Girls and sexting: The missing story of sexual subjectivity in a sexualized and digitally-mediated world
Rice, C., & Watson, E. (2016). Girls and sexting: The missing story of sexual subjectivity in a sexualized and digitally-mediated world. In J. Coffey, S. Budgeon, & H. Cahill (Eds.), Learning bodies. perspectives on children and young people (Vol.2, pp. 141-156). New York, NY: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-0306-6_9
For girls coming of age in a sexualized and digitally-mediated culture, sexting is not uncommon. While self-sexualizing through technology tends to be framed as risk behavior, not all girls are affected in the same way. For some, creating sexualized content using digital media provides opportunities for sexual exploration. However, among feminist scholars, debates concerning girls’ sexual empowerment persist. Many argue that despite professed empowerment, girls’ participation in creating sexually-explicit material reinforces gender/sexual scripts borne out of a male gaze. Others contend that self-sexualization may be necessary for girls’ sexuality development in a world that magnifies concerns over female sexuality and circumscribes its expression. Missing from debates is consideration of girls’ embodied sexual experiences, including theorization of sexual pleasure as a holistic force that merges body, mind and culture. Using feminist new materialist and embodiment theory, this chapter unpacks dominant narratives shaping girls’ sexualities and presents an alternate conceptualization of sexuality as an emergent force that materializes through the interactivity of biology, psyche, and society. Applying an intersectional lens that reveals how “the girl” in this discourse operates as an unmarked (white, heteronormative) category, we argue for the need to focus on diversely-located experiences of sexual pleasure, including sexting and self-sexualizing generally, as stepping stones to sexual empowerment in a digitally-mediated, sexist climate.