LOS ANGELES —
That nonconsensual distribution could be fueling the perception that teen girls are sexting more aggressively than boys. A 2009 Pew report on sexting among American teens didn't register a statistical divide in sexting behaviors among boys and girls, but it did record teen-agers' perceptions of a gender rift. "This is common only for girls with 'slut' reputations. They do it to attract attention," one boy told Pew. "Sexting's not common, but it does happen because girls want everyone to know they 'look good,' " said another.
And then there's the female perspective: "If a guy wants to hook up with you, he'll send a pictures of his private parts or a naked picture of him[self]. It happens about 10 times a month."
When girls sext, they're accused of publicizing their sexuality to attract attention; when boys do it, they're assumed to be courting a sex partner one on one. That double standard persists even though, according to the study, boys were almost twice as likely as girls to publicly post their own nude photos online.
All of this should make the high school rethink its approach to dealing with sexting at school. Punishing 10 girls for a schoolwide phenomenon only reinforces the idea that girls who sext should be publicly shamed, while boys who sext — and share — are empowered to keep their selfies safely in their pockets.
If the school really wants to mitigate the damaging consequences of sexting, it ought to crack down on nonconsensual forwarders, not self-exploratory photographers. Take the case of the sole boy who's been caught up in the school's sexting scandal: He stands accused of "masturbating on his family's cat and on a relative's toothbrush, videotaping that relative brushing his teeth and sending the images to friends." He now faces a felony for "disseminating sexually explicit material to minors," but the activity he filmed was not a sext — it was an assault.