How Does Taking Nekkid Photos of Yourself Make You a Sex Offender?

| Thu Mar. 26, 2009 2:27 PM EDT

Finally, some of the young folks being persecuted by prosecutors for taking scandalous cell phone photos of themselves are fighting back via lawsuits. But I don't understand the charge: Why is it illegal to take/send someone dirty pictures of you, whatever your age? Granted, I will break my kids arms if/when I catch them doing something so stupid—and I certainly wish young girls, especially, wouldn't disrespect themselves this way. But a crime, a sex crime? See if this makes sense to you. From the Times:

The picture that investigators from the office of District Attorney George P. Skumanick of Wyoming County had was taken two years earlier at a slumber party. It showed Marissa and a friend from the waist up. Both were wearing bras.

Mr. Skumanick said he considered the photo "provocative" enough to tell Marissa and the friend, Grace Kelly, that if they did not attend a 10-hour class dealing with pornography and sexual violence, he was considering filing a charge of sexual abuse of a minor against both girls. If convicted, they could serve time in prison and would probably have to register as sex offenders.

It was the same deal that 17 other students—13 girls and 4 boys—accepted by the end of February. All of them either been caught with a cellphone containing pictures of nude or seminude students, or were identified in one or more such photos.

I'm so confused: Who are the minors being sexually abused? Unless the photos were taken without the consent of the subject, I don't see the criminal justice issue. To this DA, possession of a dirty photo of yourself is a crime. To me, it's just really, really stupid.

I guess his heart's in the right place, but where'd he learn legal logic?

On the bright side, maybe this will help Joe Average understand how coercive the criminal justice system can be. These kids have the kind of parents who can wage lawsuits on their behalf; other kids go to jail for crimes they didn't commit, then live with a criminal record.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.