Friday, February 27, 2009

Do Teen Sexuality + Adult Anxiety + Digital Technology = Public Trouble?

I had two lovely plesaures this week - one was to spend some time surfing the website, The Midwest Teen Sex Show (MTSS), which labels itself as a "video show about teen sexuality" and the second was my telephone conversation with Dr. Marty Klein, a noted Marriage Counselor and Sex Therapist.

What do the two have in common - well, for one, MTSS has a tremendous amount of informative sexual content that teens can understand. MTSS website and videos promote healthy sexual dialogue and de-mystify the taboos that surround teen sex. The legal limitations applied to sexual health education by school districts, local jurisdictions, religious institutions (you get the picture) are what make it so hard for teens to learn ANYTHING or even ASK questions about their sexuality and how it all works. MTSS is the perfect outlet for those teens who "wonder why...."

So, how does Dr. Marty Klein fit in to all of this? you ask! Good question.......Dr. Klein is one of the few experts in the field of teen sexual rights and the dangers that teens might be facing for "exercising" behavior that might end up haunting them for the rest of their lives.

An article in Slate Magazine, entitled "Textual Misconduct: What to do about teens and their dumb naked photos of themselves" has some astounding implications about teen rights (or lack thereof). The article details the fact that if you are under 18, it is illegal to send naked photos of yourself to anyone, and in this case, the sender, a young teenage girl, was prosecuted as a sex offender and will now have to register as such FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE!

Dr. Klein is a featured speaker at the ISIS, Inc. Sex::Tech 2009 conference, being held March 22-23rd, in San Francisco, California. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to him a bit about his presentation, and the predicament teens might find themselves in if they "text" nude photos of themselves to others. I asked Dr. Klein if teen's rights being reviewed by the present Administration? He answered that charges being leveled on teens are not federal; they are state, local or jurisdictional. The laws vary from state to state and it is up to the individual prosecutors as to if or how a teen is charged. The bottom line is "as far as discomfort with teen sexuality, every single American lives in a Red state" (meaning that red states are Bush lovers and Blue states are well, you know!)

Another question I asked was if he thought teens rights were being constricted, and if so, why? Dr. Klein said that historically, whenever any type of new technology was introduced to mainstream two things happen:

1) technology is adapted for sexual use (think television; publishing i.e. comic books, magazines; radio; internet)
2) adults get anxious about how teen's use said technology.

He went on to say that new technology creates "cultural panic" from religious institutions, mass media and parents. In short, until these groups understand the new technology, teens are less likely to have any rights.

Are teens aware of their rights?

Dr. Klein noted that when he was featured on the television show 20/20 in a segment called "Age of Consent", that an overwhelming majority of teens HAD NO IDEA of what the age of consent was for their State. And, he pointed out, in some cases, where the state line is accessible within minutes, there is a huge possibility that a law can be broken (or avoided) just by crossing the State line. "There are an awful lot of young people who don't realize that nude photos (sexual) of a minor can be perceived as child pornography".

Is advocacy for change happening?

Dr. Klein states that conferences like Sex::Tech 2009 open up forums for access, control, information regarding sexuality that can easily be filtered out of the Internet by local jurisdictions, including school districts.

So, as you can read, lots and lots of very important, life changing, permanent implications in the most innocent of teen behavior, that most teens don't know about but could impact their lives (and friends, families, communities) if.........


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