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    Photographing a Teen's Boner to Prove He's Sexting Is Way Worse Than Sexting

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    Whitney Mallett

    Image: Pro Juventute/Flickr

    The moral panic around sexting teens may have just reached its most perverse point yet. In what may be the most hypocritical and inappropriate law enforcement investigation ever, police and prosecutors want to take pornographic photos of a 17-year-old boy who himself is facing child pornography charges for sexting.

    Virginia police asked a judge for a warrant to take pictures of the erect penis of a teenager facing felony charges for sending video to and receiving photos from his 15-year-old girlfriend.

    When the teen’s defense attorney Jessica Harbeson Foster asked how police proposed to snap the boner shot, the response was, “we just take him down to the hospital, give him a shot and then take the pictures that we need.”

    The attorney, for her part, is worried that forcing the teen to show his genitals to a group of police officers might be “traumatizing.” A rational thought.

    While I don’t think there’s a precedent for anything on quite this level, the investigations into teens sexting have had an air of something grossly inappropriate before. Earlier this year, also in Virginia, an investigation into an alleged “sexting ring” included law enforcement examining the evidence—i.e. poring over photos of naked underage bodies, something that in any other context would probably be classified as looking at child porn.

    NBC reported that the devices holding the photos were “looked at by a single examiner, who can take anywhere from two to 10 hours … before sending off a written description of their contents.” If this is how the authorities are policing teen sext messages, it seems considerably worse than young adults partaking in a digital show me yours I’ll show you mine.

    Even before snapchats and Instagram, there was a precedent for criminalizing consensual teen sex. In 1996, a 17-year-old Whitney Whitaker performed oral sex on a classmate three weeks shy of his 16th birthday. Today, she’s still registered as a sex offender, and her name, photo, and address are on a public registry. She can’t live and work within a certain distance of a school, daycare, park, library, or swimming pool.

    There are also already laws prohibiting revenge porn—the act of posting naked photos of others to shame or humiliate them—that make criminalizing and excessively policing consensual sexting seem unnecessary.

    And just maybe, adults so concerned about teens sharing naked selfies should consider it may also be a healthy way to explore sexuality without the risks of pregnancy, STIs, and other consequences of physical intimacy.

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