Recently, national and local media across North America have warned against the risks of 'sexting'-the practice of sending, posting or possessing sexually suggestive text messages and images via cell phones or the Internet. In response to this phenomenon, Pennsylvania District Attorney Skumanick threatened to bring child pornography charges against teenagers who had been caught sexting and who refused to attend a gender-based 're-education' program designed to teach them about its dangers. Three girls refused the ultimatum, resulting in Miller v. Mitchell [2010], the first case to challenge the constitutionality of prosecuting teens for their digital sexual expression. This article critically considers dominant and intersecting cultural and legal narratives about sexting and troubles the predominant construction of teenage female sexters as dupes of the 'pornification' of a generation and as 'self-sexually exploiting.' The cultural and legal disavowal of girls' narratives about digital sexual expression is considered through Judith Butler's poststructural analysis of sexuality, speech and censorship. Drawing on two online studies of sexting, contributions to an online forum on the topic, and third-wave feminist writings on a generational re-envisioning of risk, respectability and privacy, I argue that that the foreclosure of the 'domain of the sayable' within which girls seek to speak works paradoxically to further render them fetishized sexual objects, thus engendering the very harm that criminal law seeks to remedy.

Additional Metadata
Keywords 'sexting', censorship, child pornography, digital sexual expression, teenage girls' sexual subjectivity
Persistent URL
Journal Crime, Media, Culture
Karaian, L. (2012). Lolita speaks: 'Sexting,' teenage girls and the law. Crime, Media, Culture (Vol. 8, pp. 57–73). doi:10.1177/1741659011429868