Article Review by Robert Kenny Nidenov

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    “Sexting as media production: Rethinking social media and sexuality” New Media & Society (2012): n.pag.
    By Amy Adele Hasinoff.

    The article focuses on the recent phenomenon of ‘sexting’ and how social media is contributing both negatively, and positively to the healthy sexual development of adults and teenagers. It proposes a different way of thinking about ‘sexting’. Hasinoff starts the article by highlighting the unfair and needless way the law can punish young people engaging in it. The negative way in which the authorities and various researchers view in particular young females who ‘sext’, Hasinoff claims is unfair, factually incorrect and in some cases so removed from reality as to be comical. She also claims that the research promoted by the authorities on this topic has done nothing more than spread panic and anxiety among people.

    By thinking about sexting differently she offers an alternative way of viewing it as media production which she claims will give those involved greater privacy and protection against the unauthorized distribution of their private images. The article pitches negative research against positive research on the topic and concludes by proposing a new model for people to view, one that includes sexting in media production.

    ‘Sexting’ is defined in the article as “the practice of sending sexually explicit images or text through mobile phones or via internet applications”. The main issue being addressed is that the sender of these images needs greater protection against their images being re-distributed without their consent. In traditional media production the person producing images or content has protection and rights against unauthorized people distributing or using their content. In the world of social media or ‘new media’ as it is called, there is little or no protection for the victim who produces the content during the unfortunate event of it being further distributed without their permission.
    Why do the US law makers not do more to protect victims of online sexual harassment instead of punishing them?
    Due to all of the campaigns run by the US government over the past decade or so warning people not to allow their children to chat to strangers online they have created an atmosphere of needless paranoia where parents now see anyone who anonymously chats to their children online as an evil sexual predator.

    The larger area of investigation by Hasinoff has revealed that:

    • Research has shown that among adult females who communicate anonymously with the opposite sex through social media it has allowed them to be more communicative and sexually expressive than they would be face to face. They see it as a positive for their sexual health.

    • Social Media offers help and support for marginalized youth in dealing with sensitive sexual issues.

    • Sexting can help people to boost their self-expression and to improve communication.

    The author has extensively cited good and valid references however the article was written in 2012 and many or the references are dated from the mid to early 2000’s. Technology and how society adapts and changes to use it has changed a lot from the time the research was written up to the year 2012. The subject matter in the article is relevant more so now than ever before as technology has been embraced by the human race as an aid to help them fulfill two of our most basic needs i.e. communication and our need to find a suitable partner for the purpose of sexual re-production. Today it is the norm for teenagers and young people to communicate with friends and strangers using social media. There seems to be more of a balance today of parents educating their teenagers and children on the risks of social media and allowing them to use it for communication. The article is still in some ways exceptional and unrelated to the other research strands possibly because it is a sensitive topic and can be uncomfortable for some people to discuss.

    I felt the author achieved her objectives well by effectively highlighting the research that shows female teenagers as victims that are unfairly punished and criticized by the authorities. I feel however that the title should have been “Sexting as media production: Rethinking social media and teenage female sexuality” as it didn’t highlight male teenage sexuality or adults in general it seemed to focus mainly on female teenagers. By proposing her vision of what changes in this area are needed at the start and end of the article we are reminded of what the article sets out to achieve. The main point is not lost in the subject matter of the article.

    Should male teenagers be excluded from the debate and is it safe to say that the majority of ‘victims’ of online sexual harassment are female? Are young males entirely aggressive and sexually harassing in how they interact with young females and should all males be tarred with the same brush? When harassment or sexual abuse does occur by males is it wrong to lay the blame with social media applications, the internet and the World Wide Web, after all before these mediums existed sexual harassment and abuse still occurred, is it not a problem that has always existed in some way? Are young adults and teenagers now so normalized to using social media to communicate anonymously that they are less vulnerable than we give them credit for.

    The companies that provide social media platforms to society are perceived to adhere to data protection laws, is it therefore their responsibility to ensure that their users are protected against the unauthorized distribution of their private images and data. Is it fair to say that today in the US and most of the developed world teenagers and young adults are hopelessly addicted to technology as a form of communication and self-expression? Is this a healthy development in terms of how young people are developing social and communicative skills and what impact will it have on their lives as they get older.
    Without our participation social media companies wouldn’t exist, they have made the small number of owners and shareholders of these companies immensely wealthy. Should they not be using this wealth and power to do more to protect the user’s privacy and protection or is it time for the hundreds of millions of users to pull the plug, after all according to the US authorities we would all be a lot safer if we just abstained!

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