A new ad campaign from Children of the Street Society, a BC-based charity that helps protect children from sexual abuse, focuses on the dangers of sexting. Currently there is only one ad, a video, which features a teenaged girl holding up signs in the same vein as the highly-publicized Amanda Todd video, as her image appears on a multitude of phone screens behind her. The message the campaign is attempting to spread is that even if you trust the person on the receiving end, sharing ‘sexy’ pictures is likely to end badly and others will see you at your most vulnerable; the accompanying tagline is: “There is no such thing as ‘just one photo.'”
So far there seems to be a clear target market, and that’s young women. The overlying opinion being that these girls are sharing such images because someone at the other end of some screen (be it phone or computer) is talking them into it, it may even be someone they trust. While the ad may not go so far as to be labeled “victim blaming,” there is something missing, which is the fact that young women may send provocative images of their own accord without the pleas of a significant other or the like. I know, I know, teenage girls want to look sexy for themselves and not just hordes of hormone-fueled boys? And sometimes they even want to commemorate their feeling sexy with a photo? Unheard of!
Though even with this newfound knowledge of female sexuality, what’s really missing here is the fact that teenagers aren’t going to stop sending naughty pictures anytime soon. We had it before the rise of smart phones and social media, and just as sex has never gone out of style, nor will the thrill of seeing and sending sexy pics. Social media has facilitated the process of sharing the ‘sexty’ images, but it is not these pictures in themselves that ruin lives and can lead to potentially fatal consequences, it’s how we all react to them — now’s a good time to insert the term “victim blaming,” actually.
What happens when these provacative images get out is a storm of she’s a slut, her life is over, and she knew what she was doing so she deserves what she gets. What if the ads against sexting focused on the mentality surrounding sext images? We are all sexual-beings, so why should images that we know weren’t supposed to be shared affect us so adversely? It is no secret when one sees these pics that they were intended for someone specific and that we are not that someone, but that’s no reason to bully the subject of the photos, or convince them that this, this one photo is the beginning of the end for them. Telling kids that there’s something else they’re not supposed to do won’t curb the dangers of sexting, because they’re still going to do it. What needs to adressed is the aftermath of a shared sext, not the initial act.
As this ad focuses on the fact that there is no “‘just one photo'” it is enforcing the idea that one slip-up of the sext variety could seriously alter and ultimately damage the rest of your life, and that’s the last thing teenagers in this virtually transparent society need to hear. There is going to be another slip-up with sexting, whether it is known to the general public or not, and what’s going to help the subject or victim is not reminding them that we’ve warned them against it before in some video ad, but ensuring them that this is not the be-all and end-all of the rest of their life.