Putting Teens in Jail for Sexting Is Always Immoral

Laws that deny young people ownership of their bodies should be abolished.



One of the most bizarre teen sexting prosecutions in recent memory became even more awful last month when it was revealed that the detective in the case, David Abbott, had inappropriate contact with two boys, ages 11 and 13.

Abbott killed himself on December 15, moments before authorities could make an arrest. Last year, Abbott served as the lead investigator of a sexting case involving a 17-year-old boy who had sent photos to his 15-year-old girlfriend. The police in that case sought and obtained a warrant to give the teen an erection and photograph his genitals—an alarmingly intrusive measure that seems even more suspicious now that the truth about Abbot is known.

But, as I argue in an op-ed for USA Today, the American public should be outraged about every teen sexting case, because denying young people ownership of their own bodies is immoral—even when the authorities have nobler intentions than Abbott:

Proponents of these laws claim they are necessary to protect kids from sex predators. They also frequently insist that teens shouldn't be sexting anyway, and that there's no harm in keeping the activity illegal. What they don't seem to understand is that sexts are ubiquitous — more than half of college undergraduates surveyed sent them as minors, according to researchers at Drexel University. Are these kids taking on some risk? Sure. Should their parents and teachers caution them against sexting? Absolutely. But arresting them, expelling them from school, smearing their names in the news media and placing them on the sex offender registry are all punishments vastly disproportionate to the "crime." Funneling teens into the criminal justice system for expressing sexual interest in other teens is simply much more harmful to them than sexting is.

States ought to consider laws that exempt everyone under the age of 18 from child pornography laws. The technology might be new, but human nature isn't: Teens are interested in sex, and no amount of moral-panic-induce government interference is going to change that.

Read the full thing here.

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  1. …even when the authorities have nobler intentions than Abbott…

    Abbott fouled the otherwise pure waters law enforcement professionals navigate inserting themselves into the sex lives of helpless adolescents.

    1. inserting themselves into the sex lives of helpless adolescents.

      So, we’re just done with phrasing, right? That’s not a thing anymore?

  2. *Abbott served as the least investigator of a sexting case*

    I think he did more than the least he could do.

    1. The least he could do was jerk off simply speculating what the kid’s hardon looks like. He did them one better and actually got the court to let him take a shot of it.

    2. I’m trying to figure out what was meant. “Lead”? “Last”? “Latest”? Missing word after “least”?

  3. I don’t even think people should be counseled against sexting. They’re just body parts, you can’t hurt anybody with ’em&mdas;or with pix of ’em, any more than you can w pix of guns.

  4. I partially disagree. Being a mother, I support rough measures against sexting. I cannot imagine my daughter doing it. It is better to scare her with legal responsibilities; that would work more effectively than simple asking not to do it. On the other hand, I agree with the thought that teens have always been curious about sex and such measures won’t change it. All in all, I do everything to prevent my daughter from such activity starting from talking and winishing with installing Pumpic app on her phone. I think parents should control the situation more; then there will be no need for authorities to step in.

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