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The Double Standard in Sexting

Once again, it's all about the girl's reputation.

image of hand holding cellphone receiving a sext

When I was a teen, the greatest shame for a high school girl was to get pregnant. The girl would leave school and sometimes town with the quiet swiftness of an alien abduction. The boy who fathered the child, however, never had to go anywhere and seldom missed a game if he was on a varsity team. I'm sure he was often as frightened as she, but the badge of shame was not his to wear or bear.

Fast forward to the modern era, through three decades of title IX and more waves of feminism than you can shake a bra at. The double standard is still very much alive and in play, only it takes a different form today.

When a high school girl gets busted for sexting explicit pictures of herself, the shame is still hers, just like the shame was her grandmother's if she got pregnant. It's still the girl's reputation that is ruined.

If her boyfriend or a guy she was trying to impress sexts her a picture of himself with his pants down, does anyone much care? Perhaps they care if the boy turns out to be well endowed. In that case, his reputation might actually get better. But for the girl--we talk about her life being ruined. We shake our heads regarding the travesty of it all and say, "Her future employers are going to see this." Or what about, "Digital images are forever--what will her children say?"

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The fact is, "slut" and "‘ho" are just as alive and well today as they were in generations past.

Do I want my daughter to sext explicit pictures of herself to this guy or that? Of course not. She'd have hell to pay at home. But she'd have the same hell to pay if she were cited for "minor in possession" or stole something from a store. Each is a lapse in judgment, but I can't see how one is all that much worse than the next. The same would be true for my son if I had one.

Most teens have cameras on their cellphones, they get sexually amped, and they live in an age when privacy is defined differently than it was when I was a kid. Like it or not, sexting is not going away. What I do wish would go away is the double standard that we have about sex when it comes to girls and boys.

The fine sexting image is from the collection of    
PaDumBumPsh.

Paul Joannides, Psy.D., is a research psychoanalyst, author of Guide To Getting It On, and a speaker on college campuses. more...

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