By Scott Tibbs, July 26, 2017
I really hate spiders. But as much as I hate them, it is important that the force I use to eliminate them is proportional to what is necessary. If there is a spider on my wall, swatting it with a newspaper or my shoe will get the job done and not cause damage. Using a twenty pound sledge hammer will kill the spider (assuming I hit my target) but it will also break or severely damage whatever surface the spider is sitting on.
A rather foolish prosecutor in Iowa has not only apparently has never learned that lesson, he actually uses a jackhammer instead.
Backstory: A 14 year old girl took two inappropriate (but not nude) pictures of herself. A prosecutor threatened to charge her with child pornography. She sued and won, but this was a ridiculous abuse of power that was massively disproportionate to the girl's actual offense. What she did was obviously immoral, in addition to being foolish and incredibly dangerous. But it is absurd to lump her in with monsters who rape children and then record the rape to sell tapes of it to other evil men. She took pictures of herself, and sent them to a boy.
Would some sort of legal sanction be appropriate here? I would have no problem with that, to send a very clear message that teens (especially very young teens) should not be sexting with each other. Maybe she could be charged with a misdemeanor and have her pick up trash by the side of the road. But she is not a child pornographer and should not be treated as one.
Think about the consequences if she was convicted: She would have to register as a sex offender and would have a child porn conviction on her record. She would be severely restricted in where she could live and her prospects for employment would be irreparably harmed. That conviction would be a scarlet letter for the rest of her life, and people would think that she did something much, much worse. She might even be subject to violence from vigilantes. Perhaps she would commit suicide, and all because a fool was overzealous.
Obviously, we should make it clear to teens that "sexting" will not be tolerated. That starts with the parents of teens tempted by this immorality. Because of the dangers of sexting (especially that the pictures will be shared without the subject's consent) some reasonable legal sanctions would be appropriate. But going far beyond the limits of what any reasonable person considers proportional to the offense does not help anyone and could cause irreparable harm. Yes, we should discipline teens who engage in sexting, but we should not ruin their lives and potentially drive them to suicide.