Anyone except porn lovers and radical civil libertarians knows what a destructive tsunami the porn plague has been. It has devastated relationships, marriages, families and countless individuals in a downward spiral of degrading addiction.
And for some of course it leads to sex crimes. Sure, not every porn user goes off and commits acts of rape, sexual assault, and so on. But nearly all who do commit such acts are regular porn users. But leave aside those cases – ordinary people, including children, are being ravaged by porn as well.
The stats tell it all. Consider new figures coming out of the UK: “Internet traffic to legal pornography sites in the UK comprised 8.5% of all ‘clicks’ on web pages in June – exceeding those for shopping, news, business or social networks, according to new data obtained exclusively by the Guardian. Only ‘arts and entertainment’ – a category that is boosted by Google’s video site YouTube – and search engines were bigger, at 9.5% and 15.7% respectively.
“The figures, which do not include traffic from mobile phones, were compiled by SimilarWeb, a web measurement company based in Tel Aviv which tracks clicks online rather than total volume of traffic. Otherwise, the figures would be distorted by the sheer size of video files such as YouTube and the BBC’s iPlayer, which is classed under ‘news and media’ because it sits within the BBC’s website.
“The data does not include illegal searches for child abuse, which typically travel over secret networks such as Tor, or use peer-to-peer technology to try to hide the abuser’s identity. ‘Traffic on adult sites represents a huge portion of what people use the internet for, not just in the UK but around the world,’ said Daniel Buchuk, head of brand and strategy at SimilarWeb. ‘It is astonishing to see that adult sites are more popular in the UK than all social networks combined. People don’t just “stumble” upon adult content. More than 8% of Google UK searches led to adult sites in the past three months,’ he said.”
But let’s put a human face on all these figures. Melinda Tankard Reist covers both in a piece on the scene in Australia: “A 15-year-old boy confided in me after I addressed his class at a Sydney school last year. He cried as he told me he had been using porn since the age of nine. He didn’t have a social life, had few friends, had never had a girlfriend. His life revolved around online porn. He wanted to stop, he said, but didn’t know how.
“I have had similar conversations with other boys since then. Girls also share their experiences. Of boys pressuring them to provide porn-inspired acts. Of being expected to put up with things they don’t enjoy. Of seeing sex in terms of performance. Girls as young as 12 show me the text messages they routinely receive requesting naked images.
“Pornography is invading the lives of young people – 70 per cent of boys and 53.5 per cent of girls have seen porn by age 12, 100 per cent of boys and 97 per cent of girls by age 16, according to a study behind the book The Sex Lives of Australian Teenagers, by Joan Sauers.”
She offers other stories: “Jake, 18, says of his first sexual experience at 15: ‘First time I had sex, because I’d watched so much porn, I thought all chicks dig this, all chicks want this done to them … all chicks love it there. So I tried all this stuff and, yeah, it turned out bad … When a guy watches porn: “that’s hot, I want to try that. You, do this, this and this,” you know what I mean? And they will just keep pressuring and pressuring. I’ve got mates who do it. They will tell you, “Yeah, she didn’t want to at first but I just kept hounding her and hounding her and finally she let me …”’
“The level of disempowerment in the girls is disheartening. Disconnected from their own sense of pleasure and intimacy, they often pretend to like certain acts to keep a boy happy. Often he doesn’t even ask permission. Sara, 20, says, ‘Girls, they love it in porn, so maybe boys think that girls like that and, you know, when you love someone, you know, you’re always willing to just … make them happy. [if] I’m in love, then I’ll do it for you and I’ll pretend that I like it … And in the end … I just became an object …’”
The UK is looking at taking some tentative steps here to slow all this down: “Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced. In addition, the prime minister said possessing online pornography depicting rape would become illegal in England and Wales – in line with Scotland.”
Said David Cameron: “In the balance between freedom and responsibility we have neglected our responsibility to children. I’m not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence.”
Of course this is not a panacea – it is simply one step. Going after the pornographers would be another part of the equation. Obviously the sleaze merchants and their civil libertarian buddies will throw a tantrum here and scream “censorship”. But in this scheme, those who want their fix of sleaze can still get it.
I for one favour any moves to protect our children. And I think adults also need help in overcoming the massive porn problem. Plenty of adult lives are being destroyed here as well. So this is just one small step. It remains to be seen how it all pans out.
But before the West is lost altogether in a sea of sleaze and plague of porn, responsible steps need to be taken. This is a start. And more needs to be done.