Politics & Policy

Sexting and the Death of Dating

It's not flirty, it’s filthy.

Cellphone cameras are fantastic gadgets. They allow us to capture those fleeting moments when a traditional camera would take forever to fish out. In a pinch, they’re a wonderful way to quickly share images with family and friends. But getting a nude photo of someone you barely know standing in front of a mirror is not one of the images we had in mind.

“Sexting” is the transmission of explicit to downright pornographic images (usually self-portraits) via a cellphone or the Internet. The practice is so pervasive among teens that states such as Texas and New Jersey are attempting to decriminalize sexting for youngsters. Should these efforts fail, the kids would have to be charged with possession of child pornography (since the images are usually of themselves or acquaintances), an offense that could get them added to the registry of sex offenders. A study by CosmoGirl and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies found that “20 percent of teens and 33 percent of young adults ages 20 to 26 have shared nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves either by text or posting online.” According to studies, teen girls are more likely to indulge in the practice.

Sweetie, unless your ambition is to be the Playboy Playmate of the Month, might I suggest that you spend a bit more time adding to your résumé and a bit less time photographing yourself in the buff? This whole sexting thing has become a type of courting ritual. The fellows want to eye up the merchandise to see if you’re worth the effort. As an old chef once said, “A sure way to kill the appetite is to give away too many hors d’oeuvres.”

But the teens are only partly to blame for the explosion of sexting. They are merely mimicking what they see their heroes doing. In early 2011, nude pictures and videos of music star and woman beater Chris Brown surfaced online. Brown claims an ex-girlfriend leaked the material, though some reports suggested that he may have leaked them himself as a publicity stunt. NFL legend Brett Favre went for his own three-point conversion when he allegedly sent photos of his upright to a Jets “game-day hostess.” And more than 50 Hollywood A-listers were stunned when hackers stole their nude photos off cellphones and computers. Some of those hit included Jessica Alba, Miley Cyrus, Scarlett Johansson, and Christina Aguilera. All of this could have been avoided had they not taken the shots in the first place. By their example, stars have encouraged this cultural narcissism masquerading as courtship. It’s not flirty, it’s filthy — and it always leaks out.

There was a time when people got dressed up and had conversations to see if they were compatible — now they examine tan lines. Though there could be one advantage to the exposure: People will develop a new esteem for the option of seeing you clothed. I was recently told about one girl who tried to laugh off the nude picture of her circulating on campus. She announced to a college guy who had seen one of her salacious photos, “Bet you didn’t know I was a natural brunette.” To which the guy replied, “I didn’t know you had stretch marks on your hips, either.” If you’re actually interested in the guy, clothing can be your closest ally.

— Laura Ingraham is host of The Laura Ingraham Show. This is an excerpt of Of Thee I Zing: America’s Cultural Decline from Muffin Tops to Body Shots, written with Raymond Arroyo, released this week by Threshold.


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