Knowledge and Resource Hub
21 January 2019

Beyond criminalisation and responsibilisation: Sexting, gender and young people

This article discusses sexting and the legal responses occurring in Australia. The authors argued that the  gendered dimensions of sexting are often overlooked in education campaigns that position girls and young women in ways that responsibilise them to reduce their own risk of victimisation. The authors discussed relevant research and argued that efforts to prevent or intervene in the harms from sexting should consider the broader sociocultural role of digital and online technology in coercive control and dating abuse and also avoid a simplistic focus on making potential victims responsible for their experience. They maintain that most debates on sexting are focused on the  harms of criminalisation, and the harms associated with sexting. Also educational material aimed at raising young people’s awareness of sexting harms has maintained a strong focus on gender and relationships; but the material arguably positions girls as the main agents in prevention responsible for protecting themselves. The authors argued that in the public debate around sexting the role of online and digital technology in relationship coercion has been largely absent. This focus is particularly important as  the evidence highlights that relational abuse and violence often begins in adolescence.