In the looking-for-love-in-all-wrong-places department, a rich article was released on Sunday about the growing presence of “sexting” amongst teenagers across the nation, and the implications it has not only on law and justice, but social development, popular culture, and the modern family. An article written with an arresting understanding that things don’t come from nowhere, it sympathetically centers on Margarite as the confluence of teenage identity crisis, which basically comes down to social-relational confusion and basic, human love-hunger.
Adults face a hard truth. For teenagers, who have ready access to technology and are growing up in a culture that celebrates body flaunting, sexting is laughably easy, unremarkable and even compelling: the primary reason teenagers sext is to look cool and sexy to someone they find attractive. Indeed, the photos can confer cachet.
..In the shifting power dynamics of middle school girls, the former friend understood well that she who sneers first sneers best. The flick of a cutting remark, swiftly followed by “Just kidding!” The eye roll. As the animosity between the two girls escalated, Margarite felt shunned by an entire group of girls and was eating lunch by herself. At home she retreated to her bedroom, alone with her cellphone and computer.
…“You can’t expect teenagers not to do something they see happening all around them,” said Susannah Stern, an associate professor at the University of San Diego who writes about adolescence and technology…“They’re practicing to be a part of adult culture,” Dr. Stern said. “And in 2011, that is a culture of sexualization and of putting yourself out there to validate who you are and that you matter.”
…Yet when the local news media storm cascaded, the outcry was not about the severe penalties for a felony sexting conviction. It was about why (prosecuting attorney) Mr. Peters had not also arrested Margarite.
“She’s a victim,” Mr. Peters said. “She made an ill-advised decision to share that picture with her boyfriend. As far as she knew, that was as far as it would go…What good would come from prosecuting her? What lesson could we teach her that she hasn’t already learned now 1,000 times over?”