Regulating youth sexuality, agency and citizenship: Developing a coherent criminal justice response to youth sexting

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Abstract

Currently the law in England and Wales means that young people who engage in mutually consensual teenage sexting may find that this activity has been recorded on their criminal record and may be disclosed in a way which impacts negatively upon the young person’s future opportunities even where no charges have been brought. This information can usually only be removed from the records in exceptional and rare cases. This article will argue that this paternalistic and moralistic approach towards mutually consensual teenage sexting overrides consideration of children’s rights to explore their sexuality by defining youth sexuality as inherently illegitimate and illegal. The strong preference for safeguarding the future adult the child will become undermines the recognition of children as rights holders right now, depriving the child of agency and voice. The legal response to sexting, and child exploitation more generally, needs to be informed by an understanding of youth sexualities that are more fully based in, and driven by, the realities of young people’s sexual lives. By recognising young people as holders of sexual rights and sexual citizenship, this would allow children’s voices to be heard in developing responses to expressions of their sexuality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-395
Number of pages27
JournalKing's Law Journal
Volume30
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2019

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