On Monday, a bill that would mostly decriminalize teen sexting passed off the floor of the Washington State House, but not without resistance from Republican representative Brad Klippert, who spent a lot of his time screaming about the depravity of anal sex and other acts after legislators rejected his amendment.
You can watch his full rant here. I've provided a clip below.
Under Washington State's current child-pornography laws, minors can be charged with a felony for sending nudes to one another. Convictions can put teens on the sex offender registry for life, making it harder for them to go to college and find jobs and housing.
It's happened several times before. A few years ago, a 17-year-old was convicted of distributing child porn for sending an unsolicited dick pic to an older woman who worked for his mom. In 2017, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld that conviction, citing the legislature's desire to “destroy the blight of child pornography everywhere, from production of the images to commercial gain," which included teens sending sexts.
Representative Noel Frame, who's been floating the bill to address this problem for two years now, says advocates have told her that nearly 50 kids have been accused of distributing child porn by sexting.
Frame's bill would prevent kids from being charged with a felony for possessing naked photos of themselves. Minors sharing naked photos, however, could be charged with a simple or gross misdemeanor if the person in the photo is between 13 and 17-years-old. Distributing images of kids 12 and under will still be a class B felony.
Frame argues that the bill is designed to educate kids, decriminalize possession so that they can come forward and report exploitation, and implement reasonable accountability measures for when they're sharing photos in a way that could potentially harm other kids. Existing laws around malicious distribution and harassment will still be in place, Frame says, so kids who share photos on a revenge-porn tear will still be subject to those statutes.
During debate on the house floor, Republicans generally praised the underlying intent of the bill, but urged the legislature to adopt an amendment proposed by Representative Brad Klippert, a school resource officer and Pentecostal preacher representing South Central Washington.
Klippert's amendment would only have protected kids who sent nudes that didn't offend his delicate sensibilities. Depictions of "unclothed breasts, unclothed genitals, or unclothed pubic area, or buttocks" exchanged only between two teens would be fine with Klippert, but teens who possessed or showed photos of any of the sexual acts defined by the state as "sexually explicit conduct" would be subject to misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges.
The state's definition of "sexually explicit conduct," as Klippert would later scream out, includes "actual or simulated" depictions of masturbation and various kinds of sex. His proposal would also criminalize possessions of images of the self. So if a teen merely possessed a video of themselves masturbating, they could still face charges under Klippert's version of the bill, which is exactly the kind of absurd result Frame is trying to avoid here.
Lawmakers ultimately decided that Klippert's apparent disgust for some sex acts wasn't enough of a reason to gut the bill. They argued the bill would already make it a misdemeanor for teens to spread around naked photos of other teens. Additionally, citing the commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Representative Frame said Klippert's amendment would have a "chilling effect" on reporting the exploitation, explaining that "teenagers who have created or shared explicit images may be reluctant to seek adult help for fear of being prosecuted themselves."
After the amendment was voted down, Klippert had a fit.
In order to express his disgust with the many varieties of sex that teens might be having, which I guess he thinks the underlying bill would somehow cosign, Klippert read off the list of acts that fall into the state's definition of "sexually explicit conduct." These acts include (emphasis his): "Actual or simulated sexual intercourse including genital to genital, oral to genital, anal genital [sic], oral, anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex or between humans and animals. Penetration of the vagina or rectum by any object. Masturbation, sadomasochistic abuse!"
"Mr. Speaker, I request permission to read the definition of sadism," Klippert said, apparently unaware of the permission-seeking trope popular among subs and doms. "Please continue," the speaker said, offering Klippert the release he was seeking.
Though earlier in the debate, Klippert said it would be unnecessary to detail the relevant sexual acts cataloged under the state's definition of sexually explicit conduct, he went on for another couple of minutes doing just that, all the while decrying the fact that the legislature apparently didn't want to criminalize teens taking dick pics. Despite these protestations, the bill passed 57 to 39 without Klippert's amendment.
The bill will now move on to the state senate, where hopefully cooler heads will continue to prevail.