One of the Left’s favorite pastimes is to sneer at conservative family-values rhetoric. It usually goes something like this: “How dare you suggest that we don’t have values, just because we believe in marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose?” But a recent piece by The Daily Beast’s Conor Friedersdorf illustrates that there is something deeply off-kilter about liberals’ notion of values, and it runs deeper than abortion or same-sex marriage.
Taking a look at the phenomenon of “sexting” (young people sending nude cell-phone pictures of themselves to one another), Friedersdorf concludes that there’s much ado about nothing—in fact, things only really go wrong when adults try to do anything about it.
In most cases, teens who conceal their sexting from authority figures suffer negligible adverse consequences; they’re hardly the first generation to play “I’ll show you mine,” and even Verizon’s 3G network cannot yet transmit sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.
Perversely, however, tragic stories that begin with “sexting” are all too frequent when principals, police officers, or district attorneys get involved. The two known suicides attributed to “sexting” actually resulted from adults who exacerbated, rather than stopped, the abhorrent “slut-shaming” that peers callously directed at girls whose naked photos were spread around school; and authority figures in at least six states charge less troubled teens who send naked pictures of themselves with distributing child pornography!
Friedersdorf grants that he would naturally “advise against ‘sexting,’ even absent the legal dangers surrounding it, and punish [his] kid if he or she did it anyway,” but he insists that sexting is ultimately no different than the ways adolescents have always explored their sexuality. It’s certainly not “a shocking harbinger of promiscuity,” “evidence that my kid needs counseling,” or a sign that he’d “raised a teen bereft of modesty.”
He makes a fair point that legal overreach can “make the sex-offender registry less useful for all of us by wasting resources on harmless kids and diminishing what it means to be listed,” but if emailing naked pictures of yourself to others doesn’t indicate promiscuity or a lack of modesty, what does?
Yes, there always have been, and always will be, some kids who become sexually active before they’re ready. But it does us no good to claim sexting isn’t a sign of what it manifestly is, to imply that any consequence short of suicide is no big deal, or to casually dismiss the possibility that past indiscretions might come back to haunt someone.
Besides, the culture is different than it was a generation ago. Our kids aren’t sexting in a vacuum; they’re doing it in a culture where Planned Parenthood presents underage promiscuity as cool and natural, and where such ideas have powerful friends in US public schools and the White House. They’re being presented gratification at all costs as central to a truly fulfilled life, and that anyone who tells them otherwise is trying to enslave them. Does that sound like “family values” to you?
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