony charges.

At one of the assemblies, a student interrupted and accused Mr. Skumanick of trying to ruin the teens' lives. "This isn't a debate," Mr. Skumanick told the senior boy, who was escorted out of the auditorium.

Mr. Skumanick also worked with area youth officials to offer the teens a class in lieu of charges. Patrick Rushton, education manager at the Wyoming County Victims Resource Center, culled course outlines for both boys and girls from educational Web sites on sexual harassment and violence. His curriculum included material on "what it means to be a girl in today's society" and a poem, "Phenomenal Women," by Maya Angelou.

I wonder if Maya Angelou had any idea her poem would be used for this when she wrote it.

As Mattilda mentioned, the ACLU is suing this DA. As well they should, since these prosecutions do nothing to help anyone. And that class sounds pretty lame too, almost like it's just a scare tactic to get teens to be ashamed that they even wore a swimsuit one day.

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Isn't that a parental responsibility to be sure their kids aren't sending naked pictures of themselves around?

What do you mean, silly? It was obviously the 12 year old's fault for falling asleep in a bra and letting someone take a picture of her...

*rolls eyes*

Lucky for Savana Redding, no one took any photos of her when she was being strip-searched at school.