'Sexting' photo
The normalization of pornography—the decade-plus process in which American society has allowed images long considered obscene to enter the mainstream culture—may be a factor in phenomena such as sexting, analysts note; S. T. Karnick writes.

An article on the phenomenon of "Sexting," in the forthcoming April issue of the Heartland Institute’s Infotech and Telecom News, has some good insights into how pervasive pornography has become in the culture, and its effect on those most vulnerable to its lure—young males:

“I think this is symptomatic of a more serious and broader issue, particularly among teenage boys, [said Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, an international organization that aims to identify and promote best practices for online safety].

“Over the last five to eight years, they have had easy access to hardcore pornography with their expectation that their girlfriends should act in a way that a porn star would,” Balkam said. “Sending provocative pictures could be the beginning of what we will see as a result of the exposure to pornographic material. It is a real concern, but putting them in jail and throwing away the key is not the answer.”

The analysts quoted in the article argue that the government should not make this a police issue when it takes place strictly among teens:

“ ‘Sexting’ or [other] impulsive adolescent behavior needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis—ideally by parents and school administrators,” [said Anne Collier, co-director of ConnectSafely.org and editor of NetSafetyNews.org]. “If police are involved, I feel they should have an educational role in helping kids understand what a serious crime trafficking in child pornography is and what it could mean for them were they to be charged and prosecuted for it.”

True enough. This is another case where the law cannot cure what the culture makes sick, but it’s also important to note that the free availability of pornography is the result of a political choice made by the society, not a technological imperative. If we want to put pornography back in the shadows, the states have the legal means and authority to accomplish it.

Whether any particular state government has the will to do so is, as always, a matter of political choice.

(Note: the Infotech and Telecom News article is not yet available online. Check this article again in the future for an update and the URL, or visit the Heartland Institute’s Infotech and Telecom News page.)

—S. T. Karnick