Overview: This article reviews current laws in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that protect minors or chaste individuals from receiving unsolicited messages or images from adults.
“Crimes against chastity, morality, decency and good order.”
Massachusetts has Chapter 272; but in the new age of sexual predators are current laws protecting young people's chastity?
Wait. I write a blog on teaching about sex? Isn't this topic counterintuitive?
Well, actually, no.
If a young person creates a profile on any number of websites and doesn't fully grasp privacy settings they could easily fall victim to a barrage of unsolicited contact.
Even adults see it happen. A message comes through on Facebook; You are given the opportunity to decide to answer it. In that time a person can choose to read it or ignore it. But people can send lewd messages in that message, and even if the young person chooses not to accept future messages the “damage” is done. The content in the message can not be unseen. What recourse does a parent have in this case? Their young person comes to them, shows them the message and what? They block the user. But is there legal recourse in the Commonwealth?
The video link above was produced by a software company that creates a program to protect young people from this kind of messaging. In no way am I supporting the use of their product, but do find their message poignant.
Chapter 272 - Laws of Protection
What coverage is there under today’s laws to protect against someone looking to engage in sexualized conversations, either on the phone or via text with a minor child?
Section 28: Matter harmful to minors, dissemination; possession; defenses
Section 29: Dissemination or possession of obscene matter; punishment; defense
The laws above could cover a child from being sent solicited or unsolicited images of an adult of a sexual nature.
Definitions listed in Section 31 make it more unclear if texting or messaging would fall under the definition of produce & distribute. If they do not it may be hard to have parents request that law enforcement attempt to apprehend people that send lewd content to young people.
Teen to Teen Sexting
What schools currently use to dissuade students from sexting each other:
Posing a Child in a State of Nudity or Sexual Conduct
Mass. Gen. Laws ch 272-29A: Anyone who knowingly, with lascivious intent, hires, coerces, solicits, entices, uses, encourages or knowingly permits a person under 18 years of age- male or female- to pose or be shown in a state of nudity (or semi-nudity) for the purpose of representation or reproduction in any visual material. Using your cell phone to encourage a person, including a friend who is under 18 to photograph themselves nude or photograph body parts sexual in nature is illegal.
Dissemination of Pictures of a Child in a State of Nudity or Sexual Conduct
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272-29B: Anyone who, with lascivious intent, knowingly sends out or disseminates pictures of a person under 18 (1) in a state of nudity (or semi-nudity) or (2) engaged in a sexual act. This statute extends to a 16 year old boy or girl who photographs themselves and sends the picture through email or via cell phone violates the law.
Possession of Child Pornography
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272-29C: Anyone who knowingly has purchased or possessed pornography (in any format), which depicts a person under the age of 18 (or reasonably should have known) posed with a lewd exhibition of genitals, buttocks, and breasts or engaged in an actual or simulated sexual act. This includes photographs of another person’s exposed genitals on your cell phone or computer.
The laws above cover only when a young person is in the images. None of the above laws protect a young person from being sent images of an adult.
Laws That Don’t Protect Chastity
Laws that do not seem to protect a child from being sent solicited or unsolicited images of an adult or lewd conversations from an adult.
Section 2: Enticing away person for prostitution or sexual intercourse.
Section 4: Inducing person under eighteen to have sexual intercourse
Section 4A: Inducing minor into prostitution
Section 16: Open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior
Section 29A: Posing or exhibiting child in state of nudity or sexual conduct; punishment
Section 29B: Dissemination of visual material of child in state of nudity or sexual conduct; punishment
Section 29C: Knowing purchase or possession of visual material of child depicted in sexual conduct; punishment
Section 30D: Dissemination of visual material of child in state of nudity or sexual conduct; injunction; jurisdiction
Section 35A: Unnatural and lascivious acts with child under 16
Section 53A: Engaging in sexual conduct for a fee; engaging in sexual conduct with child under age 18 for a fee; penalties
Section 105: Photographing, videotaping or electronically surveilling partially nude or nude person or the sexual or other intimate parts of a person around the person's clothing; exceptions; punishment
The current laws used to control sexting does not protect a minor from receiving lewd images from adults from what I can tell. So is it okay for someone to contact a 11, 13, or 15 year old- send them sexual messages and images of their penis? Well if person sending the photos is over 18 and not requesting images back of the minor child you might be hard pressed to get a case against them based on my reading of the law.