Tracy Clark-Flory: Teen “sexting” is not the end of the world

Best Sex Writing 2009 contributor Tracy Clark-Flory at Broadsheet (Salon) on why “sexting” among teens is not the crisis it’s been made out to be:

As someone who came of age during the Internet boom, and who falls within the survey’s “young adult” category, these findings are utterly predictable. For young adults, technology can offer a means of intimacy or performance, or both. For teenagers, the Web — namely, Google searches, chat rooms and free porn — offers a comfortable and familiar channel for sexual experimentation; for them, it offers what a girl holding a mirror between her legs once did. Of course, when teens start sharing pornographic photos of themselves, some legitimate dangers are introduced — and that’s the only part I find seriously concerning. (As for young women sharing racy photos with their boyfriends, we should be as concerned about that as we are about any other aspect of what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms.)

I will admit that, while I generally think it’s natural and healthy for teen girls to be sexually motivated and curious, our culture, online and otherwise, largely guides their exploration. And, maybe you’ve noticed, neither realm is all that favorable to (or concerned with) female sexuality. Young dudes’ sexual schooling is just as sadly limiting. But our youthful sex lives are so often full of foolish and misguided experimentation — a trying on of various roles that can fail spectacularly. The majority of teens are “sexting” their boyfriend or girlfriend — not (at least intentionally) their entire school. This seems less an issue of young people being made into amateur porn stars by our sexed-up culture, than it is that virtually every aspect of their lives has gone digital.


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