Girl, 14, Takes Racy Pix of Self, Faces Sex Offender Charges

A 14-year-old Iowa girl, “Nancy Doe,” took some racy pictures of herself — one in a sports bra and boy shorts, one bra-less but with her hair covering her breasts — and texted them to a boy. For this, the Marion County prosecutor has threatened to brand her a sex offender.

As Robby Soave explains on Reason.com (a site I write for, too):

The trouble began last March, when two boys at Knoxville High School were caught using the school printers to print inappropriate photos of their classmates, both male and female, which had been obtained via texts and Snapchat. Some of the teens in the photos were nude, though emojis were covering their private parts, according to the lawsuit. Doe’s two photos were among them.

School officials notified the police, and the school counselor began reaching out to the parents. Doe’s family was horrified to learn that she had sent inappropriate photos to a boy who had then violated her privacy and shared them with his friends. They restricted Doe’s phone access as punishment…

A few weeks later, Juvenile Court informed them that Doe was accused of “Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.”

The minor here is…her! Doe herself!

Since there were so many kids at the high school who had done basically the same thing — texted sexy pictures — the county offered them all a deal: They could be charged with possessing child porn and have to register as sex offenders. Or they could enroll in a program that combined community service, classes on why it’s bad to sext, giving up their computers for a while, and “an admission of guilt.”

Only the Does chose not to take the deal, because they do not feel their daughter IS a child pornographer or sex offender. Now they are suing Ed Bull, the Marion County attorney.

Not only do I wish them all the luck in the world, I really wish we would stop treating consensual sexting — and even consensual sex — among teens as if it is automatically sexual exploitation of a minor, a crime. We seem to believe that no minor would ever have any sexual interest whatsoever, unless some pervert was involved. And now we’ve gotten to the very weird, snake-eating-its-own-tail point where the pervert doing the exploiting of the teen is the teen herself.

It’s nutty.

It’s time to take a step back and look at the crazy world our over-zealous sex offender laws are creating. The whole purpose was to prevent young people from being raped and molested, not making them into sex offenders because they trip over some arcane rule. – L.

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You're under arrest for sexually exploiting yourself!

You’re under arrest for sexually exploiting yourself!

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48 Responses to Girl, 14, Takes Racy Pix of Self, Faces Sex Offender Charges

  1. Richard October 4, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    Can we assume that all people who attempt suicide will now be charged with attempted murder now?

  2. Workshop October 4, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

    Good for them. Hammer them. Hammer them hard.

  3. elizabeth October 4, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    Richard, in England failed suicides used to be put to death. “Oh, you wanted to die? Here, let me help.”

  4. Craig October 4, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    The ultimate insanity to me is that these kids could legally have full on sex, but they can’t send nude photos. Yeah, THAT makes sense. Not saying its a GOOD idea to send nude selfies for many reasons, as this girl learned. But it shouldn’t end up in the justice system.

    Also, I think a lot of adults fail to understand that some of today’s youth may not give two shakes if someone has seen their naked parts. They are likely way more comfortable with that then we are.

  5. BL October 4, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    “The whole purpose was to prevent young people from being raped and molested, not making them into sex offenders because they trip over some arcane rule.”

    I would replace “whole” with “ostensible”.

  6. W. Spackman October 4, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    Someone needs to send the prosecutor this article from Criminologist Melissa Meyer “How sexting is creating a safe space for curious millennials”

    Ms. Meyer astutely notes that “Sexting is likely to happen before sex, as a way to get to know one’s partner sexually and to build intimacy. This explains why high school pupils who still identify as virgins would sext: to them, it’s a way to bridge the gap of distance between two interested, consenting partners who wish to be intimate, experiment or are just curious and wish to explore their sexuality. All of this can happen in the safety and comfort of their own rooms with the power to stop the interaction at any time.”

    https://theconversation.com/how-sexting-is-creating-a-safe-space-for-curious-millennials-56453

  7. M October 4, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    If you read the article, the photos were NOT nudes.

    Boy shorts and a sports bra

    and another:

    topless, but with hair covering breasts

    In both cases, PG rated photos that you could find in any magazine or ad.

  8. James Pollock October 4, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

    So… if they caught a minor masturbating, would rape charges follow?

  9. Backroads October 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

    Hooray for them and this lawsuit! I hope it gets a few folks to rethink their stupidity.

  10. David (Dhewco) October 4, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

    I don’t really understand the desire to prosecute teens who have sex with each other. My childhood best friend and I were loners together. We experimented with each other (we’re both guys), but we would probably be arrested if we were caught today. If they’d had texting in the 80s, we’d have done it. From the age of 12 to about 15, we’d have thought it funny. We wouldn’t have thought about what if we fell out…what if this guy is a worm who would share. It never would have occurred to us.

    In cases like this, I’m so happy that we didn’t have technology back then to do this.

    David

    (PS. We’re both straight now. Youthful experimentation is still a thing.)

  11. BL October 4, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    “So… if they caught a minor masturbating, would rape charges follow?”

    That sounds like it’s supposed to a rhetorical question, but I doubt they would consider it unthinkable.

  12. Caiti October 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

    @David (Dhewco): thank you for your comment. I suspect most children have a phase like this– I certainly did– but I think most of us assume we were doing something terrible and abnormal. So we act as if children exploring their bodies out of curiosity, or even for the strange sensations it triggers, is terrible and abnormal despite our own secret experiences doing the same. Maybe it’s because of the shame we felt if/when we were caught that makes us feel so strongly about it. (I have a very vivid memory of getting caught with my friend in first grade and her mother shaming both of us. And a few weeks later they moved out of state and I was always convinced it was to get away from me because of what we’d been caught doing, not realizing the move was planned long before the day we were caught). In any event, nobody ever asks WHY it’s so wrong for kids to teach themselves about their own and others bodies. The only way to normalize it is for brave people like you to admit your experience, especially if you look back on it fondly!

  13. Silver Wolf October 4, 2016 at 6:40 pm #

    Let the teens’ families deal with their behavior. The government should stay out of it.

  14. Steve October 4, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

    I would have turned the plea deal down. It includes an admission of guilt. What is to keep the prosecutor from coming back in a couple of years claiming the kids admitted to child pornagraphy?

  15. James Pollock October 5, 2016 at 4:39 am #

    “I would have turned the plea deal down. It includes an admission of guilt. What is to keep the prosecutor from coming back in a couple of years claiming the kids admitted to child pornagraphy?”

    Well, the Constitution has a ban on double jeopardy. However, a state prosecutor can have a go at someone, and then a federal prosecutor can have a go at them, too. You don’t see this very often… the civil rights era produced a lot of racist white folks acquitted in state court by racist white juries, who were then successfully prosecuted in federal court.

  16. SteveS October 5, 2016 at 8:01 am #

    There has to be a better way of dealing with this than through the courts. Obviously, some families aren’t doing anything to deal with it. I suppose it is nothing new. I certainly remember kids from my class doing all sorts of problematic things. Fortunately, there was no easy way to document what happened to the extent that kids have these days.

    As for not taking a plea deal, there is a risk. I am not familiar with this state’s laws, but It may be that this law is broad enough to include what happened.

  17. Tim October 5, 2016 at 8:49 am #

    Steve, you are right. The “deal” requires an “admission of guilt.” That is despicable. Admitting guilt can come back and haunt them. The prosecutor knows this. The prosecutor knows that people are likely to take the deal because they are afraid. The prosecutor also knows that rules can change and the people who took the deal can find themselves on a registry.

    I strongly agree they should not take the deal. This needs to be fought tenaciously and publicly. The prosecutors need to be shamed and humiliated. They are threatening to destroy the lives of innocent children and for that they need to be punished.

  18. CrazyCatLady October 5, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Wait….a girl takes a photo that could be on the cover of Sports Illustrated… and is punished for it? If nothing is showing…how is this different than a swimsuit photo? Because the items has covering things are not swim suits that makes it worse?

    No, this family needs to fight this. And use lots of models and magazine covers as evidence.

  19. CrazyCatLady October 5, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    And if intent is the issue….that she was intending to arouse someone….I dare any of those Sport Illustrated models to go and actually SWIM in those suits….in a pool, with kids around them. Or the ocean….

  20. theresa October 5, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    The one thing I can never get is how you can be the victim and the bad guy. It isn’t logical. So to get the bad guy to punish the victim who is the bad guy.

  21. Andrea October 5, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

    “School officials notified the police.”

    WHY???

    What happened to notifying the parents and letting them handle it (including whether they want to press charges)?

  22. bob magee October 5, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

    @Theresa,

    the issue is SEX. Charging a minor like in this case is akin to busting up a brothel (where all the sex workers are 18+), calling it a victory against SEX TRAFFICKING – then arresting all the sex workers and seize all their $$ and goods.

    The headlines look good.

    The convictions look good (and they do get convictions via plea bargaining)

    Who is FOR exploiting minors in a sexual way? No one, so these law enforcement types get to claim the high moral ground.

    No matter real lives get ruined. The victim is just a prop in a morality play designed to gain votes.

  23. bob magee October 5, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    @Andrea

    Mandatory reporting laws.

    Notify parents and YOU face arrest.

    Great system, huh?!

  24. EricS October 5, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    Just like the penal system (which is largely privatized), the more conviction, the more money certain people make. Including lawyers, judges, correctional officers, etc… I’ve read some reports that there kids as young as 10 years old being incarcerated. Perhaps it’s the same for situations like these. Either way, this “law” is so vague, it can be interpreted and applied many ways that will benefit the prosecutors/businessmen.

  25. John B. October 5, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    I’d definitely say that Ed Bull is full of bull and I certainly wish the girl’s family lots of luck and prayers in their lawsuit against him. As far as I’m concerned, if it were a perfect world, they’d sue the living tarnation out of him and send a strong message to DAs around the country on the absurdity of these type of charges. Unfortunately, in our culture of pedophilia phobia and the bubble-wrapping of kids (any person ), even if he were a HS Senior, she’d be considered the victim while the male would be arrested, disgraced and put on the SOR for life. But since they were texted to under 18s, she’s now the perpetrator and risks being arrested, disgraced and put on the SOR for life. Doesn’t make sense at all.

    Goodness, basic science should tell you that teens have physically matured to the point in their lives where they will have sexual feelings and sexual interest in each other. Other than cases of forcible rape or sex crimes they’d charge adults with for doing to each other, we need to stop criminalizing sexual expressions among minors. Now if I have nude pics of teenage girls (or boys) on my electronic devices or if I’m texting nude photos of myself to teenage girls or boys, then please handcuff me and take me to jail. But certainly not that 15-year-old boy (or girl)!

    Of course, the American prudes (conservatives AND liberals alike) seem to be under the impression that “they’re just children so what do they know about sex?” (I cannot roll my eyes hard enough on this one)

  26. John B. October 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    I seem to have lost some of my text in my last post when I hit the “Submit Comment” button.

    I was trying to say that in our culture of pedophilia phobia and the bubble-wrapping of kids (Any person under the age of 18, even mature teenagers), I DON’T GIVE THIS LAWSUIT MUCH OF A CHANCE, BUT WE’LL SEE.

    I was also trying to say that ironically enough if she texted those photos to an adult male (any male 18-years-old or older) which could even included a HS Senior, she would be considered the victim while the male would be arrested, disgraced and put on the SOR for life. But since they were texted to under 18s, she’s now the perpetrator. I don’t see what sense this makes.

    For some reason or another this verbiage was lost when I submitted my comment but hopefully it wasn’t this time!

  27. david zaitzeff October 5, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    The category of so-called child porn which was originally “lewd exhibition of the genitals” and which in many, states has morphed into something much larger–being most any photograph of the pubic area, butt or breasts if allegedly done for a sexual purpose of some person in some way related to the photograph–is something that should never have been found a legitimate matter to be constitutionally suppressed. It has morphed into including somethings kids do voluntarily on their own without harm to themselves in dozens and dozens and hundreds of cases. It is something that you and I can see on youtube in the cases of various individual kids or dances groups which are, with their parents permission, imitating the music videos of adults or creating a music video on their own of songs they hear on Disney or MTV, except that the “lewd exhibition of the genitals, pubic area or butt” is done, as we see in the videos of 13-years-olds dancing, done while the kids are clothed, rather than nude. Some of “the kids” who produce such videos are professionals; some are amateurs; some are 17; some are 13 or 14; some are just creating their own version of a music video.

    “We” or “society” tolerates it partly because the girls are mostly clothed, and partly because we realize that the creation of such music videos by amateurs and hobbyists and by the occasional professional singer/dancer is not something that is seriously harming them, if at all, being something that is freely chosen by the girls and their parents–and, partly because it is easier for dozens of people to rationalize the fact that their “neighbors” (in the sense of mostly normal and artistically inclined persons such as who could live next door or in Southern California near Hollywood) produce lewd dancing or music videos and it is ok, because, well, “the girls” in question are somewhat or mostly clothed. . . and we who are thinking rationally also realize that girls above about the age of 10 or 12 at times voluntarily choose to be risque or sexually interesting or fun or flirty, without that choice doing harm to themselves or others.

    But, in dozens of cases, it is still, exactly that: “lewd exhibition of the whatever” or “exhibition of some body part for a possible sexual interest or stimulation of some viewer in some far off state such as Maine or Oregon or whereever . . .” . . . and in the cases of some dancing videos, the fact of the music videos or the dancing videos being lewd is far more clear than in photos of girls in shorts or underwear or panties and being still and stationary.

    So, the “deal” that society made when the state of New York criminialize a minor doing lewd exhibition of the genitals and the US Supreme court saying this prohibition, even if the exhibition was not obscene, was ok and compatible with the 1st Amendment, was a terribly bad deal.

  28. John B. October 5, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    A few years back, when Miley Cyrus was 15-years-old, she posted a picture of herself wearing an evening dress. Her shoulders and back were bare but her breasts were covered. It was a side shot of her with a sinister little smile on her face.

    Well, the pedophile patrol was out in full force! “She’s just a child and shouldn’t be posting such a provocative picture of herself for the world to see! It’s so dangerous out there with all those pedophiles!!” Apparently the picture got about 3 million hits and the pedophile patrol wanted the “perverts” tracked down and arrested. Even the great Judge Napalatono said, “Oh yes, those people can be tracked down via their IP address and then arrested and placed on a sex offender registry”.

    This is how nutty we have become in this country! Goodness, most of her body was covered except for her back and shoulders. There was absolutely nothing smutty or perverted about that picture and if she were an adult, we’d think nothing of it. As far as I’m concerned that picture did not come close to meeting the legal definition of child pornography but obviously people read into it and made it what it wasn’t.

    The irony here is that there are probably thousands of pictures floating around the internet of ADULT females in bondage with mask men sticking pins in their bodies. All for the viewing pleasure of sadistic men. Most of it is staged but some of it might be real. But our American attitude toward that is, “Well, ok, it’s a bit on the sick side but at least they’re consenting adults”. I just want to puke when I hear stuff like that!

    So you mean to tell me that men who do a right click and save on a picture of a young but very attractive Miley Cyrus who is modestly dressed are more dangerous than men who have hundreds of pictures in their cache of adult women being tortured? You’ve got to live on another planet to believe that nonsense BUT that seems to be the way the American legal system views it!

  29. Curious October 5, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    What was the outcome of the case in Canyon City, Colorado, that involved 100 kids sexting, some as young as 9 ?

    The DA said they would all be condemned to the sex offender registry. How does that help anyone?

    I am in awe of the young lady in Iowa and her family for standing up for an ethical position that seems so very correct and very heroic.
    We need to go back to square one and take a look at our antiquated attitudes towards sex and toward young people.

    The purpose of the sex offender registry was to give law enforcement a tool to track dangerous kidnappers and murderers in cases of missing children. It became distorted almost immediately and is now a tool used by politicians for their own selfish purposes. It is a proven failure as a tool to prevent people like the child in Iowa from reoffending: she is already 100 percent statistically unlikely to repeat her selfie offense.

    I hope the courts in Iowa will wake up and do right by this girl and others like her. I hope iowa politicians will use this case to teach their constituents the truth about the registry and take it off the table as an election ploy.

  30. JTW October 5, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

    Kinda a good idea. If the pictures had been found on the boys’ phones they’d have been charged with sex offenses even though they had no control over the pictures getting there.
    And in previous cases like this girls had actually deliberately sent such content to boys in order to frame them and get them in legal trouble…

    I’m dead against treating things like this as crimes at all rather than teen hormonal stupidity (and why a picture of a girl in a sports bra would be “sexual” is beyond me anyway), but if you apply such laws and standards to men you should apply them equally to women as well.

  31. Donald pederson October 5, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    Can u sent money to Does” parents to help them sue

  32. MomOf8 October 5, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

    @M exactly! This is the example that’s been set by the various media types. Kids see so much of it that it’s no biggie.

  33. jimc5499 October 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    My Sister worked for a District Attorney. One of the cases that they had was a couple who took their computer to be repaired. The guy who did the repair found what he thought was child pornography and called the police. The video that he found was of the couple having sex. They took it themselves. The problem was that they were both 17 when they made the video. They married at 18 and were 23 when the video was found. The District Attorney tried to press charges against only the husband for possession of child pornography. Thankfully the Judge threw out the charges on the condition that the video be deleted permanently.

  34. david zaitzeff October 5, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    @John b

    do you have a link to Napolitano’s comments or the news story about the Miley cyrus dress?

    thanks!

  35. James Pollock October 5, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    I should also point out that this is not a new development. My own daughter is currently not a minor, but back when she was, “misguided prosecutor” was one of the things I had to bring up when discussing the topic with her.

  36. James Pollock October 5, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

    Things have changed. 30+ years ago, the movie “Pretty Baby” featured a 13-year-old Brooke Shields posing nude for a photographer. Some people were scandalized by this, but AFAIK, nobody was arrested.

  37. Sloan44 October 5, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

    They push sex offender laws as they chant : “If it saves just one child”.
    Well the fact is that more children are harmed by these registry laws, then protected from them! It works both ways..
    Therefore we must END these sex offender laws “If it saves just one child”

  38. Nicole R. October 5, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    I don’t think any child is in danger from this girl. These laws are being waaaaaay overused!! And I hope she wins her case.

    That said, hasn’t news spread among kids not to take racy pictures on their phones until this all gets straightened out, and the laws are fixed?

  39. nNark October 5, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    In 2016, we’re STILL having “issues” (that is, made-up offenses, not actual, credible problems that should cause the world to stop) over under-legal-age people and their bodies and behaviors. Hm, let’s see…. humans have been around for a few thousand years…. the body hits puberty around age 13…. let’s see…. hormones…. sexual awareness beginning… curiosity….

    Yep, the facts have been presented and the verdict delivered: kids are sexual beings!

    However, the Neverending Trial will continue ’til the end of time. Because. We want it to.

  40. david zaitzeff October 5, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    Here is one of dozens of obvious examples in which “kids” do “sexual explotation of themselves” and no one is concerned:

    The cheerleader of various high school and junior high or middle schools in San Diego county were skirts that are short and are liable to fly up at times. The cheerleaders know this and in fact bank on it; some of the girls or whole squad sew or knit or mark their panties with paw prints or hand prints.

    So, they know: 1) their skirts will fly up and expose their panties and/or butt or pubic area with some clothing;
    and 2) others are interested and will look; and 3) by putting paw or hand prints on their panties they are communicating the idea of someone touching them in that area

    AND all that, together is, exposure of the clothed pubic or butt area for the likely, possible or conceivable sexual thrill or stimulation of a possible viewer, usually a spectator at a football or other sports event.

    Do we or the kids or the state or the parents or the school get concerned? No, not because it is not “lewd,” but because there is a slight bit of panties included.

  41. Vaughan Evans October 5, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    In some ways I feel sorry for the people of your country.

    In Canada, the mother (Mrs. Doe)would NOT be able to sue the Country Attorney(Or the Canadian counterpart.)
    -In Canada, our system of justice-the powers of the federal and provincial justice departments-differ from those of your country.
    In Canada, the federal(National)government appoints and pays all judges.
    There ARE federal courts-the Supreme Court of Canada-and the Federal(formerly Exchequer)Court.
    However, the administration of justice rests with the provinces(Our country has 10 provinces and 3 territories.)
    The Criminal Code of Canada(a federal statute enacted 1892)is uniform across the country..
    In our country the individual provinces have fewer powers than those of your individual 50 states.
    The federal governments deals with Education, Highways, and Liquor Control, and Motor Vehicle Law.
    Some powers-health, social legislation-and administered by both levels

  42. sexhysteria October 6, 2016 at 2:11 am #

    Threatening to prosecute 14-year-olds for taking pictures of themselves partially nude isn’t merely sex hysteria, it’s sex insanity!

  43. James Pollock October 6, 2016 at 4:31 am #

    “The cheerleader of various high school and junior high or middle schools in San Diego county were skirts that are short and are liable to fly up at times. The cheerleaders know this and in fact bank on it; some of the girls or whole squad sew or knit or mark their panties with paw prints or hand prints.”

    You aren’t seeing a cheerleader’s panties when their skirt flies up, or, if you do, she’s out of uniform. This is also true of the other young women who wear short skirts as part of their team uniform… dance team, colorguard, etc.

  44. Jana October 6, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    It is so hypocritical! Forgive me, but I am convinced that this has a lot of common with puritanism. I certainly wish them a huge luck!

  45. JTW October 7, 2016 at 1:04 am #

    “Threatening to prosecute 14-year-olds for taking pictures of themselves partially nude isn’t merely sex hysteria, it’s sex insanity!”

    defining “shorts and a sports bra” as partially nude is inane…

  46. James Pollock October 7, 2016 at 4:36 am #

    “defining “shorts and a sports bra” as partially nude is inane…”

    Well, it IS possible to have shorts and a sports bra on, and still be partially nude. “on” and “covering the correct naughty bits” are two things that are the same for some pictures, and different for some pictures.

    I’m kind of surprised that EITHER photo is criminal. (more correctly, I don’t believe that they are, and the prosecutor is barking up a tree.)

  47. Lisha October 10, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    Teens always do stupid things, it’s all hormones … No one has been able to learn from other people’s mistakes, all learn on its own. If parents want to protect their children from making mistakes, you need to install parental control program. And parents will see with whom and about what speaks to their teenager. From a moral point of view it is a spy, but from the perspective of parents is to protect.

  48. BL October 10, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    @Lisha
    “No one has been able to learn from other people’s mistakes, all learn on its own.”

    Is that why all of us are run down by trucks before we stop walking in front of them?

    Oh, wait, very people are run down by trucks …