Policing "Sexting"

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    • 00:11

      LAURA KARAIAN: Hello, my name is Laura Karaian,and I am an Associate Professor in the Institute of Criminologyand Criminal Justice at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario,Canada.And I'm here to talk to you specifically about an articleI wrote in 2013, or was published in 2013 and then

    • 00:32

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: again in 2014, for the journal Theoretical Criminology.And the title that piece is Policing "sexting".Responsibility, respectability, and sexual subjectivityin child protection/crime prevention responsesto teenagers' digital sexual expressions.So it's a bit of a mouthful.

    • 00:52

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: And I want to give you a little bit of a backgroundbefore I start to talk to you about that.So in 2005, the Canadian Center for Child Protection--which is a national charitable organization,it works closely with policing agencies across Canada--it warned Canada, Canadian girls particular,about the humiliation, sexual violation, and criminalization

    • 01:14

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: that they could face if they digitallycreated and sent nude images of themselves across the internet.At the time, sexting was not a wordthat was being used commonly.So it's not used by the Center for Child Protectionin its initiative, but it was a termthat was being used at the time that I was writingthis article by the media, by legal professionals,

    • 01:37

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: if not the teens themselves.And so I referred to the creation of nudesby teenagers in this article as sexting.And sexting for our purposes, in termsof a definition that I use, is any sexual communicationwith content including images, or pictures,or text messages, sent by a cell phone, or electronic media.

    • 01:59

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: No charges had been laid and no criminal prosecutionshad taken place at the time that this warning had gone outto young people and at the time that I was writing.Even in 2014, some five years later.But just because we had not seen a formal legal response,did not mean that we were not seeingthe governance, or the regulation of teenage sexting,

    • 02:20

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: and in particular consensual teenage sexting,and in particular consensual teenage sexting thatwas deemed by the Supreme Court of Canada as constitutional.So I wanted to examine these child protection responses--also which doubled as a crime prevention responses--to see how this adolescent expression was being policed.

    • 02:41

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: So I set out to examine the Center for Child Protection'skey anti-sexting initiative.And in particular, I focused on the Respect Yourself campaign,to see how it was policing youth digital sexual expression.And this campaign was launched in 2009.It was aimed at teens who are 13 years and older.

    • 03:02

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: And it was designed to teach teens about the risksthat they faced when they send pictures, or videos, by e-mail,by instant message, or by posting them online.I was curious about how this campaign representedthe teens, represented teenage sexting, represented its risks,represented who was to be most targeted,

    • 03:24

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: and what they should do.And my method was to conduct a close analysisof the semiotic data, which is the textualand the visual representations of sextingand its risks in the Center for Child Protection's RespectYourself campaign.And I wanted to look at their motivations, the techniques

    • 03:46

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: that they used in this campaign, and alsoits potential consequences.And I found that this initiative constructed teenage sextingas an inherently risky, and the potential sourceof secondary sexual violence--so sexual assault, sexual exploitation--and not really something that can be healthy,or that is even constitutionally protected expression.

    • 04:08

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: I also discovered that the campaignwas targeting those who consensually created and sharedimages, rather than those who non-consensually redistributedthose images at a later point without the individual whotook the image, without their consent.And I was also very interested that the campaign targeted

    • 04:31

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: a very specific audience.Not only just conventional teenage sexters,but also in its imagery, in its narratives,it was very obvious it was targetingyoung, white, middle class heterosexualfemale would-be sexters.Individuals who would potentially sext in the future.And I found that the initiative's main message

    • 04:52

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: was that these girls ought to practice self respect, hencethe title of the campaign, which is Respect Yourself.And that this self-respect was framedas exhibiting self-control, self-censorship,and essentially abstinence from sexting.And I found that the initiative implicitly and explicitly

    • 05:15

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: implied that girls who create and share these imagesconsensually are not only responsible for preventingtheir own humiliation, but also for preventingthe criminalization of their peers.Presumably of the young teenage boyswho would not have shared their images non-consensually,had the teenage girl never created them to begin with.

    • 05:36

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: So there was this really interesting expansionof responsibilization.And essentially, responsibilizationis arguing that those who become victims of crimetake on some degree of responsibilityfor their victimization.So I had some questions.What are we to make of this focuson white, teenage, heterosexual girls

    • 06:01

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: who consensually created and distributed?What are we to make of the message of self-respect,and abstinence, and self-control?And essentially what I saw as practicesof slut shaming, which is somethingI'll talk about in a second.Why not focus on respecting one another?Or why not focus on those individuals

    • 06:25

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: who non-consensually redistributedthe images without consent?The makeup of the campaign is importantand these images are important.And here I draw on critical whiteness and cultural studiesscholar Richard Dyer, and he claimsthat racial imagery is central to the organizationof the modern world.The myriad, minute decisions that

    • 06:47

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: constitute the practices of our world are at every pointinformed by judgments about people's capacitiesand their worth.And how we represent the world feedsinto this sort of judgment process and understandingprocess.So in fact, the representations on this site and the narrativesactually contradicted the findings of sexting studies

    • 07:09

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: at the time and even today, whichfound that girls and boys sext at almost equal ratesto one another.So they were producing and sharing the images consensuallyat almost equal rate.And that the rates the sexting werethe same across white, racialized, and ethnic minorityyouth.I had to focus on understanding why target these girls?

    • 07:32

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: Why advocate abstinence from sextingfor this particular cohort?And what did respectability have to do with anythingand sort of try and make sense of the whole crimeprevention, child protection campaign through those lenses.So why is Respect Yourself campaign the main message?And what's very important to recognize,

    • 07:54

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: is that when you put this child protection, crime preventioncampaign in its historical, and its cultural,and it's political and legal context,we see that respect for yourself is very much linkedto your level of social and sexual respectabilityin society, and also in law.

    • 08:16

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: And so historically, and even today, the respectable woman,in particular, is the one who is deserving of protection.She's seen as a passive object who is deserving of protectionfrom exploitation.And while, in and of itself, cultivating self-respectis never a bad thing, it's a wonderful thingto respect ourselves.When this message is targeted to teenage girls, and particularly

    • 08:41

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: a very specific cohort of teenage girlsand not to teenage boys, and whenit's framed through the obligationto not express yourself sexually,to abstain from digital sexual expressionin order to manage the risks of humiliationand sexual exploitation, what this doesis it reproduces sexual double standards.

    • 09:03

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: And also racialized, classed, and heteronormative,and gendered ideas about who are respectablecitizens, respectable families deservingof cultural and legal protection.So sluts, quote unquote "sluts" havea long history of being blamed for their own victimization,so that victimization might be their humiliation

    • 09:24

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: amongst their peers.But also in court, in particular,when their claims are not recognized, or understood,or when the perpetrators of their sexual violenceget off of charges because they were deemedof poor social standing, or are not creditable because they

    • 09:46

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: were a sexual subject.So there are implications to being seenas not respectable in society.So why design a campaign in this way?There's some really tacit elementsthat are shaping this campaign, and that drive it.So maintaining status of good and bad sexual subjects

    • 10:10

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: are very important in order to maintain the status quo.And good girls who consensually create and shareimages, they are actually challenging the sexual statusquo, right?They are demanding some recognition of the factthat they are not passive sexual objects.They are, in fact, sexual subjects.

    • 10:32

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: They are sexual actors.And they are challenging the perspective that they,first of all, as young women, cannot be,or ought not to be sexual.And also they are challenging the perspectivethat they can be sexual and in fact that as sexual subject,they are also respectable and worthy of protectionwhen they say yes to their constitutional right

    • 10:54

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: to express themselves sexually.And of course when we are forced to recognize young women,in particularly young white women, but alsoyoung racialized women, as respectable for being sexual,or queer, or poor women for being sexual,and respectable, and worthy of protection from exploitation,

    • 11:18

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: this is a challenge to the hierarchies in our society.And so one of the least picked up upon aspects of my article,which I want to talk about briefly before I end this,is how I take up porn studies to helpus make sense of this focus on respectabilityand responsibilization.It's really important to understand these fears

    • 11:38

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: about girls becoming porn stars in light of what porn studiesscholars have said to us about how porn and sexual expressionchallenges the privileged identities and social positionsin society.This fear that these girls are going to be seen as,and in fact are going to become, porn stars.And that this is becoming of a porn star

    • 11:59

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: will subsume their identity as good daughters.And that in fact, it's going to mark themand their families, who are implicated in this narrative,as less respectable as less higher upin a privileged position in our society.And it has some concerns about the trashing

    • 12:21

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: of good white girls, right?Like they've become now white trash.And they've trashed their families,and these jewels of the family whowere symbolic of the representationof the good family, has now marred not only herself,but her family in the process.And that this, in fact, blurs boundaries racial

    • 12:43

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: respectability, racial purity, and also justmiddle-class gentility and respectability.And so porn studies helps us shed light on thisby exposing the anxieties that societyhas about the precocity of white privilege and social position.Studies of porn do in fact show that it actuallyhas a very important role in questioning

    • 13:05

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: repressive and pretentious assumptions about moralityand authority in society.And so girls who become triple X girls,and the fears about them becoming triple X girls,are in fact posing a threat to the blurring of the boundariesof race, and class, and normative ideasabout respectability and privilege.

    • 13:27

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: So in conclusion, in this articleI'm arguing that when considered as a whole in their historicalas well as contemporary social and legal contexts,these anti-sexting campaigns, theyreveal how child protection and crime preventioninitiatives often paradoxically sustain the very fears

    • 13:48

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: that they're trying work against.So in fact, when the fear is that these girls are goingto be sexual objects of exploitation by traffickingin messages of them being highly privileged sexual objects.In fact, these campaigns are reifying their status

    • 14:10

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: as sexual objects and making them all that much more sexyto be potentially exploited.And this of course maintains their worth.And in doing so, also reproduces categoriesof less worthy objects and subjects of victimization.

    • 14:32

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: And it also reveals some really interesting and importantthings about how we organize society,and also about the many gendered classed, raced,and heteronormative dimensions to howwe have shaped child protection, crime prevention campaigns,and in whose interest they act, and to what ends they fulfill.

    • 14:55

      LAURA KARAIAN [continued]: So hopefully that was a useful synopsisof this article for you.I hope you're able to read it and that youare able to take my findings and put them into conversationwith others and make more knowledge about this practiceof crime prevention, child protection,and teenage sexting.

Policing "Sexting"

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Abstract

Dr. Lara Karaian presents her research into the images, messages, and implications of a Canadian anti-sexting campaign. She shows that white, middle class, adolescent girls are targeted with a message of self-respect and abstinence from sexting. This targeting reveals a desire to maintain the sexual status quo that's being challenged by a growing sexual subjectivity in this population. Race, sexual identity, and class are also discussed.

Policing "Sexting"

Dr. Lara Karaian presents her research into the images, messages, and implications of a Canadian anti-sexting campaign. She shows that white, middle class, adolescent girls are targeted with a message of self-respect and abstinence from sexting. This targeting reveals a desire to maintain the sexual status quo that's being challenged by a growing sexual subjectivity in this population. Race, sexual identity, and class are also discussed.

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