‘Let’s Get Sexting’: Risk, Power, Sex and Criminalisation in the Moral Domain


This article explores the criminalisation and governance of sexting among young people. While the focus is on Australian jurisdictions, the article places debates and anxieties about sexting and young people in a broader analysis around concerns about new technologies, child sexual abuse, and the risks associated with childhood sexuality. The article argues that these broader social, cultural and moral anxieties have created an environment where rational debate and policy making around teen sexting has been rendered almost impossible. Not only has the voice of young people themselves been silenced in the public, political and media discourse about sexting, but any understanding about the differing behaviours and subsequent harms that constitute teen sexting has been lost. All the while, sexting has been rendered a pleasurable if somewhat risky pastime in an adult cultural context lending weight to the argument that teen sexting is often a subterranean expression of activities that are broadly accepted. The article concludes that the current approaches to regulating teen sexting, along with the emergence of sexting as a legitimate adult activity, may have had the perverse consequence of making teen sexting an even more attractive teenage risk taking activity.
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Published: 2013-04-30
Pages:35 to 49
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How to Cite
Lee, M., Crofts, T., Salter, M., Milivojevic, S. and McGovern, A. (2013) “‘Let’s Get Sexting’: Risk, Power, Sex and Criminalisation in the Moral Domain”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 2(1), pp. 35-49. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v2i1.89.

Author Biographies

The University of Sydney

Associate Professor, School of Law

Associate Professor Thomas Crofts is Director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology. He is a graduate of University College London (LL.B.), the Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg, Germany (LL.M.) and the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/O., Germany (Dr. iur.). Prior to Sydney University Associate Professor Crofts taught Law at Murdoch University (2000–2010), the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) (1995–1999) and the Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg (1993–1995). He has held visiting appointments at the Universities of Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham and Western Australia.

His research in criminal law, criminology and criminal justice centres on criminalisation and criminal responsibility, exploring why and how behaviours are defined by, and governed through, criminal law. Within this broad field his interests are the criminal responsibility of, and for, children, comparative criminal law, criminal law reform and the relevance and role of labelling (particularly relating to homicide and sex work). He has published in English and German in these fields in national and international journals. In 2011 he was awarded the Australia and New Zealand Society of Criminology‘s inaugural Adam Sutton Crime Prevention Award. Currently, he is conducting research funded by the Australian Institute of Criminology into young people’s perceptions of ‘sexting’.

Associate Professor Crofts’ teaching interests are criminal law, criminology and criminal justice. At Sydney he teaches Criminology and Criminal Law. He has taught ‘Homicide’ in the LLM programme in Criminal Law & Criminal Justice at the University of Birmingham and in the Master of Criminal Justice Programme at the Crime Research Centre of the University of Western Australia (Criminology, Criminal Law and Public Policy; Administration of Sentences; and Theories of Punishment and Principles of Sentencing). Associate Professor Crofts has been awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award from Teaching Excellence in 2002 and 2009.
University of Western Sydney

Lecturer in Criminology,

Sociology and Criminology (SoSSP)

University of New South Wales
Lecturer in Criminology, School of Social Sciences
University of New South Wales

Senior Lecturer,

School of Social Science