*There is a young man in North Carolina who apparently has a future in magic. This is because he can pull off the illusion of being a child and an adult at the same time.
Usually this sort of duplicity is the result of a teenager trying to convince someone they’re older – and eventually being shut down.
But Cormega Copening has achieved the feat of being recognized by the state of North Carolina as being a child and an adult.
The downside to this amazing ability is that the specific part of North Carolina that sees Copening this way is the state’s criminal justice system that is currently prosecuting him for taking naked pictures of himself while he was 16 (a child). But in North Carolina individuals who are 16 can be charged as an adult; hence the duplicity.
There are a number of issues in play here but really only one that should be addressed.
There is the fact that Copening is a person of color and is being charged as an adult for acting in a way common to people in his age bracket. Some might point to this and speak about the inequity of experience between black and white people. But the female Copening sent the pictures to is also African American. She has since agreed to a plea bargain and has avoided jail time. Presumably Copening could have pursued the same course of action so I’m not sure the main take away should be that he was charged as an adult or more generally the way black people are treated by the criminal justice system.
The other issue is the general anxious attitude that people in positions of influence have regarding the sexual activities of teenagers. At some point folks will start to realize that teens are attracted to each other and will act on those attractions. This realization would help states like North Carolina avoid having to prosecute cases like Copening’s because those in charge would accept sexual activity between consenting teenagers the same as between consenting adults. There still should be scrutiny given to sexual partners where one is 17 and the other is 37 because of the age difference. But we waste time and resources as a society when we take interest in how two 17 year-olds flirt with each other. Fortunately many people have come around on this issue. Enough so that most states have written their laws to allow for teenage relationships to be sexual without criminalizing the behavior of those involved.
No, the real issue here is that while there are some uncomfortable feelings around teenage sexuality in general, there are outright antagonistic feelings about sexting (sending nude pictures as messages to someone’s phone). The use of technology in the realm of sex and relationships has not been smiled upon. Using dating websites is seen by many as invalid in comparison to meeting someone through friends or family or work.
Sexting is seen as something young and immature people do now but something that they’ll regret later. To be sure there is the reality that once an image is in cyberspace it can never be completely eliminated from the World Wide Web. But to say that people will regret something and then act nasty toward them to ensure they regret it is disingenuous; and that is how society treats sexting. Copening is seeing this first hand. Because society looks down at sexting he is being held accountable in a way that he would not be if he and his girlfriend spoke about their body parts over the phone.
Because sexting is held in such low esteem, the state of North Carolina is asking the public to agree to the following: Two adults have consensual sex – okay. Two teens have consensual sex – okay. Two adults send naked pictures of themselves to each other – okay. Two teens send naked pictures of themselves to each other – felony.
This case is about how society feels about this new form of flirting, this new aspect of sexuality. And society needs to get over it.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.