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so I was lying on my couch tonight
the TV was on, nothing good
just a movie on MTV with Tommy Lee Jones
about how even fighting aliens wasn't enough
to make him forget the fact that he had once loved a woman
and then lost her.

and one of the commercials showed a naked woman
in front of high school gym bleachers
her nudity was blurred out
but you pretty much got the idea,
or at least I did.

and this woman was wondering aloud whether it was okay
for her boyfriend--she had a boyfriend, I guess
to ask her to take a naked picture of herself and send it to him
even though she didn't really want to do that.
see, apparently, he had promised to keep it to himself.
and, apparently, the slogan at the end of the 30-second spot
just didn't really believe him.

the idea of the commercial, I guess,
was that her boyfriend might give the naked picture to everyone in the school,
and that it was important for all girls to know
how there is a thin line between a boy being trustworthy
and that boy ruining her life.

the more we know, right?
tonight I learned that sexting is bad
because men are assholes who can't be trusted
not to humiliate women at the first opportunity.

and I was thinking how this was a pretty timely commercial--
you know, for MTV--because lately there have been some
people in the news with a similar story,
one that I'm pretty sure is true
because it appeared in the Threat Level blog on wired.com.

you see, it seems that an 18-year-old girl in Ohio
sent a naked picture of herself to her boyfriend
(she had a boyfriend, I guess)
just before they broke up
and he sent it on to some other friends of his
not too many were named in the lawsuit,
so it was probably just the rest of his 5.

and it seems that these friends of his redistributed the image
among their friends and her classmates,
you know, as tends to happen with this kind of thing.

and so it seems, according to the Threat Level blog,
which is about issues of security, in this the digital age,
that the girl went to the police and the school,
and asked them to stop teenagers
from trafficking in HOT NAKED PICS OF 18 YEAR OLD SLUTS
because this time, she was the 18-year-old in the HOT NAKED PICS,
and she didn't want to be there.

the police couldn't stop them,
and the school couldn't stop them,
and soon it seemed like pretty much everyone in the school
had seen her HOT NAKED PICS,
and they started calling her names, names with words
like WHORE
like SLUT
like SKANK
(according to the Threat Level blog on wired.com)
because they had learned that
these are the things you call 18-year-old girls
when you see them in HOT NAKED PICS.

so the girl, humiliated and frustrated and betrayed and helpless
to make people stop seeing her as one of the girls
the girl, it seems, she killed herself.

the story goes on, according to Threat Level on wired.com.
the blog links to a PDF copy of a lawsuit,
filed by the girl's parents,
against the boyfriend,
and the rest of his 5,
and the school district,
and the police,
and the city,
for spreading around the HOT NAKED PICS OF 18 YEAR OLD SLUTS that--
said the Threat Level blog on wired.com--
"... caused their 18-year-old daughter Jessica,
their only child,
severe emotional distress,
which led her to kill herself in July 2008,
a month after graduating from high school."
the lawsuit, the Threat Level blog on wired.com goes on to say,
seeks unspecified damages
and aims to force the school district to amend
its policies and procedures.

and so maybe the commercial I saw tonight was aimed at girls like Jessica,
who don't realize that when they send naked pictures to their boyfriends,
those pictures might become HOT NAKED PICS OF 18 YEAR OLD SLUTS,
at least in the eye of the beholder.

and I guess that's a good commercial,
a cautionary tale, about unexpected consequences,
and about trust,
and about the way that the Internet
sometimes carries us places that we don't want to go,
especially for 18 year old girls
who trust their boyfriends with intimate pictures.

and maybe it was the fact that the movie was at one of its slow points,
where Tommy Lee Jones was remembering the love he lost,
instead of killing big aliens with his tiny gun,
but I found my mind lingering on the lawsuit,
on the unspecified damages,
and the demanded amendments
to policies and procedures,
which was filed by a lawyer
on behalf of parents
who think that you should be able to stop kids from passing around
at least when the 18 YEAR OLD SLUT is your daughter
and she doesn't think it's funny.

and I wonder if the law that these parents
think that everyone broke--
the boyfriend,
and the rest of his 5,
and the school district,
and the police
and the city--
was a different law than the one
when they, the parents, were kids
that their own classmates had broken
with techniques older than digital photography
like kissing and telling
like word of mouth
like vicious gossip
like lies
like stolen underwear
and notes scrawled on the door
of the last stall in the girls bathroom.

maybe laws were broken, I don't really know
maybe things can change, I don't really know
and the commercial was right, I guess,
because some men really are assholes
who can't be trusted not to humiliate women
at the first opportunity.

maybe we can really stop that humiliation,
and maybe we can really stop teenagers
from wanting to look at
and maybe we can stop news outlets
like the Examiner
and NBC
and the Associated Press
and the Threat Level blog at wired.com
from sensationalizing stories like this one,
which is about an 18-year-old girl
who died thinking that probably everybody she knew
thought of her using words
like WHORE
like SLUT
like SKANK

and maybe this lawsuit can help all that to stop,
because really, what do I know
about human nature
and the possibility that maybe the technologies which helped the world
see a Sea of Green in Iran get Brutally Suppressed by a Corrupt Theocracy
in spite of that Corrupt Theocracy's best efforts to Suppress it in Secrecy
are the same technologies that we also use to pass around
who all just happen to be somebody's daughter.

but I do know that even if this lawsuit
can never accomplish these things
we need to let it proceed
because grief needs somewhere to go
and lawyers need to eat
and because we wouldn't be a free society
if we stopped these lawyers
from eating off grieving parents
any more than we would be a free society
if we stopped those teenagers
from passing around
like Jessica, who is survived by her parents
who lost their only child
and who I hope might someday come to regret
that they raised their girl
their only child
to believe that suicide
would make us stop laughing at her.

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