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The Fear of Child SexualityYoung People, Sex, and Agency$
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Steven Angelides

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226648460

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226648774.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 January 2022



(p.157) Seven Sexting
The Fear of Child Sexuality

Steven Angelides

University of Chicago Press

In recent years Western societies have seen an explosion of anxiety about teenage sexting. Legislators have been racing to draft laws that keep pace with advances in new technologies for the exchange of sexually explicit material. However, in the absence of specific sexting laws, prosecutors have sometimes responded by charging teenagers with child pornography, sexual harassment, and indecency offenses. This chapter examines several recent criminal sexting cases and educational literature in the United States and Australia. Two broad arguments are made. First, the sexting panic is a displaced conversation about teenage sexual agency with explicit and less explicit strategies. On one hand is the manifest objective of regulating adolescent agency, and on another are the latent strategies of avoiding the complex realities of teenage agency and enacting a normative and homogenous figure of the immature and inept adolescent. Second, emotional tropes of fear and shame have been mobilized in the service of these strategies. The discussion concludes by probing the issue of shame’s entanglement with child sexuality in order to tease out one of the more distasteful aspects of the sexting panic: there is a great deal of embarrassment of, contempt for, and aggression against, “transgressive” sexual children.

Keywords:   sexting, child pornography, teenagers, sexual agency, shame, contempt

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