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Blurred Lines? Responding to ‘Sexting’ and Gender-based Violence among Young People

  • Anastasia Powell (a1) and Nicola Henry (a2)

The emerging phenomenon of youth ‘sexting’ presents a range of unique legal, policy and educative challenges. In this article we consider four key issues in recent responses to youth sexting behaviours: (1) the definitional dilemmas surrounding the term ‘sexting’; (2) the inadequacy of existing legislative frameworks for responding to these behaviours; (3) the problematic messages conveyed in anti-sexting campaigns; and (4) the relative silence around gender-based violence in non-consensual and abusive encounters. We argue that the non-consensual creation and distribution of sexual images has largely been framed in public debates as a problem of youth naiveté, with the effect of censuring young women's ‘risky’ sexual behaviour, and leaving unproblematised gender-based violence. We suggest that more nuanced understandings of sexting that distinguishes between the consensual and non-consensual creation and distribution of sexual images must inform legal, policy and education-based prevention responses to the misuse of new technologies.

Corresponding author
address for correspondence: Dr Anastasia Powell, Lecturer, Justice and Legal Studies, RMIT University, Building 37, Level 4, 411 Swanston Street, Melbourne, VIC. 3000, Australia. E-mail:
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Children Australia
  • ISSN: 1035-0772
  • EISSN: 2049-7776
  • URL: /core/journals/children-australia
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