Eighteen Is Old Enough for War But Not Sexting, Say Ohio Lawmakers

The House Criminal Justice Committee just voted unanimously in favor of a bill to ban sexting by anyone under age 19.


Bartek Szewczyk Westend61/Newscom

Young love is confusing. In Ohio, legislators want to make it criminal—at least when it's mediated through modern technology. Last week, members of the House Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill to ban teen sexting, even for some teenagers who are legally adults.

Under the proposed measure (H.B. 355), teens could still have sex with each other without the state stepping in. But a teen who sends sexualized imagery of him- or herself to another teen would be guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. And the same goes for kids on the receiving end of sext-messages.

The ban would apply to Ohioans ages 13 to 18.

That's right: Ohio lawmakers apparently think that age 18 is old enough to marry, vote, or join the Army, but not old enough to control naked images of your own body.

Teens found guilty of sexting could be sentenced to a "sexting educational diversion program," to be developed by county courts, upon completion of which they would see the sexting charge dismissed. But judges would be free to overlook this program, and minors with previous sex-related offenses on their records would not be eligible.

Outside the diversion program, a sexting charge could lead to a sentence o eight hours of community service—a light punishment that the bill's supporters have brandished to make their proposal more palatable. But of course, community service is just the immediate punishment. The real harm comes from saddling these kids with criminal records for the rest of their lives.

"The stigma behind any criminal conviction is severe, but to tar these kids as sex offenders could quite literally ruin their lives," writes Celine Coming, communications manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. "This charge could make it impossible for young people to access opportunities for education, housing, and employment for years to come."

The bill's sponsors have argued that theirs is a compassionate plan because it gives prosecutors an option to avoid charging teen sexters with more serious child pornography charges. But there's nothing requiring the state's cops to crack down on teen sexting to begin with, and even when they do, prosecutors could use their discretion to not bring child porn charges. And if legislators think overzealous prosecutors are the problem, they could always pass legislation prohibiting juvenile sexters from being charged as child-porn producers.

Instead, they're simply adding on another possible charge for law enforcement to slap onto texting teens. As H.B. 355 explicitly states, "prosecution of a person for a violation of" the teen sexting ban "does not preclude prosecution of that person for a violation of any other section" of Ohio criminal law and "an act that can be prosecuted under this section or any other section of the Revised Code may be prosecuted under this section, the other section, or both sections."

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  1. But there’s nothing requiring the state’s cops to crack down on teen sexting to begin with, and even when they do, prosecutors could use their discretion to not bring child porn charges.

    Would they still get to pore over the evidence if they don’t bring charges?

    1. That is an important question. If we want to stop a 13 year old from sexting with a 60 year old, does it helps to give the police a justification to look through the evidence? Other than that, attemps to punish kids are more about protecting 60 year old eyes than protecting 13 year old bodies.

  2. The bill’s sponsors have argued that theirs is a compassionate plan because it gives prosecutors an option to avoid charging teen sexters with more serious child pornography charges.

    You know, if they were really concerned about this, they could alter the child pornography laws so that they don’t include teens sending nude pics of themselves. It’s going to happen and no one can stop it.

    Seems like this law should have some first amendment problems.

    1. You would think so Zeb. But this society is totally insane when it comes to teens and sex. The same society that allows their teenage daughters to dress in outfits that would make a streetwalker blush and sells pants that say “juicy” across the butt to 10 year old girls, then throws people in jail for decades for having dirty pictures on their computer and ruins the lives of teenagers who take a naked picture of themselves. To quote Walter Slobcheck, “say what you want about National Socialism but at least it is an ethos.” What is our ethos? Are we this conservative society that thinks the hint of sexualizing even teenagers is the worth thing ever or are we some kind of modern Rome where every child of any age is sexualized? We seem to have adopted the worst characteristics of both.

      1. Sexualized is the wrong word. You left out the part where teen pregnancy as well as birth rates overall are down while, supposedly, rape and sexual predation among the middle and upper class is as prolific as ever. Sexuality derives from sexual reproduction and biological “presence” or agency. This is abject stimulation. You mean something more like eroticism or hedonism.

      2. It’s true. We damn them if they do, & damn them if they don’t. We blame people for reacting to the eroticiz’n others impose.

      3. Either way, the U.S. has a dysfunctional relationship to sex in regards to society and law. The repression of sexuality in general is the surefire way for this dysfunction to manifest in awful ways. The reactionism involved prevents understanding, which in turn makes things worse. And the policy involved obviously doesn’t work, which tells us that we’re more interested in moralizing than fixing problems as a society.

        1. It’s not just the US, but a lot of countries. In many ways the UK is worse. N. Europe is pretty bad generally.

          Now you’ve got me going on one of the things that most vexes me about the way society’s been going. We push & prod children to be sexual, to choose a sexuality, even a sex identity, & to be involved in sex in the abstract?but then revolt any time it becomes concrete. So we expose them to porn as sex ed, but they’re not supposed to look at each other that way.

        2. The repression of sexuality in general is the surefire way for this dysfunction to manifest in awful ways.

          Wouldn’t be so bad if it were just repression. Lots of societies have done that. No, this is simultaneously lighting a fire under it & not allowing any relief valve.

          Boys especially are expected to be sexual, such that if they’re not, parents suspect them of homosexuality. But then they want them to express their gay-ness, so that’s not a way out. So then kids are encouraged to do everything up to the brink of sex, but not sex, & not sexting. They’re supposed to wait until they’re adults, which may be yrs. What would we say about an adult relationship that took that long to get serious?

          Kiddie porn became a thing only because it was made a thing. So now visuals of kids are sexualized whether they want to be or not.

  3. Can an 18 year old still make a porno in Ohio?

    1. Ohio criminal code 2907.32 suggest they cannot.

    2. Fact: nobody wants to see people from Ohio naked anyway.

      1. Have you ever seen a Buckeye buck naked?

        1. So that’s what Buckeye means.

      2. Ha – the problem herein is that Ohio girls – maybe midwestern girls in general – tend to get real fat some short time after passing 18.

  4. This business of declaring teens to be adults by bits and pieces is utter pigswill. I have to assume (not being a teen myself) that the teens affected hold the idea that they are eligible to vote and carry arms in the country’s defense, but NOT to drink with the respect normally accorded a deranged, raving, street person.

    Either they are Citizens, eligible to exercise the Franchise, and therefore fully adult, or they are not and should not have the vote. Sexting, Drinking, buying guns…all are trivial compared to the importance of the Vote.

    The Progressives push this bushwa because they want to treat EVERYBODY like puling infants, and are willing to do it piecemeal. Nobody else has any excuse.

    1. This trend isn’t limited to progressives. It is employed equally by “conservatives”.

      1. Oh, I’m not claiming it’s limited to Progressives. I’m saying their motives make sense. They’re despicable, but they make sense.

        1. Let us not leave out Tobacco use. If we’re going to argue a consistent date for all adult freedoms, include them all – voting, war, sex, alcohol and tobacco use.

    2. Sexting, Drinking, buying guns…all are trivial compared to the importance of the Vote.

      Considering how trivial the vote is, one wonders why they bother making laws about the other ones at all.

  5. I don’t think this law stands a chance in court. Even with our screwy courts, there is no way you can say that an adult does not have the right to send naked pictures of themselves to another consenting adult. This isn’t in the public eye. There is no quality of life issue here. And there are no threats created to others by drunk driving or public drunkenness like you get from alcohol. Just what is the governmental purpose being pursued here? To keep people from being seen naked? Whatever it is, there is no way it is compelling enough to restrict someone’s first amendment rights.

    1. As the story implies thats not likely the point. it is additional leverage that can be applied against people doing something a moral minority objects to. Just because it starts as a fairly trivial measure doesn’t mean it will stay that way.

    2. I thought the same thing. The first amendment should be pretty absolute on this one. This isn’t even public speech. This is private speech. An adult cannot be prohibited from engaging in private speech, it is stupid to suggest otherwise.

  6. Well they had to “do something” for the “children”.

    Whats the matter do you hate kids, childhood or morality imposed by ignorant, arrogant do gooders or something?

  7. OT: Did I miss it or has Reason completely overlooked the “(Domestic?) Terrorist Attack” in Liege?

    Seems like Belgium needs some tighter knife and then officer’s gun control laws… or, you know, don’t let your violent repeat offenders out of prison ‘on leave’.

  8. The House Criminal Justice Committee


    1. Just think of them as Batman. But instead of being the hero we want or need, they’re just sort of there and feel the need to do something from time to time.

  9. And yet more bad law. There is literally nothing good about this law. We know that regulating personal behavior (18 year olds in this case) does not work and is unjust. But of course, this will not stop the paternal state from projecting itself into private lives of individuals and their families. And per usual with bad law, this law isn’t even consistent with other things, such as the age of military service, buying tobacco or being a professional sex performer.

    The jig is up for “for the children” and “if it protects just one child”. One could say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” about many things, but it probably doesn’t even apply here, since this reflexive, poorly thought idea is nothing more than electoral padding for state legislators.

    1. the road to hell should be paved with the skulls of these fucking morons…just sayn

      1. Asphalt can be made from what comes out of a woodchipper. Just sayin’.

  10. Turning 18 years old is to become a legal adult in the United States, except for all those things that they’re still not allowed to do because of stupid fucking reasons. The state will give you a gun and send you off to literally end people’s lives, but if you have one alcoholic beverage YOU’RE GOIN’ TO JAIL SON!

    We live in a nation of idiots and retards. Fortunately for us, that’s more or less the default position of humanity so it’s not unique to us. We’re just more free to put our idiocy on full and honest display.

  11. Have you noticed, that people are still having sex?
    All the denouncement, had absolutely no effect.
    Parents and counselors, constantly scorn them.
    But people are still having sex and nothing seems to stop them.
    Do you realize that people are still having sex?
    They’ve been told not to, perhaps they are perplexed.
    When you see them holding hands, they’re making future plans to engage in the activity.
    Do you understand me?
    People are still having sex.
    Lust keeps on lurking.
    Nothing makes them stop.

    1. Is that haiku?

      1. House Perv Committee.
        Apt response: Christ, what assholes!
        Teenagers get naked. Deal.

  12. There is a single and obvious purpose here. Police and prosecutors want access to pictures of minors and the easiest way to get them is to create a crime for them to be “evidence” of.

  13. We’re going to protect them from the harm of sexting by labeling them as sex offenders?

    What the actual fuck?

    1. I know, right?

  14. Ohio lawmakers apparently think that age 18 is old enough to marry, vote, or join the Army, but not old enough to control naked images of your own body.

    Unless ENB has surveyed Ohio legislators, she has no idea what they think about the age of voting or joining the Army. That’s controlled by the Feds (Constitution and legislation, respectively.)

  15. Ohio, the kind of control you’re attempting simply is?it’s not possible. If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh?well, there it is.

    1. If it turns out that Tony is Jeff Glodblum I’ll have to rethink a lot of my sexual fantasies.

  16. whole story’s a total lie, yes?

  17. In a perfect world, Gov. Kasich would be calling the Legislative leaders and reminding them that 18-yr old’s also vote.
    But then, this isn’t a perfect world, and Kasich is kind of a dip.

    1. This world is so imperfect, it wouldn’t surprise me if a majority of 18 YO in Ohio favored this legisl’n.

  18. It’s not 19/44,64,74 anymore.

  19. Old enough to fuck, not old enough to text about it.

    We’re weirder about technology than we are about sex.

  20. Remember how the Quakers of Colonial Mass were streaking during Puritan Church services to protest the burning of witches who were charged with harming children?

    1. If Jesus floats on water, that means he’s a

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