Letters to the editor Sept 11

Thinking about sexting

Anyone who has been watching The Hunting on SBS, a drama that highlights the "dangers" of sexting might be wondering, "why would anyone EVER send a nude"? For some of us (over a certain age) who didn't grow up in the digital era, the concept of sending what is described in the show as a "box shot" (a close-up photo of you know what!) seems completely absurd. For others who actually enjoy the fun and intimacy of consensually sending nudes, the show calls into question whether this practice is"right" or "wrong". What we do know is that over the years media has been notorious for demonising and sensationalising teens and sexting. In some ways, The Hunting adds fuel to that flame.

It is actually completely normal and healthy for young people to be thinking about and experimenting sexually. So if you add this to the fact that younger generations are increasingly expressing identity online, is it really so surprising that sexual expression happens there as well? Unfortunately, the skills to help young people navigate these issues ranges from sparse to non-existent. In our school systems, sexting is often presented to whole year level groups focusing on legal consequences. Let's think back to our few bright years of adolescence ... did abstinence messages ever change behaviour?

Behaviour is the critical force here, what is it and how do we change it? The show highlights a shocking example of misogyny, sexism and the objectification of women with the fictitious "our local sluts" website where boys non-consensually upload nude photos of girls. What we really need to be talking about with youth is concepts of masculinity, privacy rights, revenge porn, gaslighting, victim-blaming, as well as issues of consent, control and respect.

Young people learn by modelling and they need to enter this phase of their lives with solid practical knowledge that empowers them to make choices. What we see in this show, is an extreme example which is certainly not the norm. A 2015 study on sexting behaviours amongst youth actually found very little evidence of peer pressure or coercion. Rather, young people cited the practice as a consensual and an enjoyable part of their intimate relationships, without the extreme consequences that we see in this dramatisation.

What the show does well is highlights the frustration and lack of justice for women generally. The everyday ways we have to constantly protect and shield ourselves from sexual violence. It sends a loud message that it's time to stop blaming the sender of an image for trusting someone to respect their privacy. Building trust with someone is a wonderful, normal and very human quality.

We want our young people to learn how to have healthy respectful and loving relationships. What is not normal is violating a person's' trust by sending it on with the intention to humiliate or worse, uploading it to social media or a website. There is too often a moral panic around sexting. But do we need to talk about sexting? Or do we need to urgently focus on teaching our boys to respect women? Because porn, the media, even political leaders are constantly teaching them not to.

Fortunately sexting has now been decriminalised in NSW. This means young people between ages 16 and 18 who consensually share material cannot be charged under child pornography or child abuse material laws. This law is vital to protect our young people. While the show is highly engrossing it really sets some dangerous stereotypes about young people. Our youth are often a lot more intelligent and insightful than we give them credit for. What they need more of, is spaces to express thoughts and opinions and platforms that amplify their voices.

Eliza Zanuso, Bellingen

Finally a line in the sand

That saying sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me rings to mind. I won't be daunted. No one is bullet-proof but I do value credibility honesty and hard work, but confess to an occasional laugh by taking the mickey out on occasions.I did resent the assertion published recently (Courier-Sun, Aug 28) that I threatened someone with a chainsaw. A stupid prank, accepted as such. I have never committed a violent act on anyone.

Having always refrained from the personal in my letters to the editor, recent attacks on my character have tested my resolve, with many saying you must get personal. Tempting but to do, but it would bring me down to the same level. Name calling aside, but to read comments posted in this paper, such as those ridge-tops will be vaporised and already sediment has entered the Kalang without a drop of rain since roadwork have commenced beggars belief.

Then on a slightly lighter note, a raffle to help fund the crusade, the prize, yes, a load of firewood. One could cry or laugh at some of this stuff, and I have chosen to laugh. Meanwhile, as for taxpayer subsidies for Forestry Corp, every government organisation is subsidised by the poor old worker. But right here in our own backyard in both river catchments, how many private landholders have applied for and received public subsidies to remove weeds due to their own neglect. Generally no follow up, more weeds, more grants. Some worthwhile but hundreds of thousands blown away for no end product.

Always a bushie, a bit stone age, but my love of the bush and all its creatures is deeply embedded and more than most, I value our waterways. With a viable alternative, why cut another tree in both catchments, and move all those incredibly skilled workers in the industry into useless unproductive positions in the public arena?

Every single house in this shire sits on a plot that was once virgin forest and would contain timber from local forests. How easy to do a character assassination on a couple

of our true believers for blatant hypocrisy but would likely finish up with a tit-for-tat as no one has an unblemished slate.

But that refusal of many from the anti camp to converse with the other side often denies the environmental movement access to so much priceless knowledge. So much common ground to turn over and learn for both sides. I'm always the optimist but for better or worse for our freshwater catchments, the dairies and pigs are gone, not many beef cattle left and for the whole shire the timber industry is in decline. Much of the above is being replaced by regrowth on the ridges and weeds on the lower areas.

Darcey Browning, Thora

See also