Sexting Hysteria Misses the Point

by UnfunOne on October 10, 2010

Sexting – sending provocative messages and photos via text messaging – is the new cyber-bullying. It’s replaced the online bullying, terrorism and even trans fats as The Root Of All Evil Things That Occur. Among the many slack-jawed lunatics who’ve declared the war on Sext are:

  • Politicians, who are racing to write unenforceable laws before election time – why fix the economy when you can prevent John Doe from sending a dirty message to his mistress?
  • Journalists, who’ve written no fewer than 15,000 stories about sexting in the last 48 hours. Fifteen. Thousand.
  • Brett Farve, who decided to send pictures of his penis to former Vikings employees, instead of working on his throwing arm. OK, that’s not a war, but it’s certainly stoked the mob mentality.
  • Law enforcement, who, with a few exceptions, know about as much about text messaging as I do about marksmanship.

Even the AARP is getting into the act with a paid ad on Google:

aarp sexting ad

The article then describes sexting and provides do’s and don’ts. Nice to know AARP is as good at pandering as the rest of us.

Sexting isn’t the point

Sexting isn’t inherently bad. Using it to harass other people is. And (I’m starting to sound like I’m a Republican – I’m not) there are plenty of laws on the books dealing with harassment.

Harassment – which is bullying, by the way – used to come in the form of girlie calendars, sideways remarks and Mad Men-esque behavior designed to make another person feel like less of a person. It targeted those who were different by gender, appearance, behavior, lifestyle, etc..

It still targets the same people, for the same reason. It just uses different channels: Facebook. Web sites. E-mail. And text messaging.

Pretending sexting is, in itself, the problem is dishonest, intellectually lazy and short-sighted. It’s an easy refuge for weak-minded people who don’t really care about bullying, but want to ‘make a statement’.

An honest approach

The honest approach is to understand that every one of us is responsible for preventing harassing behavior, whether it’s via text message or verbal abuse. If you want to protect your children/coworkers/self from harassment via sexting, you need to do the same things you’d do to protect them from any other harassment:

  • Call harassment what it is: Cheesy, tacky, cowardly bullying.
  • Teach those around you the same thing.
  • Discipline your kids and employees when they’re behaving inappropriately. Behind every bully is a mentor who didn’t give a crap.
  • If your local politician tells you the great job they’re doing by focusing on sexting, call them on it: Tell them they’re insulting your intelligence, and ask them to focus on real issues, instead.

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