Journal article Open Access

Sexting and Privacy Violations: A Case Study of Sympathy and Blame

Hasinoff, Amy Adele

Jaishankar, K

Teens who consensually create and share sexual images of themselves are criticized in the media and criminalized in US law, but there is less specific attention to those who distribute such images without permission. This article focuses on one such case, in which an 18-year-old distributed explicit photos of his ex-girlfriend to her family, friends, and teachers. This paper offers an in-depth qualitative discourse analysis of the case, examining the two sides of the response to the perpetrator: the legal system viewed his actions as severely harmful and considered him a sexual predator, while most of the media coverage supported the young man by blaming the victim. This case demonstrates the need for more nuanced responses to sexual privacy violations that do not blame victims but instead hold perpetrators accountable without demonizing and stigmatizing them as registered sex offenders.

This article forms a part of Special Issue on Sexting, International Journal of Cyber Criminology, Vol 11 issue 2, July - December 2017. Guest Editors: Fawn Ngo, K. Jaishankar, Jose R. Agustina.
Files (2.4 MB)
Name Size
2.4 MB Download
  • Albury, K., & Crawford, K. (2012). Sexting, consent and young people's ethics: Beyond megan's story. Continuum, 26(3), 463-473. Berlant, L. (1997). The queen of america goes to washington city: Essays on sex and citizenship. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Brownmiller, S. (1975). Against our will: Men, women, and rape. New York: Simon and Schuster. Calvert, C. (2009). Sex, cell phones, privacy, and the first amendment: When children become child pornographers and the lolita effect undermines the law. CommLaw Conspectus, 18, 1-65. Campregher, J., & Jeglic, E. L. (2016). Attitudes toward juvenile sex offender legislation: The influence of case-specific information. Journal of child sexual abuse, 25(4), 466-482. Celizic, M. (2009, March 10). Teen 'sexting': Youthful prank or sex crime? With child porn charges being leveled, some say laws are behind the times. [Article and video]. Retrieved from Citron, D. K., & Franks, M. A. (2014). Criminalizing revenge porn. Wake Forest Law Review, 49, 345-391. Clark, H. (2010). 'What is the justice system willing to offer?': Understanding sexual assault victim/survivors' criminal justice needs. Family Matters, (85), 28. Comartin, E., Kernsmith, R., & Kernsmith, P. (2013). "Sexting" and sex offender registration: Do age, gender, and sexual orientation matter? Deviant Behavior, 34(1), 38-52. Corrigan, R. (2006). Making meaning of megan's law. Law and Social Inquiry, 31(2), 267-312. Cuklanz, L. M. (1996). Rape on trial: How the mass media construct legal reform and social change. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Daly, K. (2014). Reconceptualizing sexual victimization and justice. In I. Vanfraechem, A. Pemberton & M. N. F (Eds.), The international handbook of victimology (pp. 378–396). London: Routledge. Draper, N. (2012). Is your teen at risk? Discourses of adolescent sexting in united states television news. Journal of Children and Media, 6(2), 221-236. Englander, E. (2012). Low risk associated with most teenage sexting: A study of 617 18-year-olds. Bridgewater, MA: Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. Fair punishment?: 'Sexting' teen faces child porn charges (2009, March 13). FOX & Friends [Video]. Retrieved May 2, 2009, from Feyerick, D., & Steffen, S. (2009, April 8). 'Sexting' lands teen on sex offender list. CNN's American Morning. Retrieved from Filler, D. (2001). Making the case for megan's law: A study in legislative rhetoric. Indiana Law Journal, 76(2), 315-365. Fischel, J. (2010). Transcendent homosexuals and dangerous sex offenders: Sexual harm and freedom in the judicial imaginary. Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, 17(2), 277-311. Foucault, M. (2003). Abnormal: Lectures at the collège de france, 1974-1975 (1st Picador USA ed.). New York: Picador. Freedman, E. B. (1987). "Uncontrolled desires": The response to the sexual psychopath, 1920-1960. Journal of American History, 74(1), 83-106. Galanos, M. (2009, April 8). Commentary: Is 'sexting' child pornography? [Video and article]. Retrieved from Goldberg, C. (2016, 26 Nov). State revenge porn laws. CA Goldberg Law. Retrieved from Goldstein, L. (2009). Documenting and denial: Discourses of sexual self-exploitation. Jumpcut, 51. Retrieved from Grano, D. A. (2014). Michael vick's "genuine remorse" and problems of public forgiveness. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 100(1), 81-104. Hasinoff, A. A. (2015). Sexting panic: Rethinking criminalization, privacy, and consent. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. Hasinoff, A. A., & Shepherd, T. (2014). Sexting in context: Privacy norms and expectations. International Journal of Communication, 8, 2932-2415. Hatch, J. B. (2006). Beyond apologia: Racial reconciliation and apologies for slavery. Western Journal of Communication, 70(3), 186-211. Henry, N., & Powell, A. (2015). Beyond the 'sext': Technology-facilitated sexual violence and harassment against adult women. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 48(1), 104-118. Henry, N., & Powell, A. (2016). Sexual violence in the digital age: The scope and limits of criminal law. Social & Legal Studies, 25(4), 397-418. Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015). State sexting laws: A brief review of state sexting and revenge porn laws and policies. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved from Karaian, L. (2012). Lolita speaks: 'Sexting,' teenage girls and the law. Crime Media Culture, 8(1), 57-73. Kazdin, C., & Ibanga, I. (2009, April 15). The truth about teens sexting: 'Gma' holds a town hall meeting to discuss the growing teen trend. Good Morning America [Article]. Retrieved from Keating, G., & Zeidler, S. (2007, 7 Sep). Disney backs star after her apology for nude photo. Reuters. Retrieved from Klettke, B., Hallford, D. J., & Mellor, D. J. (2014). Sexting prevalence and correlates: A systematic literature review. Clinical Psychology Review, 34(1), 44-53. Laird, L. (2015, Jul 1). Courts are reconsidering residency restrictions for sex offenders. ABA Journal. Retreived from Lynch, M. (2002). Pedophiles and cyber-predators as contaminating forces: The language of disgust, pollution, and boundary invasion. Law and Social Inquiry, 27(3), 529-562. Mastronardi, M. (2003). Adolescence and media. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 22(1), 83-93. McGlynn, C. (2011). Feminism, rape and the search for justice. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 31(4), 825-842. Meiners, E. R., Michaud, L., Pavan, J., & Simpson, B. (2011). "Worst of the worst"? : Queer investments in challenging sex offender registries. Upping the Anti, 13. Newton-Brown, C., Garrett, J., Carbines, A., Northe, R., & Petrovich, D. (2013, December 10). Victorian government response to the law reform committee inquiry in to sexting. Law Reform Committee. Retrieved from Nunziato, D. C. (2012). Romeo and juliet online and in trouble: Criminalizing depictions of teen sexuality (c u l8r: G2g 2 jail). Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property, 10, 57-91. Petteruti, A., & Walsh, N. (2008). Registering harm: How sex offense registries fail youth communities. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute. Podlas, K. (2011). The 'legal epidemiology' of the teen sexting epidemic: How the media influenced a legislative outbreak. Pittsburgh Journal of Technology Law and Policy, 12, 1-48. Pratt, J. (1998). The rise and fall of homophobia and sexual psychopath legislation in postwar society. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 4(1-2), 25-49. Prieto, B. (2009, March 8). 20% of teens have sent nude photos of themselves via cell phone or posted the images on a web site: Now teens such as [Adam Allen], who forwarded pictures of his ex-girlfriend, face child-porn charges. Orlando Sentinel, p. A1. Ray, R. (2009, April 3). Nancy grace & teen "sexting". The Rachel Ray Show [Video]. Retrieved from Richards, R. D., & Calvert, C. (2009). When sex and cell phones collide: Inside the prosecution of a teen sexting case. Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal, 32, 1. Ringrose, J., Gill, R., Livingstone, S., & Harvey, L. (2012). A qualitative study of children, young people and 'sexting:' A report prepared for the nspcc. London: National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Saukko, P. (2003). Doing research in cultural studies: An introduction to classical and newer methodological approaches. London: SAGE. Simon, J. (1998). Managing the monstrous: Sex offenders and the new penology. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 4, 452. Spade, D. (2012). Their laws will never make us safer: An introduction. In R. Conrad (Ed.), Against equality: Prisons will not protect you (pp. 1-12). Oakland, CA: AK Press. Tallon, K., Choi, A., Keeley, M., Elliott, J., & Maher, D. (2012). New voices/new laws: School-age young people in new south wales speak out about the criminal laws that apply to their online behaviour. National Children's and Youth Law Centre and Legal Aid NSW [Report], Retrieved from Tofte, S. (2007). No easy answers: Sex offender laws in the us. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch. Tyson, S. (2014). Experiments in responsibility: Pocket parks, radical anti-violence work, and the social ontology of safety. Radical Philosophy Review, 12(2), 421-434. Villadsen, L. S. (2012). Beyond the spectacle of apologia: Reading official apologies as proto-deliberative rhetoric and instantiations of rhetorical citizenship. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 98(2), 230-247. Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (2016). Sextortion: Findings from a survey of 1,631 victims. NH: Crimes Against Children Research Center & Thorn. Wolak, J., Finkelhor, D., & Mitchell, K. J. (2012). Trends in arrests for child pornography production: The third national juvenile onlinevictimization study (njov‐3). Crimes against Children Research Center. Retrieved from


Cite as