Anthony Weiner pleads guilty to charge of so-called "sexting"

Former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge of "transferring obscene material to a minor."

According to the New York Times, prosecutors recommended Weiner serve 21 to 27 months in prison for a crime punishable by up to 10 years. Weiner's definitive sentence will come on Sept. 8. 

The Times also reported that he's required to register as a sex offender where he works and lives as part of his plea deal with a federal Manhattan attorney.

By entering a guilty plea, Weiner admitted to accusations of sexual misconduct spanning from January to March 2016, which alleged he sent sexually explicit texts to a 15-year-old girl.

Or, as most outlets have called it (Mic included), "sexting." 

However, in a case like Weiner's, it's less clear whether "sexting" is the best term to describe the practice of sending sexual text messages to a minor.

Weiner answers questions from reporters outside a Manhattan hotel in 2013 after his first sex scandal.Richard Drew/AP

If a person engages in an act of "nonconsensual sex," we understand it to be rape, since sex — by social and legal standards — must include consent. By the same token, if a person engages in an act of "nonconsensual sexting," it might be better called something else — like harassment or abuse.

When the 15-year-old who said she was on the receiving end of Weiner's messages spoke out about her experience, she referred to Weiner as her "abuser" and identified herself as both a "victim" and a "survivor" of his abuse.

In an interview with the Daily Mail in September, the girl said the 52-year-old sent her nude photos and pressured her to indulge his schoolgirl and rape fantasies. 

"I was scared," the teen told the outlet. "I felt bad for talking to [Weiner]. I felt a little guilty and I wrote [my dad] a letter telling him."

When she told Weiner that she'd told her dad and teacher about his messages, she said the former congressman tried to convince her to recant her story. 

"After I told my teacher about the relationship, [Weiner] wanted me to email my dad and my teacher and tell them that what I said was false," she said. "That the conversations were appropriate and were never inappropriate, and he was very helpful."

The Daily Mail reported the girl said she hesitated to press charges against Weiner because she believed "her relationship with Weiner was consensual." But if sex with a minor is statutory rape, "sexting" with one might be considered something similar. 

What the 15-year-old describes isn't "sexting" at all if we assume that sexting occurs between two consenting adults.