The Consequences of Making your Privates Public

Nancy Salvato – Sexting: When someone sends someone else a naked/nude pictures. Urban
Dictionary #14

An individual who hasn’t heard the news reports on Anthony Weiner by now
would have to be living under a rock. However, there may be large numbers
of people unaware of what may be considered an epidemic in what has become
known as sexting.

According to an article in Safety Web, Sexting 101
< > – Guide for Parents, “39%
of teens and 59% of young adults have sent or posted sexually suggestive
emails or text messages, and 20% of teens and 33% of young adults have
sent/posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves.” It doesn’t stop there,
“38% teens and 46% of young adults say it is common for nude or semi-nude
photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.”

This information might seem shocking, or it may not, depending on a person’s
personal value system. For a person with a religious derived moral value
system, sending a naked photo of one’s self might indicate impulsivity, a
moment of weakness, or lack of judgment because the potential consequences
for such an action may not be completely thought through and the action
violates a standard of behavior. Faced with such a decision, that person
might also take into consideration whether a family member would feel
ashamed or hurt if the act was publicly exposed (pardon the pun), whether
reputations could be damaged, or how it might feel if positions were
reversed, before acting out.

On the other hand, a moral relativist might gage an action by questioning
whether anyone will be physically hurt by a behavior, or if the behavior is
illegal. These are the standards by which to judge an action and if these
answers are negative, then such actions are likely irrelevant if made
public, unless the person is in the public eye and the exposure could damage
the public persona.

This notion of moral relativism is really at the heart of the Weiner scandal
because, in Anthony Weiner’s case (as described by Mr. Weiner), this
incident was consensual and between two adults. This distinction matters for
two reasons. First, there really is no difference between opening up your
raincoat and exposing your junk to a stranger and sending a nude photo of
your junk to a random recipient, if you really think about it. In both
situations, a person could be cited for public indecency. Second, there is
precedent in court decisions that have ruled to respect the privacy of what
one adult does with another consenting adult. Had a minor been involved in
this consensual act, the story might have a very different ending.

In The New York Times, Jan Hoffman writes, in A Girl
< > ‘s Nude Photo, and
Altered Lives, “Around the country, law enforcement officials and educators
are struggling with how to confront minors who sext.” When a teenager is
involved, the act could bring pornography charges. Though such charges are
probably over the top, at issue is the mixed message teenagers are given
about sex given these conflicting value systems. No matter how you slice
it, these two ways for organizing the way you see the world are at odds with
each other. Moral values are normally associated with religious doctrine
and relativism is usually associated with atheism. They are both legitimate
belief systems. And both belief systems are competing in the public sector
to influence or gain adherents.

Moral Relativists preach tolerance yet practice intolerance of those who do
not accept their beliefs. Those whose morality requires intimate sexual
acts take place between a man and a woman and that consensual sex should
take place within marriage are being forced to yield to a moral relativist
ideological agenda in the public domain. Moral relativism is encouraged
while moral values held by those practicing Judeo/Christian religions are
discouraged, painted as intolerant, prejudiced, or prudish. Though the 1st
Amendment says Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of, the moral relativist belief
system is gaining ground at the expense of Judeo/Christian derived moral
value system.

So, the issue is not whether Mr. Weiner committed an illegal act, it is
whether the act was morally reprehensible to enough constituents to ensure
his resignation or prevent his being elected for another term. If he wants
to take responsibility for his actions, as he claims, one has to ask,
responsibility for what and to whom? There is supposed to be a trust between
constituents and their elected officials. Mr. Weiner broke that trust, not
necessarily by texting, which was incredibly bad judgment on his part. It
was by lying about the incident, repeatedly. Is that the kind of person who
should be elected to office?

Out of the mouth of babes, a middle schooler who sexted a naked photo of
herself to her new boy friend, who in turn forwarded it to a former friend
of the girl, who then texted it to all her friends telling them to text it
to their friends if they agreed she was a whore, with the photo eventually
going viral, had the following advice, “if you are even considering doing
such a thing, ask yourself, ‘what are you thinking? It’s freaking stupid!’”

Generations of teenagers bombarded by sexual images, have been experimenting
with sexual behavior, with the understanding that if it’s not hurting anyone
or illegal, it’s okay. Instead, they are taught the practical consequences
of impulsive actions; AIDS, STDs, pregnancy. Many kids cannot reconcile
these two competing value systems and are not mature enough to navigate them
unscathed. To address the sexting epidemic, kids are being counseled that
forwarding a sext message to an unintended recipient is problematic on many
levels. At its foundation is the broken trust between a sender and the
initial recipient. But there are countless examples of people hurt by those
actions. Considering legislation that would address forwarding a sext to an
unintended recipient may take care of one problem but it doesn’t address the
larger culture war.

If moral relativism is taken to its logical conclusion, we will have
complete anarchy because anything goes and no one would have any right to
judge another’s behavior. The founders recognized that they could not
elevate one belief system over another and the US Constitution protects our
individual rights up to the point that they impose on another individual’s
rights, in order to maintain a balance of rights.

It is between Anthony Weiner and his constituents as to what happens next.
But someone who holds public office should have better judgment and maintain
the trust of his constituents.

Copyright C Nancy Salvato 2011

Nancy Salvato is the President and Director of Education and the
Constitutional Literacy Program for < > Basics
Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational
project whose mission is to re-introduce the American public to the basic
elements of our constitutional heritage while providing non-partisan,
fact-based information on relevant socio-political issues important to our
country. She also serves as a Senior Editor for The New Media Journal.

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June 8th, 2011

Nancy Salvato Contributor

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