The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Don’t Do This, Ever

Posted on | September 5, 2015 | 100 Comments

So-called “sexting” is such a disastrously bad idea that I shouldn’t even have to explain why it’s a bad idea. Here is the thing: The “sexting” participant provides his or her partner with evidence — a permanent digital record of text messages and images — that the partner can then use as he or she pleases. Any young woman who sends nude selfies to a guy can just presume that he will immediately show the photos to all his friends. They always do. That’s why guys ask for nude photos from girls, in order to display them to their buddies as trophies. Any guy who asks for a nude photo is a creep, and any girl who sends a nude photo is a fool. The fact that we now have laws against so-called “revenge porn” (i.e., the unauthorized distribution of nude photos and/or videos, typically as revenge against an ex-girlfriend) does not change the reality that only a fool would ever send a nude photo of herself to a guy, and it is not “victim-blaming” to say so, no matter what any feminist tries to tell you.

“But Stacy, all the kids are doing it!”

No, they are not, and that kind of peer-pressure excuse is part of the problem. Responsible adults do not endorse foolish behavior simply because it is common behavior, and “sexting” is foolish behavior. Even if you did want to engage in reckless promiscuity, it would be foolish to create a permanent digital record of such behavior. Trust me when I say that my kids have been sternly warned to avoid doing this, and to avoid associating with anyone who does it, because nothing good can ever result from it. (See also, “Hit-It-and-Quit-It on Tinder.”) Unfortunately, other parents have not perceived this danger and have not warned their children, thus leading young people into predictably disastrous results:

Later this month, a North Carolina high school student will appear in a state court and face five child pornography-related charges for engaging in consensual sexting with his girlfriend.
What’s strange is that of the five charges he faces, four of them are for taking and possessing nude photos of himself on his own phone — the final charge is for possessing one nude photo his girlfriend took for him. There is no evidence of coercion or further distribution of the images anywhere beyond the two teenagers’ phones.
Similarly, the young woman was originally charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor — but was listed on her warrant for arrest as both perpetrator and victim. The case illustrates a bizarre legal quandry that has resulted in state law being far behind technology and unable to distinguish between predatory child pornography and innocent (if ill-advised) behavior of teenagers.
On July 21, 2015, the young woman took a plea deal whereby the felony charges were dropped, but she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, which will be expunged after she completes a year of probation. Over the next 11 months, she is not allowed to possess a cell phone, among other restrictions.

Professor Glenn Reynolds comments: “They’re too young to consent to naked pictures, but not too young to have their lives ruined for doing so.” Such is the libertarian reaction, but this is one of those instances (like the Kaitlyn Hunt case) where my social conservative impulse overrides every other concern. At first glance, the prosecution of teenagers for such behavior may seem unnecessarily draconian, yet we have to consider the alternative. What would be the consequences of a libertarian laissez-faire attitude toward minors producing what is, as a matter of law, illegal child pornography?

The laws against child pornography proscribe it in every manner — production, distribution, possession — and therefore, under existing law, the minor who takes nude selfies must be regarded as having committed a crime (production). Another crime (distribution) is committed when the minor transmits the nude selfies to anyone else, and the recipient of such a photo commits a crime (possession) the minute he or she views or downloads the illegal image.

In an age where digital photographic technology is ubiquitous, should minors themselves be exempt from prosecution under these laws? If you answer “yes” to that question, then you are saying that illegal images of your young son or daughter could be circulating online — every kid in school could see this stuff — and no crime has been committed unless an adult gains access to these images. No. We don’t want that.

A pornographic image of anyone under 18 is forever illegal. We may call this the “Traci Lords Rule,” in honor of a once-famous porn performer who lied about her age and started doing nude modeling when she was only 15, appearing in her first porn video at 16:

After being featured in the September 1984 issue of Penthouse magazine, Lords appeared in dozens of illegal videos between 1984 and 1986, and became one of the most sought-after pornstars of the era. In May 1986, when authorities discovered she had been underage while making all but one of her pornographic films, distributors were ordered to remove all her material to avoid the risk of prosecution for trafficking in child pornography. The withdrawal of her films cost millions of dollars and her case became the biggest scandal to affect the adult film industry.

No one at Penthouse knew Traci Lords was a minor, a student at Redondo Beach High School, when that pictorial launched her to porn stardom. Yet anyone today could conceivably be prosecuted for possession of child pornography if they have a copy of that 1984 magazine or an old VHS tape of any of the films Traci Lords made as a minor. It is contraband, like heroin, and no one can legally possess contraband. We return, then, to the case in North Carolina, where 16-year-olds are prosecuted as adults for having exchanged illegal images while “sexting.” Certainly, we may agree that these teenagers are “too young to have their lives ruined,” as Professor Reynolds says, but what is the alternative? What would be the consequences if law enforcement took a laissez-faire stance toward such behavior?

Any responsible adult must shudder to think of the conditions that might prevail if this behavior became normalized among high-school kids, because we know it would not stop there. If you give 16-year-olds a get-out-of-jail-free card for this stuff, how will you draw the line when the 15- and 14-year-olds do it? Next thing you know, the middle-school kids will be sending each other pornographic selfies, and there will be no feasible way to draw the line at all.

“But Stacy, all the kids are doing it!”

No, they are not — but even if it were that common, the law is still the law, crime is still crime, and evidence is still evidence.

Adults who grew up before this kind of digital technology existed may be tempted to think of stuff they did as teenagers that was illegal (or simply embarrassing in hindsight) and thus, in their mind, deserving of leniency. Be that as it may, there is no evidence of how much dope you smoked in 1976 or what you did with your girlfriend in 1986. Until quite recently, people didn’t have access to the kind of technology to produce digital evidence of everything they did, yet now such technology is everywhere, including your kid’s cellphone or laptop or tablet. Consider how these two North Carolina teenagers came to the attention of law enforcement:

The Fayetteville girl, Brianna Denson, was sexting with her boyfriend, Cormega Zyon Copening, the Sheriff’s Office said. The agency hit Copening with five sexual exploitation of a minor charges — four for making and possessing two sexually explicit pictures of himself and the last for possessing a copy of the picture that Denson made for him. . . .
The charges have already forced [Copening] off the football team at Jack Britt High School. He had been the quarterback. . . .
The Sheriff’s Office investigates sexting incidents several times a month, [Cumberland County Sheriff Ronnie] Mitchell estimated. “More frequently than we would like,” he said.
The investigations usually are into instances in which photos are shared among a group instead of just within a couple, he said. To his knowledge, Denson’s and Copening’s pictures weren’t shared with anyone else. He said they were discovered during an investigation of other explicit photos that were being shared among teens without the consent of the person or persons pictured.

It would appear that Copening and his high-school buddies were sharing around whatever nude photos of girls they had obtained and, when this activity came to the attention of authorities, the investigation led police to search Copening’s phone, a search that led to the discovery of Denson’s photos — illegal images, which any adult would be imprisoned for possessing — as well as “sexually explicit pictures of himself,” which are likewise illegal. District Attorney Billy West told the Fayetteville Observer that “in cases where the defendants and victims were willing participants and close in age, his office typically lets them plead guilty to a misdemeanor with a deferred prosecution.” Denson took the plea, and thus avoided “the life-ruining requirement that she register as a sex offender,” whereas it seems Copening is willing to risk a jury trial.


It’s for your own good. Yeah, I know, it seems unfair. “Everybody’s doing it” and “boys will be boys,” but this does not negate the evidence — the unmistakable digital proof — right there on your cell phone, evidence you were too foolish to think of as evidence, and you are the one responsible for that foolishness.

Stupid is as stupid does. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.



100 Responses to “Don’t Do This, Ever”

  1. Finrod Felagund
    September 6th, 2015 @ 1:43 am

    We have a juvenile justice system for a reason. These kids should have been prosecuted in it, not as adults. If the law says otherwise, it should be changed.

  2. Finrod Felagund
    September 6th, 2015 @ 1:44 am

    Indeed. I don’t think these kid should be being prosecuted for felonies, but I still can’t agree with the leftist derps.

  3. Finrod Felagund
    September 6th, 2015 @ 1:45 am

    So make it a felony for adults, then. I still don’t see why the juvenile justice system is not being used for this.

  4. Finrod Felagund
    September 6th, 2015 @ 1:46 am

    I regret that I have but one upvote to give this comment. Well said.

  5. Finrod Felagund
    September 6th, 2015 @ 1:49 am

    Sorry, but I downvote anyone who calls libertarians ‘libertines’.

  6. AlteredStates
    September 6th, 2015 @ 1:58 am

    Hahahahaha! Are you completely insane, or what? Yes, teaching kids about reproduction, and sexuality is “perverts grooming them for sex”! You’ve got some twisted outlook on sexuality, buddy. Get help for that, asap.

  7. Jason Lee
    September 6th, 2015 @ 2:01 am

    I think this kid — a QB of the local football team who has adult sexual relationships and publishes his exploits — is likely a kid in the same way that St. Michael Brown of Ferguson was a “kid”. If you’re a 17-year-old virgin who spends your evenings with the chess club and the National Honor Society, you get to play the kid card. The dude in this news story is hardly living the life of a “kid”.

  8. Jason Lee
    September 6th, 2015 @ 2:04 am

    I don’t know whether that guy claims to be a libertarian or not, but “libertine” and “libertarian” are not mutually exclusive terms.

  9. Daniel Freeman
    September 6th, 2015 @ 2:31 am

    About which part?

  10. Daniel Freeman
    September 6th, 2015 @ 2:51 am

    You have some catching up to do. Try putting this into a Google search: “sex education”

  11. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 4:36 am

    But yet Hills can commit any number of actual, real felonies, and nobody who is in a position to, does a damn thing. And no one will let out a peep when her name shows up on the 2016 ballot, assuming we even have a 2016 election, which we won’t.(*)

    Three Felonies a Day? Hillary commits three felonies in her sleep every night.

    (*) Although in fairness, so many horrible things will be happening then that nobody will give a rip.

  12. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 4:42 am

    With all due respect, I don’t see how you can know that.

    Honestly, I myself noted the uhhhh….mmmm….errr…*situations* of the minors in question, and made some ASSumptions, but in fairness, that’s all they are, until I start hearing things like “gentle giant”, “Skittles” and “iced tea”. : )

  13. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 4:55 am

    I don’t think we should have distribution of nudie (what these were) OR sex pics (what these weren’t) at all. I think ALL porn should be illegal, even soft porn. And…I’m sorry to say this…but any NSFW pics…including…*gulp*…Rule 5…would also cross the line.

    Know why? Because porn is addictive, just as much as crack, and just as much as alcohol, and just as much as Krispy Kreme doughnuts (which, unlike the others, should never be illegal!)

    Before you start getting upset about age restrictions, remember that the Virgin Mary was 14 when she had Jesus, and God didn’t think there was anything weird about that. Recall that Mary was engaged to Joseph already, which means she was as good as married, but without the sex, as per the usual Jewish wedding paradigm (I wrote an article describing that here, so she was prepared to actually be formally wed to him and have sex with him at 14 (and he was in his 40s). I know this seems creepy in our culture now, but we can’t say that marriage and sex at 14 is “wrong”. Because it evidently isn’t. It certainly is not a sin.

    Just sayin’.

  14. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 5:19 am

    I think you already know this, but the parts I took exception to.

    What’s really trippin’ me out is that a dude in Oregon is more rigid about this than a heavily armed, constantly PO’d, Southern, potential killing machine. Hahahahaha!

    Mostly I think that the cops should’ve done what cops traditionally did, which is to rip them kids a new one, put the fear of God in them, and then the parents should be left to remove their privileges and restrict them for the next 45 years. Plus give them a good 5 hours a day of chores to do, on account of embarassing their family. That’ll take their damn minds off nudie pictures, quick, fast and in a hurry.

    And no costs associated with the (in)justice system that way. Just good, old-fashioned discipline.

    But see, I’m 56, and I vividly recall the sound of daddy’s belt clearing belt loops before the ass whoopin’ started. Something tells me these brats don’t know that sound at all. And my kids would tell you, I carried a wooden spoon in my purse with me, and I could whip it out at the speed of light and start smackin’ recalcitrant kids all over their bodies if need be. They’d be dancin’ like a Mexican to gunfire in a spaghetti western. 😀 Yep, those were the days.

  15. Jason Lee
    September 6th, 2015 @ 5:41 am

    You’re right. I don’t know. But if I had to bet the farm on whether this dude is just a sweet little man who’s basically a boy scout except for the fact that he likes sexting with his dear soulmate, I’d bet against the loverboy’s nearly perfect innocence. As a local football star, he’s likely been on a long leash for a long time and practically gotten away with murder a thousand times already. I know…I’m profiling…and I denounce myself.

  16. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 5:59 am

    I have no problem with profiling. We all do it every day, and we’re idiots if we don’t. But I think the real “tell” would be Brianna, not the dude. Dudes are dudes. And I don’t personally know enough to do that, nor honestly, do I care to. I got more important crap to do in my life. I’m just sayin’. We oughta acknowledge ASSumptions for what they are.

    Cripes, they’re teenagers. Are any of them perfectly innocent? Is anybody? I personally try not to judge, but you know, sometimes you can’t help it.

  17. Jason Lee
    September 6th, 2015 @ 5:59 am

    My great great grandmother, Ruth Deen, was 14 when she got married and started cranking out babies, so the concept is not entirely foreign to me. I don’t remember her because she died 6 years before I was born, but stories percolated down through her daughter, my great grandmother, who was still alive 5 years ago.

    I owe my very existence to teen sex, and that issue hits a lot closer to home than my great great grandmother, IYKWIMAITYD.

    So you won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t think that teens always should be thrown in jail for having sex, but I think that drawing a legal line with (self) publication of jailbait sex pics and sex videos is quite sensible.

  18. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 6:11 am

    I can dig it, but by the same token, as I frequently say, idiots gonna be idiots. Crap, if I got busted for all the stupid stuff I did as a teenager, I’d have a life sentence. Please…….deny that it’s the same with you, I need a good laugh. 😀

    You know, it’s like “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” These particular idiots seemed pretty discrete, for idiots. But if they did it again, throw the damn book at ’em, I say. Meanwhile, scare the hell out of them, and leave the punishment to the parents. This time. Doncha think every teenage idiot deserves a second chance? Crap, the dude already got chucked off the football team. That’s pretty brutal at that age. If I’d have gotten chucked off the (pre-lesbian takeover) softball team for the stuff I’d done, I’d have freaked right out. My life would’ve been over. [sighs dramatically]

  19. Jason Lee
    September 6th, 2015 @ 6:24 am

    I was mightily determined to learn from my parents’ exemplary what-not-to-do teenage years, so I was straight as an arrow. Probably to a fault.

    On second chances…sure. But as I noted above local football stars get second chances. And third and 15th and 50th ones. So I think it’s highly unlikely that the aforementioned horndog got busted on his “first chance.”

    But I could be wrong. I’m assuming.

  20. Jason Lee
    September 6th, 2015 @ 6:27 am
  21. theoldsargesays
    September 6th, 2015 @ 7:03 am

    Sorry, but I feel the need to correct you about schools not being okay with white male college students having sex.
    I think we all know that schools are fine with white male college students having sex as long as it’s only with other white male college students .

  22. badanov
    September 6th, 2015 @ 7:47 am

    There is a solution to sending and receiving text messages which may contain pr0n. 1) Get the phone company to block all texts incoming and outgoing. 2) Get the phone company to shut down the email address they use for texting. The texting system phone companies use is just a small scale, souped up email server. They all use standard email, so this should be easy. Not sure what protocol they use to transfer the email messages from their server to your phone, but if they have a firewall software, you should be able to block it there as well.

  23. Dana
    September 6th, 2015 @ 7:59 am

    But it turned out to not be a totally victimless crime, in that the images were shared beyond the boyfriend and girlfriend.

  24. Dana
    September 6th, 2015 @ 8:02 am

    The consequences, even if the “sexters” get away with it legally, can be disastrous; we’ve heard of several cases in which a young person, almost always a woman, was starting her career and working her way up the corporate ladder, when some other employee found the revenge porn pictures of her on the internet, and those pictures were used to discredit her position and authority in her budding career. It’s kind of difficult for the department manager to survive having her minions chuckling over the pictures of her with a dick in her mouth.

  25. Dana
    September 6th, 2015 @ 8:04 am

    The problem is that discretion is being applied; it simply wasn’t applied in the manner in which you would have applied it.

  26. Dana
    September 6th, 2015 @ 8:06 am

    Of course “these brats don’t know that sound at all,” because if Daddy applies said discipline these days, he’s going to jail.

  27. From Around the Blogroll | The First Street Journal.
    September 6th, 2015 @ 8:13 am

    […] Robert Stacey Stacy McCain on The Other McCain: Don’t Do This, Ever. […]

  28. RKae
    September 6th, 2015 @ 10:23 am

    Making any part of underage porn legal is a far worse mess than the seemingly odd act of prosecuting a kid for possessing pictures of himself.

    If it’s legal for a teenager to have those photos, but not an adult, then what happens when he becomes an adult and they’re still on his phone?

    If it’s legal for him to possess those pictures, then why wouldn’t it be legal for him to sell those pictures to interested buyers? (Isn’t that the great big libertarian notion? “If it’s legal to do, why isn’t it legal to make money doing it?”)

    As for the commonality of it: Why is it too much to ask that we explain quite forcefully to kids “Such and such a thing is illegal; do not do it ever”? If they can be made to understand that stealing is illegal, why can’t we make them understand that teen sexting is illegal?

  29. RKae
    September 6th, 2015 @ 10:37 am

    HOWEVER, in a culture like that a 14-year-old is ready to accept the responsibility. People in the past were ready to start their lives at that age. When life is simple, it’s pretty easy to be in your lifetime vocation at a very early age.

    If we lived in an age where a 14-year-old could own a home, purchase transportation, and have a lifetime vocation, then I’d agree that a 14-year-old could have sex.

    But the complexities of modern home-ownership, and the shift from ox-carts to automobiles has made life far too impossible for the simple life.

    If you trust a 14-year-old to have sex, then you have to trust that 14-year-old with the abortion/life decision.

  30. RS
    September 6th, 2015 @ 11:48 am

    If they can be made to understand that stealing is illegal, why can’t we make them understand that teen sexting is illegal?

    Because, as I point out above, society is sending mixed messages. Kids are being indoctrinated to believe that they have right to engage in all manner of sexual activity without consequence; that their parents are old Christo-fascists who wish to harsh their mellow and prevent them from becoming “self-actualized;” that sex is separate and distinct from marriage and children; that it is purely recreational. Is it any wonder then, that any cautionary advice to the contrary is ignored? Dan Savage and his ilk will gladly malign Christians and advocate “fisting” and such at high school assemblies and gleefully write columns about it and be praised by all the “right thinking” people. Of course, he’s nowhere to be found when one of these kids has his/her life ruined.

  31. Quartermaster
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:01 pm

    If Copening rejects the deal, he’s being very poorly advised, or he is simply being stupid.

  32. RKae
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:02 pm

    Well, it’s not like he’s shown much good judgment in his life so far.

  33. RKae
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:04 pm

    Exactly. Our culture is constantly telling children they have rights and never telling them they have responsibilities.

  34. Quartermaster
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

    OK. Since you need a good laugh, “I deny it.”

    Hope that helps. 🙂

  35. RKae
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:13 pm

    Sorry. I pretty much give anyone an automatic “fail!” for trying to compare today’s porn to the 1970s.

    It’s absurd. It’s like saying a firecracker is the same as an atom bomb.

    A polaroid is just that: A polaroid; one single item. Easy to get your hands on and destroy. No negative. No copies. It would take thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours to reproduce it and mail it to everyone in school.

    To call it the same and to think we can apply 1970s thinking to today’s situation is to say that computers, smart phones and the internet have had no effect on society. Then what was the point in making them?

    You say “Good flippin lord” as if this whole thing is patently silly… and yet you compare this to “a Playboy magazine found in the back seat”?

  36. Quartermaster
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

    Alas, too many “libertarians” are libertines.

  37. Quartermaster
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:23 pm

    Of course they are serious. Unlike certain people, they are aware of where this leads if not dealt with. Their “narrow views” are far better than having a mind so open the geese can wander through.

  38. Quartermaster
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:26 pm

    It would be better if it were. I have no idea why the General Assembly did not include specific crimes rather than a blanket age as they did. The General Assembly is at fault on this one.

  39. Steve Skubinna
    September 6th, 2015 @ 12:33 pm

    Having just retired from nearly 33 years Federal service, I can tell you plenty of stories about people who ran afoul of that. You can get hired with a felony in your record, depending on circumstances, but if you do not disclose it you’ll find yourself back outside so fast it makes your eyes water.

    I specifically recall one guy about fifteen years ago who hadn’t bothered to report a felony from his juvenile years. I asked him why, he said “they” told him they sealed his juvenile record when he turned 18. I told him “these are the Feds you’re dealing with. There’s no such thing as a ‘sealed record’ where they’re concerned.”

  40. darleenclick
    September 6th, 2015 @ 1:18 pm

    It isn’t silly, it is serious in what I find is a complete lack of judgement from the ostensible adults in charge. Are they there to try and effect a behavioral change? A scared straight or they out for scalps to pad their stats??

    This uncalled-for over-reaction is the stuff of Zero Tolerance mentality that expells children for chewing their pop-tart into the shape of a gun or drawing a space gun or demanding a little girl leave her Wonder Woman lunch box at home.

    This should have been handled strictly through the juvie system NOT ADULT COURT.

  41. darleenclick
    September 6th, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

    The two minors were in a dating relationship and their exchange of the images was consensual.

    In many states, age of consent of sex is 18. If these two had been caught in the backseat of the car having sex in lover’s lane, are you advocating (cuz LAW!) that both be charged with statutory rape/illegal sex with minor in adult court with possible sex offenders registration in the offing as penalty?

    Or would you rather it handled through juvie court?

  42. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 2:29 pm

    Come to think of it, I wouldn’t even trust a testing, video game addicted 14 yo with my ox cart.

  43. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

    More’s the pity for the undisciplined brats.

  44. DeadMessenger
    September 6th, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

    I stand corrected. 😀

  45. darleenclick
    September 6th, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

    Nudity = pr0n? How much? Implied nudity?

    Zero Tolerance means relinquishing responsibility to make a considered judgement.

  46. Wombat_socho
    September 6th, 2015 @ 5:10 pm

    And you’re out of here.

  47. Daniel Freeman
    September 6th, 2015 @ 6:39 pm

    That is basically how it was handled in the Astoria case I referred to, IIRC.

  48. Matthew W
    September 7th, 2015 @ 10:45 am

    My 12 year old daughter has an Iphone and an IPod.
    I control the apple account that goes with it.

  49. Lamprotatia
    September 7th, 2015 @ 9:18 pm

    I know…not the point…but I have to ask:


  50. Objectified by the Male Gaze : The Other McCain
    September 12th, 2015 @ 10:18 pm

    […] was an attempt to “score.” In that case, for reasons I’ve explained elsewhere (“Don’t Do This, Ever”), Mr. Carter-Silk is a damned fool. Using digital communication (texts, emails, social media) to […]