Policing ‘sexting’: Responsibilization, respectability and sexual subjectivity in child protection/crime prevention responses to teenagers’ digital sexual expression

Karaian, Lara
Theoretical Criminology

This article examines the motivations, techniques and potential consequences of the governance of teenage sexting. I examine the over-representation of white, middle-class, heterosexual, female sexters, and abstinence from sexting discourses in the ?Respect Yourself? child protection/crime prevention initiative. This campaign, I suggest, exploits slut shaming in an effort to responsibilize teenage girls for preventing the purported harms that may flow from sexting?including humiliation, sexual violations and criminalization?for both themselves and their peers. I examine this responsibilization effort through the lens of critical whiteness, queer, girlhood/young feminist and porn studies? theorizations of the politics of sexual respectability and sexual subjectification and argue that this campaign simultaneously: reveals anxieties about the decline of the moral authority of the white, middle-class, heterosexual nuclear family; constitutes certain teenage girls? unintelligibility as sexual subjects; and, undermines teenage girls? ability to challenge a normative sexual order in which they are often blamed extra/legally for their sexual victimization.