On Wednesday, three teen girls filed a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania against the district attorney who ordered them to take classes on sexual violence—or face jail time—as punishment for "sexting" pictures of themselves wearing bras.
As the New York Times reports, Tunkhannock Area High School students Marissa Miller, 15, her friend Grace Kelly, and one other unidentified girl were told by District Attorney George P. Skumanick of Wyoming County that if they did not attend a 10-hour class on pornography and sexual violence, he would file charges against them for sexual abuse of a minor. If convicted, they could serve jail time and be required to register as sex offenders. The girls and their mothers felt this "deal" was illegal and violated their first and fourth amendment rights, and filed a lawsuit asking the court to stop Skumanick from filing such charges, claiming that his threats were "retaliation" for opposing his offer of the classes.
Threatening such charges is bad enough, but forcing them to take classes on sexual violence as punishment is absolutely appalling. It insinuates that "sexting" invites—or leads to—sexual violence or rape. It's a severe form of slut-shaming and victim-blaming.
Furthermore, if we want the government to keep its laws out of the choices we make with our bodies, shouldn't it apply here? Were the pictures the girls took a silly, misguided choice? Perhaps. But it was a still a choice they made on their own. While sexual consent among underage girls is a tricky, gray area in some instances, it seems pretty black and white here. These girls took pictures of themselves in their bras at a slumber party. There were no adults coercing them into it.
And though there may have been peer pressured involved, we've learned from after-school specials that these things tend to have a way of working themselves out, and certainly don't involve law enforcement swooping in and "protecting" girls by punishing them for the stupid shit they do at a sleepover.
Ultimately, the terrible, no good, very bad, scary "sexting" trend that uptight crazies think is threatening the purity of our teenage girls is something that should be a conversation between those children and their parents, without the involvement of the courts.
Students Sue Prosecutor in Cellphone Photos Case [NYT]
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