An Evaluation of the Argument of Amy Hasinoff in the Article Teenage Sexting is Not Child Porn

On April 4, 2016, The New York Times published op-ed contributor Amy Hasinoff’s article titled “Teenage Sexting Is Not Child Porn”. Her thesis is that teenagers who sext consensually, should not be charged for child porn. Amy Hasinoff is an assistant professor of Communication at the University of Colorado and is the author of “Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy and Consent.

Laws were passed decades ago that were meant to apply to adults who exploited children. However they now put consensual teenage sexters at risk of being charged with distributing or possessing child pornography. Amy Hasinoff stated that most prosecutors do not use these laws against consensual teenage sexters but some do, which leads to her article about her disagreement with these laws. She argues her point by giving examples of a few states that have tried to solve the legal problems and are considering new sexting laws.

Hasinoff also suggests a better solution which would be to bring child pornography laws in line with statutory rape laws. In Hasinoff’s article she refers to a statement made by New Mexico’s State Senator George Munoz when he said “Our laws have to change with technology” to which she replied “to keep up with those changes the first step is to decriminalize consensual sexting by creating exceptions in child pornography laws for teenagers who are close in age”. Her reasoning can be broken down like this:

We cannot prevent sexting (criminalized or not). 1/3 of 16 and 17 year olds share suggestive images. These laws were meant to apply to adults who exploit children. C: Sexting should not be considered child porn. Hasinoff argues that because of these reasons sexting should not be considered child pornography.

Let’s evaluate Hasinoff’s argument. The argument is inductive because she is trying to prove that the laws originally created for adults should not apply to teenagers based on the premises. Premise (1) is true. Sexting will continue to happen whether it is criminalized or not. Premise (2) is true, according to studies that have been done in the past one out of three sixteen and seventeen year olds share these types of images.

Hasinoff talks about how in the past, partners wrote love letters, sent suggestive Polaroids and had phone sex (For better or worse, this kind of interpersonal sexual communication now occurs in a digital format). Premise (3) is also true. These laws were meant to protect children from adults who exploited them by use of pictures and videos.

However, despite the fact that the premises of the argument are true, the argument is weak. Amy Hasinoff’s arguments are not strong enough. Just because we cannot prevent sexting does not mean that it should be allowed. If that was the case we should just make smoking legal for people under 18 because they will do it anyway.

Amy Hasinoff also makes it seem that since 1/3 of 16 and 17 year olds sext then that makes it okay for everyone else to do it. She also said these laws were originally meant to apply to adults who exploit children however, that does not mean that they should not apply to teenagers if they are exploiting themselves by sending pictures whether it is consensual or not. Since Hasinoff’s argument is weak it is therefore uncogent and unpersuasive.

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