For too long now, cellphone-slinging teenage outlaws have flooded our courts with their “sexting” shenanigans. Well, listen up! The state of Vermont has had enough. That is, with overzealous prosecutors targeting teens. You read that right: The state is considering decriminalizing youngsters’ exchange of X-rated camera phone snapshots. Sanity prevails! It only took an obscene number of high-profile cases of kids being charged with child pornography, and some even having to register for several years as sex offenders, to get to this point.
A bill sitting before the House would make it legal for teenagers, age 13 to 18, to consensually share explicit self-portraits with one another via an “electronic communication device.” In other words, it would let technologically- and hormonally-charged kids be kids, and not sex offenders. Before any parents in the audience hyperventilate, note that the law does not allow teens to share the dirty snapshots they’ve received of others. It would still be criminal for a girl to pass along a crush’s sexy digital offering to her friends, or for a boy to send a compromising picture of his ex-girlfriend to the entire football team.
It isn’t an official endorsement of “sexting,” either. As Sen. Richard Sears told the Burlington Free Press, “This isn’t an issue of whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing — I think it’s wrong — but the question is, do we want kids to be prosecuted, called sex offenders, et cetera, et cetera, for consensual conduct? No.” Exactamundo. ‘Sexting” is risky, although quite normal, behavior that should be addressed by parents and educators, not criminal prosecutors. On a similar note, attorney Leroy Yoder, who is currently defending a Vermont “sexting” case argues, “It seems ridiculous to hold someone criminally responsible for an otherwise mundane act, essentially adolescent exploring but using technology. You’re not going to stop young people from being sexual. The best thing you can do is educate them to the dangers.”
Hopefully that kind of sanity will prevail as testimony on the bill starts this week. We hardly need any more martyrs for teen sexuality.