Warning to Teens: "'Sexting' Will Ruin Your Life"…


…not because of the dirty pictures themselves, but because of what the hysterical adults will do to you if they find them.

The latest case comes from Iowa, where the state's supreme court just upheld the 2005 conviction and sentence of Jorge Canal. While he was 18, a 14-year-old female friend asked Canal to send her a picture of his penis. Even the Iowa Supreme Court acknowledges that the photo was at her request, that the two weren't romantically involved, and that the whole exchange was intended to be a joke. Nevertheless, it upheld Canal's conviction and sentence, which comes with the requirement that he register as a sex offender, likely for the rest of his life.

Dr. Marty Klein of the Sexual Intelligence blog comments:

All these adults were supposedly attempting to protect Iowa's young people–by punishing this kid who was fooling around with a pal.

So let's spend a moment in the real world (which none of these adults seem to inhabit). Which is likely to hurt this 14-year-old girl more—seeing a 2-square-inch photo of a friend's erect penis, or being the reason that this friend will spend time in jail and decades as a registered sex offender? Her life is now ruined (in addition, of course, to his), because of her criminally negligent parents, criminally ambitious prosecutor, and 12 jury members who failed to protect people who needed justice but received only wrath.

For a fine example of the circular logic behind these laws, consider the defense of them Pat Trueman, counsel to a religious advocacy group called the Alliance Defense Fund, gave to a local TV station:

"This was a serious offense. He was producing obscenity and distributing obscenity, and to a minor at that,"…

"But he also has to register as a sex offender—and [he] may be on that sex offender registry for a lifetime," Trueman adds. "So if anyone had any doubts, sexting is a very serious crime —and kids better get to know that."

Sexting isn't a "serious crime" because it causes irreparable damage to the senders and recipients of nude photos. It's a serious crime because Iowa lawmakers, prosecutors, and people like Pat Trueman have decided they want to ruin the lives of kids who engage in it.

Be sure to read Nancy Rommelmann's terrific sexting article from our July 2009 issue, "Anatomy of a Child Pornographer."

UPDATE: Link to Dr. Klein's site is fixed.