What is sexting?
In this age of technology and information, internet and mobile technology devices dominate our society (Burton, L, 2012, p.1), with over 90% of Australians aged 15-17 owning mobile phones (Australian Communications and Media Authority, 2010, ₱4). Today’s teens are also overexposed to sexual content in many aspects of the media (Burton, L, 2012). This highly sexualised digital culture has transformed the way youth relate to one other (Walker. S., Sanci, L. & Temple-Smith, M, 2011).One phenomenon that has emerged from the increased accessibility of these devices and sexual exposure is the practice of ‘sexting’ (Society Pages, 2013, ₱1). The term ‘sexting’ derives from merging the words ‘texting’ and ‘sex’ and “refers to the sending of sexually provocative material from modern communications devices” (Forde, L. & Hardley, S., 2011). ‘Sexting’ is currently receiving mass media attention (Walker, S., Sanci, L., & Temple-Smith, M., 2011). It is recognised as one of latest youth phenomena in popular culture (Funnell, N, 2012). Although the sharing of sexually explicit material is not a new concept, it has become simpler with the internet (Walker, S., Sanci, L., & Temple-Smith, M., 2011). Shared images “become part of a young person’s digital footprint, which may last forever and have the potential to damage future career prospects or relationships” (NSW Government, 2008, ₱3.). The prevalence of sexting
A national survey conducted in 2010 by the organisation Understanding Teenagers found that 59% of teenagers have electronically transmitted sexually suggestive material (Understanding Teenagers, 2010, ₱3). In another survey conducted by the popular teen girl magazine Girlfriend found that 40% of 558 participants had been involved in sexting (Parliament of Victoria Law Reform Committee Sexting Inquiry (PVLRCSI), 2012). In Queensland alone, 459 sexting offences were reported in 2011 (PVLRCSI, 2012) and in Western Australia sexting offences have tripled in number from 2009 to 2011 (PVLRCSI, 2012).
Research by American psychologist Andrew Smiler found various causes that attribute to sexting: to demonstrate commitment in a relationship, to impress friends, to harass or bully, or as a dare. According to an article in the Teacher Learning Network journal,
In popular culture, sexting is seen as a young person’s phenomenon: mobile phones, raunch culture, a lack of inhibition, a lack of respect even a lack of morals are seen by many as the perfect storm that has created the sexting phenomenon.(Funnell, N, 2012). Looking at sexting through the lens of Sociological Theory
Sexting is recognised as a gender related issue because young girls feel pressure from the over-sexualised media to present themselves as sexually desirable. Similarly, young men have been conditioned to expect this behaviour. Sexting has created a mechanism for young people to actualize these expectations (Walker. S., Sanci, L. & Temple-Smith, M, 2011). It is understood that young girls are at greater risk of adverse effects than young men by this behaviour (Walker. S., Sanci, L. & Temple-Smith, M, 2011). Experts go as far as to claim “…the possibility of a link between sexting and gendered sexual violence targeting women” (Walker. S., Sanci, L. & Temple-Smith, M, 2011). Woman’s advocate, writer and speaker Melinda Tankard- Reist discusses in her DVD Too Sexy Too Soon that our society tells young girls their primary value is being on display sexually. Our society has created a culture where sexualisation of young girl is regarded as normal (Tutorial DVD). Jean Kilbourne and Diane Levin, authors of Sexy So Soon, argue: Boys are surrounded by media messages that encourage them to judge their female peers based on how they look, often to view them with contempt, and to expect sexual subservience from them (Burton, L., 2012). An interesting anecdote on the evolution of the women’s liberation movement from feminist Anne...
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