Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sexting, Internet Porn, & Girls

So apparently the teens are out there sending naked pictures of themselves to each other on their cell phones. This is called sexting. Get it? Like texting with sex! Oh, there's nothing like a good pun.

Oh, brother.

I'm reminded of a half-remembered piece of wisdom along the lines of, "Before we invite people to do as they please, we should determine what it pleases them to do." The "sexual revolution" of the 60's and 70's upended some accepted standards of behavior. But what are the standards now? The situation is complex and there are no simple answers.

So, now there are lots (and lots) of stories of teenage regret about naked pictures being sent "privately" to a "boyfriend" that have "somehow" been received by everyone in your local high school. Oops. Those darned teenage boyfriends! Who could have predicted they'd turn out to be indiscreet?

Now, before we all articulate our brain stem's autoresponse, "Duh!", let's reflect on a few things.

First, people do stupid things all the time. If I can keep my stupid decisions down to 1 per day, I feel I'm doing pretty well. As we become adults, we become better at avoiding some, and talking our way out of others, but still nobody's perfect. And teenagers are still kids inside, no matter how big they look. So they make a lot of mistakes.

Second, some good news. When these kids are in their "middle age" they are going to be happy to have these pictures. Believe me kids, your 40 something body will not look like what you have now. And you'll be glad to have some proof that you used to be good looking.

WV as a young man.

Third, a lot of your classmates will end up seeing you naked at some time or other anyway. Do you all still have to shower after PE? So, unless you are doing something really weird in the pictures, no big whoop.

And fourth, there is already so much nudity out on the internet that the current interest in your own personal picture will probably pass fairly quickly. So just lay low for a couple of weeks. You are just today's story in a short news cycle, and soon your classmates will find somebody else to gossip about. Did you hear the latest about Bristol Palin breaking off her engagement?
For Parents, here is link with some good thoughts on this:

So, let's stress that sexting is not a good idea. While it might seem "flirty and fun!" most people will view it as kind of trashy behavior. Around here, in the South, girls or women who give themselves up too easily are considered to have low self-esteem. And as Mrs. Lovett taught us in third grade, "No one will respect you if you don't respect yourself." Mrs. Lovett taught in the North, btw, where I grew up. She was one of many great teachers who formed the village that raised me. But the message, whether called self-respect or self-esteem, is the same. Each of us can decide how much we value ourselves, and demand to be treated with respect.

Which brings me to the very uncomfortable subject of internet porn.

(With all of these sex related keywords, this post will probably set a record for hits on this blog. Sorry to disappoint you newcomers with the lack of prurient content.)

You may not have realized this, but the internet is chock full of pornography! It's true. You can look for yourself. This then begs the question, "What's up with that?" (space for obvious joke here.)

A more innocent time.

Having grown up in the "let's steal my Dad's Playboy" days of pornography, I am astounded by the vastness of the growth of the internet based pornography industry. But things have changed. Playboy in the 60's had a theme that "the girl next door" was sexy, and that sex was OK. It seemed like a wholesome recognition of reality, and a welcome counter-balance to the heavy handed Catholic anti-sex lectures I heard while trying to get some action with the girls. But that's not how it is now. Take a look at the Playboy channel on tv today. It's just another skanky hard-core porn site. Yuck.

Frankly, the presence of pornography in various media that is piped right into our houses has gotten way out of hand. My kids are on the internet right now, on a Disney sponsored game site. But how long will it be before they find themselves staring at some stranger's high definition privates?

Well, I for one think that we need to make it a lot more difficult to access pornography than it is. And I'm pretty sure that our Constitution and First Amendment writing Founding Fathers would be fine with some limitations on this. Except maybe Jefferson, who I still have serious doubts about.

Jefferson - known Rascal

I mention this because I remember the debate over requiring V-Chips in our tv sets. They all have them now. I use it all the time to regulate what shows can be watched without an access code. So my kids can watch tv without my having to make sure they haven't changed the channel to something I don't want them watching. But back in the 90's the tv networks and the ACLU fought against them, saying they violated tv producer's first amendment rights. What? Their first amendment rights to get at my kids? Thankfully this bullshit failed to carry the day.

So I'm calling for restrictions on internet porn! Yes, a daring and courageous stand, but someone needs to be the voice in the wilderness. I'm also a big supporter of baseball and hot dogs. So I guess I'm now on the same side as the late Jerry Falwell on something. I've looked for an internet service that would only allow "G" rated stuff that I can sign my kids up for, but haven't found one. This seems like a project Tipper Gore might want to take on.

Tipper, we need you!

But, while I worry about my own two boys, I'm also concerned about the girls in the porn. Where do they come from? Is porn becoming an acceptable job among our young people? How did they end up there? Did they get recruited at the high school job fair? Or did they get started the old fashioned way by running away from home and getting picked up by chickenhawks at the bus station?

We've made a mistake here. We've let our tolerance for vice turn into an full fledged acceptance of vice as just another business. Whether you like to look at nekkid wimmin or not, there is definitely something degrading happening to a woman, or girl, who appears in porn. The men, too, I suppose, but I really don't have any sympathy for them, though I'm hard put to explain the difference. I just don't.

Anyway, allowances for vice should be contained (meaning limited) in a civilized society. And allowances for discrete practices should not be turned into social approval. I fear that this is what is happening here, to the detriment of our children and our country. Porn is a vice. It's naughty. Just because we don't put people into prison for it doesn't mean it's good.

This is a tough subject to discuss, so my apologies for rambling.