Are Teens Who Sext “Child Pornographers?”

Thanks to our mistaken belief that no one under 18 can have any legitimate sexual feelings—and hence any sex they’ve engaged in was coerced and bound to render unspeakable emotional harm—we have laws on the books like this one in Wisconsin, according to USA trkatntbns
 (boldface mine, all mine!):

In 2012, state lawmakers passed into law a mandatory, minimum three-year prison sentence for possessing child pornography. Previously, judges had the discretion to order lesser penalties depending on the circumstances. That means a 17-year-old who receives explicit images from a younger friend can be sent to prison for possession of child pornography.

Gee, what a great idea. Prison solves so many problems, including reforming those incredibly deviant teens who are interested in sex.

So how’s that working for the Dairy State? Here’s what happened in the town of Rhinelander:

Until November, when the mother of a Rhinelander High School student turned over a nude image of one of her son’s classmates that she found on his cellphone, law enforcement officials had no idea the problem was so pervasive. That single image led police to identify dozens of students, all of whom had been trading explicit images with one another on a regular basis.

“It was overwhelming how many kids were involved,” said Oneida County sheriff’s Lt. Terri Hook…More than 40 students were involved in distributing teen pornography, police said. Few understood that just having the photos in their possession could have landed them in prison — and on the sex offender registry for life.

Some good news, at least:

Increasingly, judges and lawmakers recognize that criminalizing every case, especially those involving common teenage behavior, might not be the best response.

Some states have passed sexting-specific statutes to lessen the penalties against minors engaged in sexting. For example, Texas has passed a law that will impose a misdemeanor on a minor’s first sexting offense. Under the statute, a minor may be sentenced to community supervision if he or she completes a state-sponsored sexting education course.

(Which sort of sounds like a class on how to sext. But anyway…) Now that we’re getting a handle on how normal it is for young people to send sexy images of themselves, maybe we can also start understanding that when teens have actual sex, that should not be a felony either, except in cases of coercion and rape. A high school senior with a freshman girlfriend is not a sex offender, nor is a 20-year-old with a 16-year-old partner a rapist. In fact, acting as if teens don’t want to have sex until the day they turn 18—and at that point they couldn’t possibly be interested in anyone younger than themselves—is just plain insane. We are criminalizing hormones.

It’s time to examine our sex offender laws, and reconsider what we deem child porn. There are too many teens on the registry for being horny, not horrible.

(I posted this at, as well and hope to cross-post much more, to spread the word.) 

Uh...please don't look at my text and if you do, please don't send me to prison.

Uh…please don’t look at my text and if you do, please don’t send me to prison.

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57 Responses to Are Teens Who Sext “Child Pornographers?”

  1. sloan44 February 26, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    Teens that sext are simply teens. It’s a foolish mistake, as was the mistake of the high schools in my time prior to the digital era to try and make it from 1st base to home plate as we would call it…Simply a foolish mistake.

  2. Walt Howard February 26, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    The people responsible for many of the laws “alleged” to exist to protect kids are the very laws that are behind the decline of our society. Sexuality is a part of the human condition––it’s inescapable. Barring incidents where violence and force are used, I think we need to tone it down. It’s pretty clear to me that many of the lobbyists responsible for these laws; as well as the politicians who write and enact them, have some serious mental and emotional hangups. Unfortunately, those hangups are ruining our Country.

  3. Walt Howard February 26, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    The people responsible for many of the laws “alleged” to exist to protect kids are the very people who violate these laws, and the very people who are behind the decline of our society. Sexuality is a part of the human condition––it’s inescapable. Barring incidents where violence and force are used, I think we need to tone it down. It’s pretty clear to me that many of the lobbyists responsible for these laws; as well as the politicians who write and enact them, have some serious mental and emotional problems related to their sexuality. Unfortunately, those “problems” are ruining our Country and turning potential civic leaders in to pariahs.

  4. BL February 26, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    “We are criminalizing hormones.”

    Well, that certainly provides job security for the whole (so-called) criminal justice system. Maybe that’s the idea.

  5. Neil M February 26, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    I’m not comfortable even with the idea of reducing these offenses to “mere” misdemeanors. Even a misdemeanor conviction has negative consequences, because now a child is in the criminal justice system, which makes it more likely he or she will encounter more trouble with that system down the line. I think we have to be very careful about putting children in that system in the first place. Did we learn nothing from the “Kids for Cash” scandal?

  6. Andrew February 26, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Entirely unrelated, but I could not add a comment to the “high five” crossing patrol post. It seems that crossing guards giving high fives to children has become a safety issue in Scotland now.

    Lollipop men (or women) – as they are known in the UK from the sign they hold – must “remain static with one hand on their stick and the other stretched outwards. This ensures that they can be seen and effectively provides a barrier between school pupils and the traffic.”

    I’m not sure how much of an effective physical barrier one person creates, but there we are. Some parents are saying that the high fives make their children safer, because they want to cross at the patrolled crossing not somewhere else.

  7. marie February 26, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    Neil M said,
    I think we have to be very careful about putting children in that system in the first place.

    Yes. When we criminalize behavior that is increasingly easy and seemingly private, we are simply making it easier to put more people in prison. More people in prison is not good for our society. Not everything unwise or creepy or distasteful should be a crime.

  8. Mark Davis February 26, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    Very well put, Lenore.

    This is a difficult subject; it’s the nature of our legal system that a line has to be drawn somewhere, and no matter where it’s drawn there will be cases that land on the wrong side (both false positives and false negatives). It’s tough to balance the harm due to the two different scenarios, but it seems clear that right now it’s drawn in a way that allows too many false positives.

  9. Warren February 26, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    This is just a typical case of the civilized world wanting to fight, deny and ignore nature. If humans were not meant to have sexual interest, desires or whatever you want to call it, until they were of the age to vote, serve in the military, and basically be an adult, then why does nature have humans going through puberty so many years earlier?

    Humans seem to be the only animal that constantly wants to deny, criminalize, and deem immoral our natural instincts. As George Carlin said, “Our arrogance will be our demise.”

  10. Lyndsay February 26, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    While I agree that criminalizing teenage behavior isn’t the best approach, I do think their needs to be a way to impress on kids that actions on line can be forever and *aren’t* as private as they like to think. The boy that is in loooove with you and asking for nude pictures now, can just as easily fall out of love and share those photos with the entire sophomore class three weeks from now. We all know teens don’t think like that (did any of us?) and no one should suffer permanent consequences for what seemed like a good idea at 15.

  11. cathy February 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    There are too many people in prison as well because some teen thought it would be impressive to send nude photos to folks who didn’t ask and the teen goes free the adult goes to prison. There needs to be common sense and facts to go along with all this nonsense. Please let’s use the brains in our heads and stop this sex offender witch hunt that has ruined so many lives so far.

  12. Warren February 26, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    Why do adults think that teens are so stupid that they don’t know they are running a risk of their pics getting past just the one it was intended for?

    It is the adults in their mission to save kids from every little thing that life throws at them, that are the ones making this a bigger issue.

    All this about colleges and future employers holding a boob flash picture against them is bull and mostly urban legend. Employers don’t care if you sent a topless pic to your boyfriend when you were 15, they care about your education, experience and how you handle yourself. And if by some slight chance that the employer went through the time and expense to find that pic, just so they can hold it against you, then you are better off not working for such an anal and paranoid employer.

  13. Hillary J February 26, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    I am a Wisconsin resident. This past fall I did a presentation for my university psychology department’s Senior Seminar. The class is all about looking at actual statistics in research and the critical thinking that goes along with making reasonable conclusions from data. My chosen topic addressed sex offender laws. Looking at a mere three scientific journal articles looking at stats on abuse, registration, its consequences, and the ilk, the class agreed there needs to be reform; especially in WI where there is no “Romeo & Juliet” clause on statutory rape and country’s response to underage offenders. Now, this was a class of college seniors (ages 22-30) studying psychology with plans to go into social work, child development, counselling, etc. There is support for change, but it comes with education, scientific literacy, and the ability to make decisions based on fact over emotion. Many of the other topics also lead to discussion about various legislative decisions (state and federal) being made by the emotions of the masses and that’s at least starting to piss some people off.

  14. Beth February 26, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Boy, if you want to get super-depressed read the comments on the USA Today story. Sexting is the fault of: the media, parents (especially those buying their kids cell phones), the “new morality”, liberal policies, and our sexualized society. Several comments are in the vein of “there must be consequences!” Approximately ONE commenter mentioned that teens are interested in sex, curious about sex, and might engage in sex, and he was pretty much shot down.

  15. Reziac February 26, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    I’m with Neil M. Reducing a ‘sex offense’ to a misdemeanor means it is still on your record, and you are still a ‘sex offender’. This brands you for life. You will be treated as a perp wherever you go, even if your offense was receiving a sexy pic from your same-age girlfriend.

  16. Andrea February 26, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    “the mother of a Rhinelander High School student turned over a nude image of one of her son’s classmates”

    “More than 40 students were involved in distributing teen pornography, police said.”

    This is part of the problem. Pictures of naked people is not porn, it’s just pictures of naked people. If it was a picture of someone getting Eiffel Towered, then yeah, that’s porn. But now they want to criminalized pictures of us in our natural state? Every time I take a shower I am engaging in porn? A picture of my 3 year old in the bath tub is porn?

    It’s really sad how we continue to try and control sexual feelings, rather than actions that cause harm to others. That’s not going to end well for us.

  17. Donna February 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    While reducing it to a misdemeanor is certainly better, it is still a huge black mark against someone. Do you really think an employer stops to consider whether the crime was a misdemeanor or felony when he sees a conviction for child porn (or stat rape or sodomy) on a criminal history? Especially when multiple equally qualified people are applying for the same position.

    Someone should never be charged for possession of pictures received from the subject absent a showing that coercion was used in obtaining the pictures. If the subject willingly took the picture and willingly sent it to the recipient, there is no crime, regardless of age. Using the court system to parent your children is lazy.

  18. trekatch February 26, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article. My son is on the sex offender registry for the rest of his life for having sex with a girl whom he believed to be 17 (when he was 19). Turns out she wanted to date older guys and lied on her dating profile about her age. She was really 14 (weeks away from 15). Because in Texas you cannot use “mistake of age” as a defense, there was nothing he could do. Now he can’t get a job, has to go to “sex offender counseling” can’t even drive within 1000 feet of “anywhere children may gather”. He lives in fear of everything. We live in a semi-small town and this is a nightmare.

  19. lollipoplover February 26, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    It’s crazy how we can go from requiring adult supervision for children up to age 14 and then turn around and accuse them of serious crimes when they make stupid mistakes as teens like sending nude pictures to their peers.
    Teens brains are wired for risky behaviors.
    At my nephew’s middle school, 2 boys were expelled because a teen girl sent a topless picture of herself to them. Her father found out and she said they coerced her into sending the picture (they didn’t). So she is still in school (with a terrible reputation) and the boys got the boot. I met a mom last year who has custody of her niece after she was deemed a sex offender for sending a photo of her vagina to another student. She is 14.

    We have so many real problems facing our kids today. Deeming stupid teens as sex offenders dilutes the crime for actual offenders who harm children. Teens need to be educated on the pitfalls of technology and sharing personal information, including pictures. Having a cell phone is not a right but a privilege. Until you can trust your teen to respect this technology, don’t buy them the phone.

  20. Warren February 26, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    I think that is all part of the problem. Seperating real coercion from false. How many cases are because parents were snooping and found the picture on a phone or whatever piece of tech? And of course their sweet innocent little girl wouldn’t do that unless manipulated, and of course the girl won’t speak up because that would be going against the parents.

  21. Echo February 26, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    it’s pitiful, but until ‘everyone’ who breaks the so called sex offense laws are treated the same and punished the same and there by forcing them onto the registry? nothing is going to change enough to truly make a difference.

    no separate laws for teens, no separate laws for politicians and no separate laws for the rich. how many times have we seen the rich, powerful or the politicians do the exact same thing and get off with no more than a slap on the hand. yet 1000’s of others are charged, convicted, sentenced to YEARS in prison and then have to go on the sex offender registry.

    the public sex offender registry protects no one. but it does ruin more than just the registrants life. it also ruins the lives of 1000’s of innocent lives. there are over 815k people on the sex offender registry, some as young as 5yrs old and in some states that is a lifetime registry and label. now multiply and think of all those people, most with families and friends who are all negatively effected or impacted by the registry. families lose homes, the spouses are harassed and sometimes lose jobs, kids are bullied and harassed at school and lose friends. parents, siblings and friends that have stood by them are harassed. all may or have been physically attacked or vehicles and property vandalized.

    the registry has also been used as a hit list with people/families being burned out of their homes or killed. both the registrant and spouse, a friend or whoever they may be living with or in the company of. ave been targets of vigilantes

    politicians use these sex offender laws to garner votes. they don’t stop to think about or investigate the far reaching consequences of passing knee jerk laws. most of the time they simply don’t care about much more than the votes they can get.

    so, until more and more people are forced to be on the sex offender roles and find out what exactly it entails to live and deal with the laws and rules……… maybe then we will see some actual change and some sense being

  22. Joe February 26, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    The following quotations appear in Wikipedia, in the article headed “Age of Consent.”

    “In traditional societies, the age of consent for a sexual union was a matter for the family to decide, or a tribal custom. In most cases, this coincided with signs of puberty.”

    As for Christian moral law, “Gratian, the influential founder of Canon law in medieval Europe, accepted age of puberty for marriage to be between 12 and 14 but acknowledged consent to be meaningful if the children were older than 7. There were authorities that said that consent could take place earlier.”

    Then the government got involved. “The first recorded age-of-consent law dates to 1275, in England, as part of the rape law.” Apparently, before that time, rape was rape and age didn’t enter into it.

    That first statutory age of consent was 12. However today, although children reach sexual maturity earlier than ever, are much better educated generally and are able to access virtually unlimited (and uncensored) information regarding human sexuality on the internet, the statutory age of consent is uniformly higher than 12 — why?

    Surly the average curious 10-year-old in the United States knows far more about sex than any 12th Century 12-year-old. As for the consequences of sexual activity, we now have birth control, abortion, and detailed knowledge regarding the transmission of venereal diseases as well as effective treatments for them. So what are we really protecting our children from, and why? Some unstated psychological trauma fostered by adult fears and misconceptions? Seriously, what?

    Millions of people still live in traditional societies around the world and get along just fine with no age-of-consent laws at all, nor prisons or “registered sex offender” lists for that matter.

    But we are the ones who claim to be “the land of the free.”

  23. SteveS February 26, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    While teens do need to understand the perils of sending nude pictures, it is clear that criminalizing the behavior isn’t the solution. I don’t know what would work. As for negative employment consequences, it isn’t an urban legend. Your conduct on social media most certainly can come back to haunt you, but it depends on how much exposure it gets. If your antics make the rounds, then potential employers may see it. In a perfect world, employers wouldn’t care, but in a competitive market, they do.

  24. Donna February 26, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    Warren, Actually girls speak up against their parents all the time. We consistently get teens who come in and insist that sex was consensual despite what their parents believe.

    But I do think coercion needs to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and not just be based parental views od their sweet little lambs. The problem is that so many people believe that good girls aren’t interested in sex.

  25. anonymous mom February 26, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    One of the ironies I’m seeing is that more and more we seem to want to up the age at which people are adults. I’m seeing many stories on the web referring to young adults in their 20s as still kind of children or at least not really fully adult. And yet the 20 year old guy who is still on his parents’ car insurance, still on their cell phone plan, still on their health insurance, still living at their house, still in school–and, according to neuroscientists, still without a frontal lobe that’s reached full maturity–is seen as basically a kid in many instances but suddenly is an adult predator if he has a girlfriend who is underage. Most of the statutory relationships we prosecute are between postpubescent teens and young adults between 18 and 25. We should not treat the 20 year old guy with a 15 year old girlfriend–no matter how much we may not like it–the same as a 44 year old guy seducing a 13 year old. But, we do.

    It’s this all-or-nothing stuff that doesn’t make any sense, developmentally. There’s no valid reason for arguing that it is cruel and unusual punishment to send a 17-1/2 year old to adult prison but that an 18-1/2 year old deserves the harshest penalties we can throw at him, when there is no real developmental differences between the two. Nothing magical happens the moment you turn 18. Treating 18 as this magic number when somebody goes from a completely innocent child to a fully responsible and mature adult is dangerous, as these trends show.

  26. anonymous mom February 26, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    @Donna and Warren,

    But coercion really doesn’t matter when we’re talking statutory stuff, does it? If the law says the age of consent is 16 or 17, then that’s it. It does not matter if the 15/16 year old initiated the sex. It does not matter if they actively manipulated the older person into it. It does not even matter if they got into a 21+ bar with a fake ID and picked somebody up there. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 15 year old who has had half a dozen sex partners with a 19 year old virgin who they spent months talking into sex. (I’m not saying these are normal situations. I’m just using them as examples.) If they are below the age of consent, they cannot consent, period. Their wanting, initiating, and even manipulating/coercing does not and cannot constitute legal consent.

    I’ve always thought the system that (IIRC) Germany has makes sense. The age of consent is set at 14, but the age for full consent is either 18 or 21. Between those ages, other factors are taken into consideration, like whether manipulation or coercion was used, if the older party was in a position of authority, how large the age difference is, etc. That seems to be a far more sensible system to me than simply deciding that nobody under 16/17 can ever under any circumstances consent to sex and anybody 18+ in those situations is definitely a manipulative predator.

  27. Donna February 26, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    Anonymous mom –

    I am opposed to age of consent laws.. Consensual sex should never be illegal. The government should have to prove coercion, manipulation, power differential or force to make sex illegal. I don’t think young/mid teens should have sex for a myriad of reasons, but something should not be illegal because we don’t like it nor should we criminalize poor choices and that is all sex at 13 is – a poor life choice.

    But as far as courts go, coercion matters as far as charges. Rape and child molestation are treated very different than stat rape and law enforcement has to make a decision between those various charges in every case.

  28. Jenny Islander February 26, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    The law in the UK (until fairly recently–I’m told there have been changes…?) seems sensible to me: The age of consent is quite low unless the sexual partner is in a position of authority over the teenager, in which case nope, nope, and again nope.

    Also, sharing naked photos of somebody without their permission should fall under sexual harassment statutes.

  29. oncefallendotcom February 26, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    It should be worth noting that those who are pushing these sexting laws justify it by — wait for it — protecting them from sexual predators. They need these laws because “your child’s picture could fall into the hands of CHILD PREDATORS.”

  30. Warren February 26, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    In other discussions on stat rape and the registry, I have taken the stance that consensual sex is not illegal. Then had parents call me out with “What if it was one of your daughters?”. Got called everything from a predator to an abusive parent, for not changing my stance even if it was my kid.

    Why is it when a girl uses fake ID, goes to a club or frat party or whatever, and intentionally misleads a guy, and that guy goes away for stat rape, why why why isn’t the girl put away as well?

  31. Warren February 26, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    Until we get people to stop looking at high school students as children things won’t change. As long as we have people that still see college students as kids, things won’t change.

    As long as they are seen as kids, that cannot be trusted to make their own choices in life.

  32. Anon4thisone February 26, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    I was a girl who, these days, would be all kinds of trouble to boys. I started having sex at 13. I was in high school, a freshman, and my boyfriend was a 16-year-old junior. It was 100% consensual, and I thought long and hard about whether I was going to “do it”. I made a considered decision based on knowledge of the risks against my curiosity and desire. It was disappointing, so I tested out more boys. At 16, my 22-year-old boyfriend would certainly been labeled a sex offender. And since more than 20 years later we are still friends, I am sure he is not a child molester. I always liked older boys, and later men. Both of my husbands were 10 yrs older.

    “Morally”, I was a “slut”, but in my mind I was gathering data. Data that as an actual adult turned out to be very useful.

  33. Jason February 26, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    In the U.S., a minor is a child when he or she has sex, but is suddenly an adult when he or she commits a violent crime.

  34. Donna February 26, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    There is a difference between not condoning a behavior and considering it criminal behavior. I don’t want my daughter to have sex in high school for many reasons. I don’t want my teenage daughter to have sex with a man several years older than her for many reasons. I think both of these things are bad choices that could have many negative ramifications on my child both physically and mentally. Sending someone else to prison for my child’s bad choices, while simultaneously giving her no consequences, is completely irrational. It does nothing to change her desire to make said bad choices and puts the obligation on someone else to be her decision-maker.

  35. bsolar February 26, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    @Donna, that’s because you consider your child responsible for his/her bad choices, which is exactly in what age of consent laws dissents. The principle behind age of consent laws is that under a specific age the child is incapable of being responsible for his/her own decisions in that matter, so the child under the age cannot give consent because he/she is considered not competent enough to grant it.

    In my opinion this might even be true but only at a very young age or in very specific situations.

  36. Warren February 26, 2015 at 9:09 pm #

    Jason has a very good point. A 15 yr old girl that commits murder can/will be tried as an adult, but is deemed by the same legal system to not be old enough to know if she wants to have sex.

    Hell, when you think of it, most of us living now, by our standards are the product of stat rape. Because when you go back in time girls were married off and producing babies at 14.

    High schools and the education system push and push students to make choices about their future all the time, but do not think about sex because you are not old enough to know what is right and wrong.

    Talk about sending a sector of the population mixed signals. No different than being able to go off to war and die for your country, but not able to go into a bar and have a beer.

  37. tz February 26, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    And what if those pictures are posted to 8chan?
    I have to disagree here – some teens also like the thrill of shoplifting, and that’s illegal. According to the CDC, one in 3 Americans have a STD – and you will be taking your teen to the doctor to have the herpes, warts, of any of a dozen other diseases treated. Most states require those under 18 to wear helmets when riding motorcycles. Maybe that should be removed – oh and the requirement for any insurance, if they crash, the parents can pay.

    This is the ONLY reason I would ever disagree with having “free range kids”. The whole point is so they can learn to act responsibly, and have their rational brains override their emotions – or hormones.

    The entire point of this post is not to say that children can act responsibly and so should be free to go out into the larger world, and have computers, cell phones, etc. because YOU CAN TRUST THEM TO MAKE ADULT DECISIONS.

    No, instead teens are stupid, irresponsible, rutting animals that can’t be trusted – but because we don’t want them or their parents inconvenienced we need to change the laws so that they won’t get into trouble for being stupid animals who have utterly no control over themselves.

    This is NOT a subtle difference. You say “as long as it isn’t rape”. Is it rape if the boyfriend pressures the girl? Is it rape if she really feels uncomfortable and says “no”, but only mildly? If she thought she would enjoy it but regrets it? If she becomes pregnant – of course she can kill her unborn baby, but that is just another trauma. If the entire point is that children can’t be responsible (hence the reason for the laws), and can’t control themselves, there is no reason to believe coercion or rape will be bright lines that won’t be crossed.

    Or, what if the man is twice the age of the girl? Rich, handsome, drives a Ferrari, and is a predator, and something out of 50 shades of gray happens – and the girl doesn’t say “no”, but consents? Children can’t consent to a credit card but can consent to something like that? If you think so, you’re mad or evil.

    For me, by the time the maelstrom of puberty hits, because by that point I should have trained my children to be virtuous – mainly by letting them be “free range kids”, I should be able to trust them to not sext, or have sex and to have prudence and fortitude as necessary.

    Is the whole point of being “free range” to learn how to be responsible, or to indulge adolescent irresponsibility?

  38. tz February 26, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    I need to emphasize one thing – for those under 18 who aren’t “emancipated”, THE PARENTS ARE LIABLE and responsible for bad things their teen does. If they vandalize, steal, injure, or do something else, they are “minors”, but the parents must pay any judgment. They might or might not be tried as an adult.

    Lets say johnny and suzie go off and have sex, and suzie gets pregnant, and has the baby. Johnny is now stuck with 18 years of child support. And will go to jail if he doesn’t keep up the payments. And might not even get to see his child. Even if you change all the other laws so it isn’t criminal.

    If they can’t control themselves enough to “just say no” (hey, maybe we should let them do heroin, alcohol, and marijuana!), are they going to even think about, much less worry about a pregnancy?

  39. Buffy February 26, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    ‘This is the ONLY reason I would ever disagree with having “free range kids”. The whole point is so they can learn to act responsibly, and have their rational brains override their emotions – or hormones.’

    Free range doesn’t mean what you appear to think it means. It doesn’t mean sending them into the world with no preparation whatsoever. It means EXACTLY your second sentence; why would you disagree with that?

  40. Warren February 26, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Then you have done a piss poor job of raising your kids, if you see all teenagers as out of control, rutting animals.

    If you cannot trust your teens to do the right thing, that is your failure that started years ago. So please do not blame free range parenting for your failings as a parent.

  41. Jenny Islander February 26, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Be wary of using “back in the old days” as a measure of readiness for sex, especially unprotected sex. Statistically, most persons of European descent reading here have ancestors who worked as servants, common laborers, small craftsmen, and the like. From at least the 18th century, it was more common for persons of that class to delay marriage until they had saved up enough to start a household of their own, delaying marriage until the late teens or early 20s for both genders. Upper-class girls tended to be married off considerably younger to men considerably older because their marriages amounted to political and/or financial moves, but from the 18th century on, 17 was considered really awfully young even in that class. Middle-class families with aspirations talked solemnly about an ideal 16-year age gap between groom and bride due to temperament and manly guidance and such, but they also preferred to marry off their daughters in their late teens.

  42. Donna February 26, 2015 at 10:26 pm #


    Unlike shoplifting, consensual sex or consensual sending of naked photos is not criminal behavior. Adults can engage in that behavior all day without any criminal consequences. You only want to make it criminal behavior for minors to essentially allow law enforcement to parent your teens. If you need the criminal justice system to parent your children, you have failed as a parent.

    Second, again, unlike all the other things you mentioned, it isn’t the person whose behavior you want to stop that is prosecuted. Legally an adult can have all the sex they want. It is the minor whose behavior that you want to stop and the minor is not punished in the least. Further, only certain sex is criminalized so your minor is fully capable of making all the same bad choices and suffering all of the exact same consequences you list, only with someone who is the same age so you have essentially prevented nothing.

    Third, if you truly think that having your child go to prison and be a registered sex offender for life is somehow BETTER than getting pregnant or getting an STD or having regrets about sex, you are one sick puppy. As much as I want neither to occur, I would run as fast as I could to the herpes line over the prison and a lifetime as a sex offender line any day of the week if I HAD to choose one. Yes, those things are bad, but not nearly as bad as prison and life as a sex offender.

  43. sexhysteria February 27, 2015 at 2:06 am #

    So-called indecent exposure was already demonized long ago. Two kids who play show-me-yours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine are candidates for sex offender registries. How lucky we are that thoughtful legislators are protecting children.

  44. bsolar February 27, 2015 at 6:24 am #

    @tz, you have to separate actual solutions to wishful-thinking solutions which have questionable actual impact to the problem. Taking unwanted teen pregnancies as example, among the developed world countries the US have the highest rate of teen pregnancies and teenage abortions coupled with the highest average age of consent, which in the US ranges between 16-18 and in most European countries ranges between 14-16.

    Teens will make sex: it’s in their nature and there is no amount of laws which will deter them. That’s why most studies show that the driving factor in reducing unwanted teen pregnancies in the developed world is early comprehensive sex education and easy access to birth control.

    Translated: the most effective measure is empowering teens and educating them to be reponsible. Doesn’t it ring a bell?

  45. Tim February 27, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    It’s important to find out who is responsible for passing or amending these laws in your city or state, finding out where candidates or elected officials stand on these issues, and let them know where you stand. If politicians pass horrible laws because they think it gets them votes, we need to let them know they are not supported. It’s not easy, but this needs to be brought up during elections and people need to be educated on how bad laws and bad policy not only don’t do what they are intended, but actually destroy lives.

  46. Puzzled February 27, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Jason – it seems possible for it to be worse than that. I’ve heard of 15 year olds arrested for production/distribution of child porn for taking pictures of themselves. So are they children, or are they adults?

    It would appear that the only way for a child to convince this society that they are responsible and deserving of rights is to commit a suitably violent crime.

  47. Jason February 27, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    Yes, given the convoluted attitudes about minors, sex, and punishment, a teenager could well find himself being both a victim and perpetrator for the same action.

  48. Chuck99 February 27, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    I just need to add to this that – in Texas at least – misdemeanors on your juvenile record can be sealed or removed once you reach your majority. Actually, even most felony’s, that aren’t of an assaultive nature, can be sealed. If your record is sealed, you’re allowed to say ‘no’ to questions about criminal records. to that in, reducing it to a misdemeanor is a great improvement.

    Having said that, I do think that even making it a misdemeanor is ridiculous.

  49. Papilio February 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    “you will be taking your teen to the doctor to have the herpes, warts, of any of a dozen other diseases treated”
    I sincerely hope by that you mean ‘your teen will be taking him/herself to the doctor’… Or does there seriously need to be a parent present??!!!

    “the driving factor in reducing unwanted teen pregnancies in the developed world is early comprehensive sex education and easy access to birth control”

    “age of consent, which in the US ranges between 16-18 and in most European countries ranges between 14-16.”
    In The Netherlands it’s basically* 16 these days, but that doesn’t at all mean that teen sex itself is criminalized per se; this law is used as a tool to go after loverboys and older guys who manipulate young girls into having sex with them – that kind of a-holes. A consensual sexual relationship between an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old isn’t considered a problem (even without Romeo&Juliet laws). So it’s not even just the number – 14, 16, 18 – that counts, there’s also the cultural attitude (basically ‘okay, unless’ rather than ‘OMG pervert criminal, unless’).
    *It’s still illegal for teachers, trainers etc to have a sexual relationship with a pupil, because of the authority they have over the teen.

  50. JP Merzetti March 1, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    Interesting times.
    When I was a teen (in and out of high school) sexting of course, didn’t exist.
    What did very much exist….were the very first baby steps of Polaroid.
    Same dif.
    Except these of course were physical hard copy pics that couldn’t really proliferate
    and multiply endlessly and exponentially around the planet.
    Far as I know, no polaroid from back then ever came back to butt-bite anyone.
    They were smarmy, spotty, often ill-focused, bleary and stark.
    And they were never illegal.
    Funny about that.
    We laughed a lot back then….at unserious things really, that now grow awful horns.

  51. SOA March 2, 2015 at 6:59 am #

    I agree 100%. I never understood the logic that a teen is committing a crime to be in possession of a naughty picture of themselves for personal use. So is looking in the mirror child porn too then? We know what child porn is and isn’t and teens being naughty with each other is not it.

  52. Dirk March 2, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    I agree that a high school senior with a freshman girlfriend is not a sex offender, nor is a 20-year-old with a 16-year-old partner a rapist. However, the older person is indeed can be in a position of power since they are probably the far more experienced person. The difference between those four years is huge, heck the difference between a high school senior and a college sophomore is huge, and in my experience that gap usually creates an unequal relationship.

    I also find it hard to agree that when a 14/15 year old high school freshman participates in sexting it is the same as a legal adult. Meaning that they understand the repercussions for their life in a larger sense.

    Also, if the sext of a 14/15 year old high school freshman went viral, or was obtained by a third party who sold it to an adult who was seeking child pornography, would that adult be convicted of buying child pornography based on buying that original sext pic? They answer would be yes due to the intent of the adult. If a teenager bought pornography online of only younger teens would they be convicted of buying child pornography? The answer would be yes. Intent is the key you are arguing about. But law enforcement is dealing in production and distribution as well as intent.

    That being said sexting is the future. Go look at, its a mainstream “dating app” but us essentially clothed sexting with strangers.

  53. Dirk March 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Despite the occasional article to the contrary, I do not believe there is any EPIDEMIC of teens being arrested for this.

  54. Warren March 2, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    Why does it have to be an epidemic? Wrong is still wrong, no matter how many are arrested. And the longer the laws are allowed to make things like this criminal, it will only get worse.

  55. Jen G. March 2, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    I have a question. Why do teens have cell phones anyway? No cell phones, no problem.

  56. MC501 March 3, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    As a father of five children (4 daughters) and two step-daughters I have already had this problem. The school became involved after my daughter’s picture was circulated. It was awful. But my ex-wife and I weren’t really interested in making the boy(s) involved criminals. Our daughter was mortified (as she should be – suffering the consequences of bad choices). But it too passed.

    There is an interesting documentary made by a Swedish or Dutch or Norwegian director that is available on Netflix (and probably other mediums). It’s called “Are All Men Pedophiles”. ( The documentary explores sexuality and youth. It’s short and worth a watch.

  57. Absurd March 5, 2015 at 4:26 am #

    Ok, so now with all this hype of protecting children from predators and law makers forcing new laws to “do so” let us take a look at something. Give the U.S. another 5 to 10 years (maybe less) and I bet that there will be laws as to what you as a parent will be allowed to garb (clothe) your child in in the way of types of pants your daughter may wear, how short a pair of shorts may be, what parts of the body must be covered when the child leaves the “safety” of their home etc. What am I going towards here; simple. Advertisers have been bared of showing simple photographs of children styling their new clothes styles coming to market for the “fact” that they are protecting that child from some would-be child “pervert” from looking at that picture for sexual gratification. But that same child who could not possibly model that style clothing can go with her/his parents to the local town pool or beach and wear something so much more revealing so that any person in the crowd may look upon that as “gratifying”. So to protect your young child from persons looking upon your child in this manner we are now dictating to you what your child may and may not wear on their body when leaving their home in case someone out there may look upon them in an “perverted” manner.

    And I am sure we can go further with this thought. Fear sells in the news and in laws and the uneducated person fall for this fear factor simply because it is so easy to do.