The proliferation of internet pornography in the last 10 years has become an insidious force for personal depravity and addiction and the tip of the iceberg of a multi-billion dollar sex industry, which is enmeshed with paedophilia, human trafficking and organised crime.
Pornography is even more ubiquitous than that other much-revered drug, alcohol, which can be obtained cheaply at any corner liquor store or supermarket. For access to pornography you don’t even need to leave the house. Your drug of choice is just one click away on your computer day and night.
With the spread of broadband internet in the last decade, there is an escalation of availability, perceived anonymity and affordability.
Abrupt magazine reports that a survey by Nielsen Online found that nine million British men had viewed online pornography in 2006 compared with two million in 2000.
‘Sex’ is the most searched word on the internet while 12 per cent of all websites, 25 per cent of all search engine requests and 35 per cent of all downloads are pornographic.
Hollywood releases 11,000 adult movies per year; 20 times more than mainstream movies. Adult bookstores in the US outnumber McDonalds three to one.
Worldwide pornography sales are reported to be $57 billion annually. Porn is big business.
Are we just being prudish about pornography? Is porn merely harmless pleasure or is it causing the worst kind of human damage and misery?
An Issue of Harm
Human sexuality is easily manipulated. Such is the malleability of our biological system, arousal can be associated with any number of fetishes or perversions. It is just as easy for the human brain to link arousal with a five year old child as it is be turned on by a feather or a shoe.
Brain activity during orgasm resembles a shot of heroin. The sexual pleasure stimulated by screen images is addictive. Cravings are caused by the hormone dopamine.
Individuals watching porn combine it with masturbation to orgasm, which triggers a release of dopamine, giving a feeling of wellbeing and setting up a link between porn and feeling ‘good’. If exposure to pornography starts young, the association with pleasure is hard-wired and feels normal.
However a porn user will also be racked with confusion, inner conflict and self-loathing when feelings of fear and shame surface. Resolving this sense of dopamine-induced wellbeing with a guilty conscience is a source of torment.
Alarmingly, one third of British teens are now learning about sex from porn and embracing the degrading images as normal sexuality and forming a value system about relationships based on sleaze.
The Effect on Men
When boys and men are stimulated by the fantasy images of porn stars, they mentally substitute these comical book images for real women, making them dissatisfied with their girlfriends and wives and expecting them to perform porn tricks.
Exposure to porn takes the mystery and intimacy out of real-life sexual experiences between committed loving partners. Sensual tenderness and heartfelt passion in the flesh can not compete with the tantalising, illicit thrills of cyber world.
Feminist writer Naomi Wolf says orgasm is the ultimate Pavlovian conditioning reward and what gives someone an orgasm will reinforce human behaviour.
While the majority of men who view porn might not abuse women (although some do) they are absorbing the misogynous myths that pornography peddles. And much hardcore porn depicts children, endorsing and encouraging paedophilia and the acting out of sexual abuse of infants and children. A vast array of sexual perversions to suit all tastes and flaunt all taboos is also widely available courtesy of the internet.
Women View Porn Too
More and more girls and women are viewing internet porn too, perhaps with a misguided sense of liberation and equality. So now ‘liberated’ women can degrade themselves as much as men!
When women secretly view porn, they feed their shame and dissatisfaction with their ordinary-looking husbands and form the idea they must become whores in bed. And the education is starting young.
Pornography has started to influence young teenage girls to believe that the sexual tricks of porn stars are normal. In a disturbing article published in The Times, August 5, 2009, Janice Turner writes: “More than 25,000 users of Bebo, the social networking site, use “slut” in their usernames.” Many of the users are as young as 13.
Lap dancing has become a legitimate career aspiration for girls along with dreams of becoming a famous celebrity, being snapped by paparazzi as they stagger out of nightclubs, paralytic and dishevelled.
Sex is not to be saved in the old-fashioned way as something meaningful, even sacred, for marriage but reduced to a manipulative game for trapping boyfriends. Impressionable young minds can not distinguish between the fantasy world of porn and real life. Girls want to please their boyfriends by allowing them to ejaculate in their mouth, have anal sex and engage in group sex and same-sex.
Turner writes: “Girls pride themselves on how well they give head and handjobs, such as the singer Kelis, whose ‘milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.’ And anal sex, that Act 4 of every porn movie, which gives little pleasure and often much pain, is now firmly in the sexual repertoire of many 16-year-old girls.”
An insidious message has crept into our bedrooms. Love-making is no longer a mutual exchange of sensual pleasure between a committed couple, but circus tricks performed by a compliant female mimicking a lusty porn star in acting out male masturbation fantasies.
The fashion industry has also been enlisted to dress girls and woman as tarts in skimpy boob-flashing tops, skin tight jeans, micro mini skirts, raunchy lingerie and exposed thongs, excessive make-up, crass jewellery and killer heels.
Even pre-teen girls, aged eight to 13, called ‘Tweens’, are pressured by new fashions to look slutty to appeal to sick male fantasies. A little girl’s natural instinct to flirt to attract Daddy’s attention, affection and admiration is being commercially hijacked and sexualised.
Turner uses the term ‘pornification’ to describe the invasion of porn culture into our everyday lives. This movement is a massive step backwards for feminism, every bit as oppressive as shrouding women in heavy black robes and veils.
If widespread personal degradation is the effect on our culture in the developed world, the impact of pornification in poor countries is far worse.
Exploitation of the Poor
The website Do Something reports facts about human trafficking. It is estimates there are approximately 27 million slaves around the world. The average cost of a slave around the world in $90.
Trafficking primarily involves exploitation including forcing victims into prostitution and compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography. Up to 80 per cent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation.
Around half of trafficking victims in the world are under the age of 18. More than two thirds of sex trafficked children suffer additional abuse at the hands of their traffickers.
Trafficked children are significantly more likely to develop mental health problems, abuse substances, engage in prostitution as adults, and either commit or be victimised by violent crimes later in life.
Women who have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation experience a significantly higher rate of HIV and other STDs, tuberculosis, and permanent damage to their reproductive systems.
Global Angels is a fundraising charity founded by Molly Bedingfield. The website reports that 8.4 million children work as slave labourers, child sex slaves or soldiers worldwide. 1.2 million children are kidnapped, sold or smuggled each year. These trafficked children may end up on the other side of the world, working in sweatshops to make cheap clothing, in underground mines to salvage precious stones for jewellery, picking the cocoa and coffee beans to feed Western cravings, or scrubbing floors as housemaids.
Slavery today is also a six-year-old girl in Cambodia sold by her parents into the sex industry as a sex slave and servicing nine men a day.
These are the shocking images we should keep in mind when questioning whether pornography is harmful. The exploitation and abuse of countless women and children in the ‘sex industry’ is the tragic underbelly of this new wave of pornification.