Beyond Heroes and Villains

Investigating the nature of good guys and bad guys in fiction and real life

JL8 Controversy: Is Sharing Phallic Photos Healthy Behavior?

Is sexting dangerous? Is it a form of sexual harassment or other aggression?

Arguing over one topic can lead to a bigger fight about something else entirely. Remember when Kenneth Starr's investigation of Bill Clinton's involvement with the Whitewater real estate controversy eventually led to Clinton's impeachment not for Whitewater itself but instead for giving misleading answers when asked about sexual infidelity in court? When a Judge Dredd artist recently criticized a webcomic creator for contributing charity wallpapers, ensuing debates online led to a scandal over allegations that the webcomic creator sends women unsolicited photos of his own genitalia.

Yale Stewart's webcomic JL8 stars DC Comics superheroes as 8-year-olds (independently, not as an official DC online publication). Stewart has often given away free wallpaper images with his versions of these characters in order to encourage charitable donations and otherwise raise awareness about related issues, most recently the tragedies in Ferguson, Missouri. Judge Dredd comic book artist Ulises Farinas complained about this, seeing Stewart's frequent creation of charity wallpapers as a form of self promotion. In the midst of the ensuing debate over this, Stewart's equivalent of his own Monica Lewinsky scandal came up.

The "other" problem was that numerous individuals alleged that Stewart sent them and other people unsolicited photos of his genitalia. 

 

Full disclosure: I met Yale at Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con, where I signed books and he sold art. We got along well and a young JL8 fan with me was excited to discover that we were all there together, but it's not like I know Yale any better than that, so none of that gave me any basis on which to form an opinion regarding his sexual behavior. I've also had online exchanges with some of the people who are talking about Yale, and I've gotten along fine with them as well.

Once I pointed out that the statement above was not actually a denial of the allegations, Stewart readily acknowledged this.

Hours later, Yale elaborated on Tumblr, indicating that he had sent photos two years ago to two women with whom he'd had relations. He followed up the day after that, stressing that no one should blame anyone other than him for his error in misreading things and sending such photos. 

Some people read his apology and assertions as meaning he only sent photos to two women with whom he had sexual relationships. Others read this as meaning he sent so many such photos to people that he lost track and these are simply the ones that he's guessing started talking about it. People who know women who received his photos assure me that the ones they know never had sex with him and that one was in a committed relationship, but now we're talking about secondhand information that becomes thirdhand when you get it from me. You and I do not know what happened. Most of you, anyway. Is he a charitable hero or a predatory villain?

The American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 establishes criteria for exhibitionistic disorder (formerly called sexual exhibitionism), a clinical syndrome in which the person feels the need to display his or her genitals to others in other to achieve sexual satisfaction, part of the larger group of paraphilic disorders regarding habitual sexual behavior that others find disturbing and that causes distress. A person can engage in some paraphilic behavior without qualifying for a paraphilic disorder. Meeting diagnostic criteria depends on frequency, severity, duration, strength, persistence, and number of symptoms and particularly the maladaptive nature of this drive.

Sexting has become a common thing. I know many individuals who have had trouble getting adolescents to understand what's wrong with sending sexually explicit photos of themselves, the potential repercussions, and the fact that the photos can last forever. Time after time, those sharing the photos have been dismayed when other people also share those same photos or when others judge them for doing that. People can send these at any age, of course. In trying to understand this behavior, we may have more questions than answers.

  • What's the protocol for sharing nude photos? What norms have developed?
  • When's the right time to send such photos? 
  • Is there ever a right time?
  • Is it right to tell others?
  • Is it right to show others?
  • Is it ever right to share other people's sexts?
  • Who sends these photos?
  • Why send these photos?
  • Why send these photos to people who don't want them?
  • How can you know people want them?
  • How explicitly must you ask before sending explicit photos?
  • How do you respond when you received unwanted photos?
  • How explicitly must you indicate if you do or do not welcome explicit photos?
  • Is silence consent?
  • Is unwanted sexting a form of sexual aggression?
  • Is sexting ever a good idea?
  • Do you really need to opt out instead of "don't send nude pics" being the default?
  • What are the legal issues involved?
  • What can or should anybody do about it?
  • What needs to happen to the people involved?
  • When does it qualify as a mental illness?
  • When do people need to get treatment for this behavior?
  • Does safe sext exist?

Do you have answers?

 

Related Posts:

http://jl8comic.tumblr.com/image/50630542156
 

You can follow me on Twitter as @Superherologist or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BatmanBelfry. I'd love to hear from you!

 

Travis Langley, Ph.D. is the author of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight.

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