The In­ter­net pornog­ra­phy pan­demic

Hacked pho­tos re­veal the pro­lif­er­a­tion of sex­ual ex­ploita­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Donna Rice-Hughes

In her re­cent in­ter­view with Van­ity Fair, ac­tress Jen­nifer Lawrence ad­dresses her emo­tions fol­low­ing the widely pub­li­cized hack of her and sev­eral other ac­tresses’ iCloud ac­counts, in which pri­vately taken nude photograph­s were posted on the In­ter­net, say­ing, “It’s not a scan­dal; it is a sex crime.”

Miss Lawrence also states she tried to write an apol­ogy when news of the hack broke, but ex­presses she didn’t re­gret tak­ing the pho­tos, as it was in the con­text of a “loving, healthy, great re­la­tion­ship” of four years that of­ten took place over long dis­tance; “Ei­ther your boyfriend is go­ing to look at porn, or he’s go­ing to look at you.”

Though we can­not (nor should we) know the full con­text of Lawrence’s re­la­tion­ship, the as­sump­tion that one’s boyfriend would turn to pornog­ra­phy in the ab­sence of his ro­man­tic part­ner speaks to how nor­mal­ized view­ing this ma­te­rial has be­come to­day. Fur­ther­more, the In­ter­net pro­lif­er­a­tion of pri­vate pho­tos has in­creas­ingly be­come a tool to shame, threaten and black­mail women, as in the nu­mer­ous in­stances of “re­venge porn.”

This re­veals ex­treme pornog­ra­phy’s true func­tion — as in­her­ently ex­ploita­tive and ul­ti­mately dam­ag­ing to healthy re­la­tion­ships, es­pe­cially when en­coun­tered by chil­dren and teenagers, who haven’t yet learned what a healthy and re­spect­ful sex­ual re­la­tion­ship looks like. In­creas­ingly, In­ter­net pornog­ra­phy is made up of ex­treme and of­ten de­viant ma­te­rial, the majority of which is pros­e­cutable un­der cur­rent fed­eral ob­scen­ity laws. Ex­po­sure to such images shapes at­ti­tudes and val­ues and, of­ten, ac­tions — some­times nor­mal­iz­ing be­hav­iors that were once con­sid­ered taboo.

Ad­di­tion­ally, we can­not know what drove “7th Heaven” star Stephen Collins to al­legedly molest sev­eral un­der­age girls, or the nu­mer­ous other pub­lic fig­ures who have been ei­ther ac­cused or con­firmed to have in­ap­pro­pri­ately in­ter­acted with mi­nors. Still, ex­treme In­ter­net pornog­ra­phy’s in­flu­ence in the lives of men, women — and trag­i­cally, chil­dren — can­not be de­nied. The Depart­ment of Jus­tice re­ports that “on­line com­mu­ni­ties have pro­moted com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween child- pornog­ra­phy of­fend­ers, both nor­mal­iz­ing their in­ter­est in chil­dren and de­sen­si­tiz­ing them to the phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal da­m­ages in­flicted on child vic­tims.”

A Google Trends anal­y­sis in­di­cates searches for “teen porn” have more than tripled be­tween 2005 and 2013. The in­dus­try prac­tice of cross-mar­ket­ing ac­tual child porn and teen porn with adult ma­te­rial can lead men into in­ten­tion­ally or ac­ci­den­tally view­ing child pornog­ra­phy — as was re­cently and con­tro­ver­sially al­luded to by au­thor John Gr­isham.

When 98,000 Snapchat pho­tos were leaked, the web­site thes­nap­pen­ing.org (which has since been taken down) launched to al­low eas­ier view­ing of the pho­tos. Given Snapchat’s largely teen de­mo­graphic, th­ese pho­tos likely in­cluded child porn cre­ated by youths ex­chang­ing nude or sex­u­ally ex­plicit images of them­selves. Pos­si­ble con­se­quences of such “sex­ting” in­clude ex­ploita­tion by oth­ers, bul­ly­ing from their peers and crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion, as the cre­ation of child pornog­ra­phy con­sti­tutes a fed­eral of­fense. This be­hav­ior (which cur­rent statis­tics re­port oc­curs in one in five teens) can trace its roots di­rectly back to sex­u­ally ex­plicit pornog­ra­phy’s per­va­sive in­flu­ence on youth.

Peer-re­viewed re­search con­firms there is a so­cial cost to to­day’s ex­treme forms of In­ter­net pornog­ra­phy we can­not ig­nore. It harms chil­dren, fu­els vi­o­lence against women and leads to ad­dic­tion in both youth and adults. More­over, In­ter­net pornog­ra­phy, par­tic­u­larly of a de­viant and vi­o­lent na­ture, fu­els the de­mand for hu­man traffickin­g of sex slaves. In 2008, the In­ter­net Watch Foun­da­tion found a hor­ri­fy­ing 58 per­cent of In­ter­net child-abuse do­mains orig­i­nated in the United States, and the United Na­tions dis­cov­ered that be­tween 2007 and 2010, the per­cent­age of global child-traffickin­g vic­tims had risen to nearly one-third.

Sadly, de­spite the best ef­forts of par­ents and car­ing adults, we can­not com­pletely pro­tect our­selves and our loved ones in a cul­ture that per­mits child pornog­ra­phy and ob­scene con­tent, nei­ther of which are pro­tected un­der the First Amend­ment, to flour­ish. Ag­gres­sive law en­force­ment of such fed­eral laws, com­bined with cer­tain rel­a­tively eas­ily im­ple­mented mea­sures, is nec­es­sary to ef­fec­tively curb the tsunami of ex­ploita­tive In­ter­net pornog­ra­phy.

While the In­ter­net has given us un­prece­dented ac­cess to knowl­edge, art and dif­fer­ent cul­tures, like pre­vi­ous new me­dia tech­nolo­gies, it has also been ex­ploited as a tool to harm oth­ers. Ac­cord­ing to fed­eral of­fi­cials, pub­lic Wi-Fi hot spots, such as those of­fered at McDon­ald’s, Star­bucks and other com­pa­nies in the United States, are at­tract­ing sex­ual preda­tors where child pornog­ra­phy can be ac­cessed with rel­a­tive anonymity. Th­ese hot spots have also be­come lo­cus points for the traffickin­g of child pornog­ra­phy and the sex­ual so­lic­i­ta­tion of chil­dren — se­ri­ous crim­i­nal felonies that are hard to stop be­cause of the anonymity of­fered by open Wi-Fi. In the United King­dom, McDon­ald’s and Star­bucks proac­tively fil­ter pornog­ra­phy from their pub­lic Wi-Fi ser­vices un­der an in­dus­try-wide self-reg­u­la­tion ini­tia­tive led by Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron.

Were sim­i­lar mea­sures im­ple­mented in the United States, it would be a win-win for fam­i­lies and the com­pa­nies’ re­spec­tive brands. It’s not about cen­sor­ship; it’s about cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity and good cor­po­rate cit­i­zen­ship. As a so­ci­ety mo­ti­vated to foster more re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ships, we must re­al­ize that ex­treme In­ter­net pornog­ra­phy and child pornog­ra­phy con­tinue to pro­mote the idea that no hu­man be­ing — no mat­ter how fa­mous — is im­mune from ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion, and that the ex­ploita­tion of images of one’s body can cre­ate shame and hu­mil­i­a­tion when re­moved from the proper con­text of love and af­fec­tion. It is our right and duty as con­cerned cit­i­zens to de­mand the chan­nels through which in­dig­nity, ex­ploita­tion and ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion flow be checked in or­der to speed the cul­ti­va­tion of a more hu­mane and com­pas­sion-driven world.

Donna Rice Hughes, CEO and pres­i­dent of Enough Is Enough, re­cently launched the Na­tional P*rn-Free Wi-Fi cam­paign (friend­ly­wifi.org).

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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