I'm a 20-year-old bi girl and long term reader (your column was recommended in my Unitarian youth group!) in a happy, kinky, monogamish, long-distance relationship. I'm also an ambitious college student headed towards a mathy businessy career. My question: How worried should I be about my naked pictures? Only my partner has them, and I trust him completely, even if we were to break up, but I know that security stuff happens. Are a few sexy sexts from the context of a serious relationship really still a career wrecker? My thoughts after the first were "in for a penny, in for a pound," but should I stop? Thanks!

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Nervously Naked

Lenore Skenazy had a great post up at Free Range Parents a few weeks back about yet another high school full of teenagers who may face criminal charges for sexting. Police were searching through kids' phones looking for sexts and threatening to bring charges against anyone found to be in possession of a nude picture of a minor—even if the minor in question was the kid whose phone the picture was found on. These kids, like so many others, could wind up facing felony child pornography charges and land on sex-offender registries.

Skenazy writes...

I have no idea if the authorities will go in that awful direction. But the fact that other young people have been prosecuted for the same behavior just means that young people are in danger of ruining their lives NOT because their naked pictures are out there—at some point, even employers won’t care, because these will be so common—but because the cops swooped in and declared the kids deviants. How about we decide that taking nude selfies is not a crime, nor is possessing them if they were sent to you. Any state legislator with a kid or grandkid should be able to understand that this law will PROTECT rather than ENDANGER their children’s futures.

That bolded part is for you, NN. You're only twenty, your high-powered/businessy career in a mathy field is a long way off, and nearly all of your peers have nude photos of themselves floating around out there. The time is quickly coming when a few nude photos or videos floating around online will present no more of a threat to an adult's career than the admission that you smoked pot in high school or college or last weekend or all three. So send those pictures—hell, release a couple into the wild (slap 'em up on Tumblr), NN, and you'll help create the world we all want to live in, i.e. a world where one or two nude photos or videos isn't a big deal, much less a career-threatening/-ending scandal.

And while we're on the subject of teenagers and sexting...

Robby Soave at Reason does a great job covering the real teen sexting scandal, i.e. the prosecution and persecution of teenagers who get caught sexting. In a post about a sexting panic at yet another high school, Soave writes...

Police Detective Mike Mohney told WBST.com that sexting is a serious crime because [when teenagers sext it can lead to] “bullying,” and “real severe things like people committing suicide or violent crimes against others because they're so embarrassed about it.”

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Mohney’s statement is a perfect example of the inherent contradiction of ruining kids’ lives for sexting. If the goal is to avoid “severe consequences,” why would they pursue charges in the first place? If sexting-induced embarrassment is a source of violence and suicide, certainly the risk of embarrassment is made much worse by branding the offender a pedophile—for abusing no one but himself—and sentencing him to the sex offender registry.... Authorities warn that the consequences for the underage are just too dire, but the most awful outcome is the one the authorities themselves impose on perpetrators: criminal charges. Can you imagine being a 14-year-old, trying to get your life back on track, after being socially stigmatized, expelled, charged with a crime, and publicly branded a sex offender? All because you took a picture of yourself?

Teens who create and share sexy photos aren’t child pornographers. They are teenagers. To pretend the law can suppress their natural curiosity about their own bodies, and each other’s, is to subscribe to vindictive madness and paranoia about human sexuality. These kids aren't hurting themselves—we're hurting them.

Let's protect our kids—and their future career prospects—by legalizing sexting already.

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