Sexting, intimacy and criminal acts: translating teenage sextualities

Moran-Ellis, Jo (2012) Sexting, intimacy and criminal acts: translating teenage sextualities. In: Johnson, Paul and Dalton, Derek (eds.) Policing Sex. Routledge, Abingdon & New York, pp. 115-132. ISBN 9780203120736

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This chapter examines the legal regulation of young people under the age of 18 with respect to the practice that has come to be called ‘teenage sexting’. Sexting is a term now used mainly to describe the texting of nude or semi-nude pictures, although it can also be used to denote the sending of erotic texts. Using studies, case material and newspaper reports from the USA (Miller v Pennsylvania, 2010 Opinion; Injunction - Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, USA), Canada (R v. Walsh 2006, cited in Slane, 2010:54), and the UK (media reports on sexting, 2009-2011, as up to 2012 there had been no prosecutions in England & Wales for sexting). Drawing on actor-network theory (Latour 1987) I argue that where legal governance is deployed, both sexting and teenagers are shaped in particular ways to make them available for a judicial response through processes of ‘translation’ (Brown and Capdevila 1999). These processes of translation are the product of, and also depend on, networks of actors – human and non-human – which produce and assemble the social category of ‘sexting teenagers’ and hence as a particular category of actor for scrutiny, classification, and control in specific contexts. In different contexts, networks and translation processes produce different kinds of ‘sexting teenagers’ – the criminal, the misguided, the immoral, or the romantic. These different kinds of sexting teenagers are produced out of the part the law plays in the regulation of this erotic practice (including when it plays little part at all) but their production is simultaneously also part of the mechanism by which the law is or is not deployed as a source of control. Non-legal networks and actors generate translations of consensual teenage sexting which reproduce current anxieties about risks and the futures of young people and de-centre the law as a means of regulation in favour of moral regulation although legal agents remain present as actors in the network. Here teenagers emerge not as criminals but as innocents whose own naiveté makes them gullible, unruly, vulnerable, and in need of pedagogical rescue.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Sexting; teenage sexting; actor-network theory; social control; children and agency
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Depositing User: Joanna Moran-Ellis
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2018 13:18
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2018 10:32

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