The Sexting Witch Hunt

As yet another victim of the OMGEVERYONEISRAPINGOURCHILDREN sexting/child porn witch hunt, I feel bad for Ti-Ying Oei. As assistant principal he retained evidence of students swapping risque pictures of each other, and was arrested for it. It’s bullshit.

But his reasoning behind getting involved in the first place?

My ordeal began in March of last year, when a teacher at my school, Loudoun County’s Freedom High, told me about a rumor that students were sending nude pictures of themselves to one another on their cellphones. We’ve all heard a lot about “sexting” lately, but a year ago the phenomenon was new to me and, I’d venture to say, to most school officials. Because administrators’ first concern is our students’ safety and well-being, it was my responsibility to look into the matter.

I called a student I thought likely to have such a picture into my office. In the presence of the school’s safety and security official, he quickly admitted that he did. He pulled out his phone and showed us an image of the torso of a woman wearing underpants, with her arms crossed over her breasts. Her head was not in the picture. The 17-year-old student claimed not to know who the young woman was or who had sent him the photo.

Okay, let’s go through this step by step.

  1. He heard some students may be sending nekkid pictures to each other.
  2. He said “OMG! I have to protect the children from engaging in consensual activities that don’t involve the school in the least!”
  3. He thought, “I bet student X24AZ is involved in this! Get him in here!”
  4. He lacked basic understanding of the technology he was trying to control.
  5. His sticking his nose in where it wasn’t needed led to others doing the same to him

This makes it much harder to feel sorry for the guy. He was a victim of the same setup he was initially trying to stop. He fed into the hysteria that took him down.

Sexting is today what teenagers in cars were several generations ago. Each generation finds ways to deal with their growing sexualities. Our place as adults is not to punish that, but to try and guide them in healthy ways. As long as teen sexuality is feared and seen as something to be controlled at all costs, then the openness necessary to provide that guidance will never appear. As long as the dialogue on teenage sexuality ranges from “NO!” to “NO! Or else!” then we’ll just continue to create less than ideal situations for youth to learn about themselves.

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