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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Sexting and New Media

Amy Hasinoff’s interests lie at the intersection of gender, sexuality, new media, and popular culture. Her forthcoming book on sexting investigates how people respond to sexting across mass mediated, legal, and educational settings. “People often think that the best way to approach sexting is to simply discourage it and advise teenagers to abstain from sexting,” says Hasinoff. “However, if we do that we’re missing out on an important conversation about our expectations and rights to privacy.”

Based on her study of a range of sources such as television news, talk shows, newspaper articles, press releases, legal proceedings, and legislative and parliamentary hearings and debates, Hasinoff believes that the many of the current responses to sexting are ineffective. “Since teen sexting can be legally classified as child pornography if it’s explicit enough, legal and educational authorities often blame and even prosecute teens who sext, but at the same time they often pay little attention to people who maliciously distribute private images without permission,” Hasinoff explains. She argues that given the amount of information we share on social media platforms, privacy protections are more important than ever.

“I’m fascinated with how new media is positioned as both the cause of and solution to a range of social problems, and with the implications of those ideas,” Hasinoff says. “In my New Media class we discuss the importance of our beliefs about new media. How we think about new communications technologies has a significant impact on the way we use and regulate these devices,” Hasinoff says. “For example, we’re often told that ‘privacy is dead’ and that ‘information wants to be free,’ but these assumptions about information online are as much the result of ideology as they are about the nature of digital media.”

In both her research and teaching, Hasinoff brings a focus on social justice issues to the topic of social media, particularly as it relates to gender and sexuality. “While many users may not be concerned about media companies like Facebook selling their personal information to advertisers, for others privacy violations could have significant impacts. Consider a person who’s closeted at work or a someone trying to avoid an abusive ex-partner—in these situations privacy can be a serious personal safety issue.”

Hasinoff also writes about representations of gender, race, and sexuality in popular culture. Her article on race in America’s Next Top Model appears in Critical Studies in Media and Communication, and her work on the new TV show Masters of Sex is published in the online journal Flow. For more information on Hasinoff’s research, visit her website: