One of my pet hates is shock-jock media, whether it be radio or television. All those self-congratulatory windbags who host the programs, and who, in a bid to beef up their ratings, will say something daft or ignorant in a blatant attempt to generate controversy and get them some free publicity on other media as well as their own.
Normally I try and ignore them as much as possible, but when it’s something to do with the sex industry, or sexual attitudes, my antennae does pick up on what’s being said. So it was a couple of weeks back when the nations airwaves screeched with the sounds of Neil Mitchell, Derryn Hinch, Alan Jones et al, expressing horror at the craze amongst teens and others of “Sexting”. Now, for those of you who’ve never heard the word, it’s short for “sexy texting” and basically refers to the practice of SMSing naughty photos of yourself to someone else – usually a boyfriend or girlfriend.
What the shock jocks couldn’t believe was the fact that people all the way from their early teens onwards were doing this. “This is illegal” some of them screamed. “Charge them” railed others. I just sat there listening and shaking my head, because it was all so predictable.
In June 2005, I wrote an editorial on a slightly different subject, but where I also raised the likelihood of this happening, and its consequences. The editorial talked about the fact that anyone aged 16 or 17 could have sex in Australia with almost anyone of their choosing, but if they took a photo of themselves in action, the law considered them guilty of making child porn. I wasn’t advocating that it should or shouldn’t be called child porn. I just thought there should be uniformity in the law between the age at which you can have sex and the age at which you can take photographs of yourself having sex. I still do. At the same time though, I also wrote (and these are my exact words) that the law “threatens to make criminals of people such as teenage girls who take photos of their body parts with their phone cameras, and SMS the photo to their boyfriends”.
Now I’m certainly not Nostradamus – so if it was easy for me to figure out over three years ago that this would happen, how come nobody else in the media worked it out till now? For the entire history of mankind, the population of this planet has used every communication system we’ve created, to also make porn. It’s a matter of historical record that the roman emperor Tiberius had an impressive collection of porn images on papyrus. Roman temples had flying penises carved into them – they’re still there today! Indian temples have incredibly explicit carvings of sex on them. Every invention used to facilitate human communication, be it books, magazines, paintings, phones, satellites, TV, video, computers or rock carvings, has also been used to display or distribute sexual images. And for all the centuries that those things have happened, teenagers have been exploring their sexuality when they hit adolescence.
And so here we are in the 21st century and none of the people who govern you, or who try to shape your opinions via the mass media had managed to work out before now that if you combined video and pictures with a mobile phone (the one item that every teenage kid nearly always has by their side), that they’d use it for sexual exploration.
And now this bunch of muppets who couldn’t predict sunshine on a cloudless day, are running around like chickens with their heads chopped off acting like it’s the end of the world. I’m certainly not advocating that people ignore the fact that their kids might be doing this, but instead of just tut-tutting about it, or threatening some kind of over-the-top legal action, it might just make a little more sense to overcome any embarrassment you have, and talk to them like adults.
As I said earlier, it’s my personal opinion that if you’re old enough to have sex legally, then the law shouldn’t be trying to make a criminal of you if you happen to take a photo of the event for your personal use, but there’s certainly no harm in letting your kids know that it might not be a bright idea and could come back to bite them in the future if the photos are spread around amongst other people, especially those who might have a vendetta against them.