Three teenage boys in Michigan are facing charges of criminal sexual conduct and distributing child pornography after they engaged in a sex act with a 15-year-old girl and one of them posted a photo of it to Twitter. Other students who shared the photo could also face child porn charges. Which raises the question: are we talking to our teens enough about how they can be less dumb?
The Detroit Free Press reports that Ryan A. Modaffare, Gregory A. Kwapik and Nicholas G. Kelly, all 17, all from Macomb Township, Mich., were arraigned today after turning themselves into police. All attend L'Anse Creuse North High School. The three of them, plus one other boy, reportedly went over to the girl's house sometime around Thanksgiving. Kwapik and Kelly allegedly engaged in a sex act with the girl while Modaffare took a picture without her knowledge or consent. Eventually, one of them ended up posting that photo to Twitter, where it was widely shared. (It's not clear who actually posted the photo. While at least two of the boys' Twitter accounts are still active, the photo has been removed.) After the picture circulated for some time, another L'Anse Creuse student finally called the police.
According to the Free Press, Modaffare is charged with a felony child pornography offense, namely child sexual abusive activity — distributing or promoting, for which he faces up to seven years in prison. Kwapik is charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a 15-year maximum sentence. Kelly is facing one count of both charges. All this makes this tweet from Kwapik just a tad ironic:
Yep. Sometimes the person sabotaging you is so close it's actually you.
This isn't the first time this has happened: back in September, a 16-year-old in Wyoming, Mich., was charged with "gross indecency" after performing oral sex in a parking lot near her high school's homecoming game. Two boys later told police that she asked one of them to take a photo while she performed oral sex on the other. One of the boys shared the photo on Snapchat, where other teens saved it and uploaded it to Instagram and Twitter.
"By the first day of school following the event," Michigan Live reports, "the photos had gone viral and had spurred a popular Twitter hashtag and a forbidden chant" heard during a football game. (The girl transferred to another school district following the incident, and was eventually offered a lesser charge in a plea deal, for misdemeanor indecent exposure.)
Last year, a February teen faced child pornography charges for tweeting a nude photo of herself. And near Washington, D.C., last year, middle school girls sharing nude photos of themselves led to "bins of confiscated phones" and a lengthy criminal investigation. No charges were ultimately filed.
In the current case, this is clearly criminal conduct: according to Michigan's statutory rape laws, a child under 16 can't legally consent to intercourse. In many states, though, the sex act itself would have been legal, since the boys are close in age to their victim. But the act of taking a photo would virtually always constitute child pornography. Simply put: you cannot share a naked photo of a teenager, even if you are that teenager. You just can't.
Somehow, that message hasn't quite gotten through to teenagers: No matter how willing your partner is, no matter how proud you are to finally be having sex, stop posting your goddamn sex selfies on the Internet. I know it makes you feel incredibly cool and edgy. I know your smartphones are basically extensions of your selves, and your entire beings are oriented towards figuring out how to have sex as quickly as possible and/or how to get someone to buy you a six-pack. I know there's an entire Twitter page called Sex Selfies (very NSFW). But seriously: do not take pictures of yourselves having sex, and especially, especially don't share those photos with your dumb little friends. It's tacky. It's obnoxious. And frequently, it's a felony.
The larger problem here is that teenagers are almost painfully stupid, particularly teenage boys. (Please don't argue with me: we've all met teenage boys, or been them, or both.) So it's up to parents to drill the no-sex-selfie rule into their children's heads during the same hideously uncomfortable conversations as "always use a condom" and "If you have sex with someone while they are unconscious or too drunk, that is rape and I will straight-up murder you."
Please, parents. Talk to your teens about sex selfies. Only you can prevent teenage dumbassery. Well, actually, you can't prevent it, really, but you can at least steer them away from the stuff that'll get them arrested.
From left: Kelly, Kwapik and Modafarre. Image courtesy of Macomb County Sheriff's Office via My Fox Detroit