March 31, 2014 

Internet Pornography: The Largest Unregulated Social Experiment In History

By: Donna Rice Hughes

 A recent New York Times article by  David Segal “Does Porn Hurt Children” concludes that the jury is still out with respect to the “hazardous mix of teenagers and pornography”. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  

 Abe Lincoln said it best, “What is morally wrong cannot be politically correct.” The home, historically considered a safe haven, is now the very place where the sex industry is grooming our youth.  The invasion of graphic, hard-core online pornography  has been called the “largest unregulated social experiment in human history”  and one of the “greatest current threats to children, families and nations “; no one is immune. 

To make matters worse, extreme Internet pornography has become mainstream. The explosion of users and pornography sites has challenged the profit-making model of mainstream pornographers, and as author Gail Dines explains in her most recent book “Pornland”, “to differentiate their products in a glutted market, producers have created niche products-like teen sex, torture porn and gonzo-in order to entice a generation of desensitized users… images today have become so extreme that what used to be considered hard-core is now mainstream pornography and acts that are now commonplace in much of online pornography were almost nonexistent a decade ago.” To illustrate this point I recently did a simple Google search on the word “bestiality” which generated 3.4 million returns!

 The key culprit is the inexcusable fact that the federal obscenity statutes have not been aggressively enforced since the advent of the Internet in the mid nineties. And due to the mainstreaming of  hard-core material, the majority of Americans don’t even know that it is prosecutable. Hence, the 13 billion dollar Internet porn industry continues to thrive, remaining virtually unchecked. In fact, under the Obama administration, the division of the Department of Justice that prosecutes the federal obscenity laws has been effectively dismantled.  Additionally, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA)  passed by a  bi-partisan Congress in 1998 which required commercial pornographers to implement adult verification methods as a “brown cyber-wrapper” to keep minor kids from viewing pornography, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.

 As a result,  every child with unrestricted Internet access is just one click away from viewing this material and children are getting exposed at younger ages.  The negative impact on youth drinking from the firehose of all types of pornography freely, easily and anonymously accessible through an unfiltered Internet connection  is staggering. And with pornography’s ties to child sexual abuse, violence against women and human trafficking as reported in the  Witherspoon report, “The Social Cost of Pornography” , this is a hidden public health hazard we cannot ignore.  

Numerous peer-reviewed research studies have been conducted and disseminated showing the indisputable harm of pornography on children and teens. (We have aggregated studies and research at the following link.  Click Here.) Consider the following from recent studies and surveys:

  • 36% of the Internet industry is hard-core pornography. (businessinsider.com)
  • The online porn industry makes over $3,000 per second (businessinsider.com)
  • Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month Than Netflix, Amazon And Twitter Combined
  • American children begin consuming hardcore pornography at an average age of 11.
  • When a child is exposed to pornography, their underdeveloped brain becomes psycho-pharmacologically altered. (The Psychopharmacology of Pictorial Pornography Restructuring Brain, Mind & Memory & Subverting Freedom of Speech; Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D. The Institute for Media Education.)  
  • 97% of boys and 80 percent of girls who responded to the survey said they had viewed porn. Nearly a quarter of boys and eight percent of girls said they have tried to stop watching pornography but could not kick the habit. The study involved a survey of 177 young people between the ages of 16 and 20(LifeSiteNews.com
  • A study in the southeastern U.S. found that 53% of boys and 28 percent of girls (ages 12-15) reported use of sexually explicit pornography. The Internet was the most popular forum for viewing. (Brown, J. & L’Engle, K. 2009, Communications Research, X-Rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media.)
  • Of the 304 scenes analyzed, 88.2% contained physical aggression, principally spanking, gagging, and slapping, while 48.7% of scenes contained verbal aggression, primarily name-calling. Perpetrators of aggression were usually male, whereas targets of aggression were overwhelmingly female. (Ana Bridges, et al., Violence Against Women, October 2010 vol. 16 no. 10, 1065-1085)
  • Youth who look at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexual online or in-person versus youth not exposed to x-rated material. (Internet Solutions for Kids, Center for Disease & Control, November, 2010)
  • According to UK statistics released earlier this year, pornography and depictions of sexuality turned more than 4,500 British children – some of them as young as five into sexual offenders between 2009-2012. (LifeSiteNews.com )
  • Total searches for teen-related porn reached an estimated 500,000 daily in March 2013, – one-third of total daily searches for pornographic web sites
  • the UN reports that at least 1.8 million children are used in commercial sex each year and estimate that at least 100,000 American kids are the victims of sex trafficking each year. 

Kids themselves are engaging in risky behaviors and perpetuating the cycle of child sexual abuse. And in a hyper-sexualized world, it should be no surprise that kids are feeling pressured to post and send provocative pictures and videos (“sext” messages), and to engage in sexual acts that they are often not emotionally, physically or psychologically ready to handle. For instance, one study found a strong association between pornography consumption and engaging in oral and anal sexual intercourse among adolescents. 

I interviewed 12 teenage girls and boys as we were making our Internet Safety 101 DVD series. The kids that we  worked with have told us: “even if you are not looking for it, it will find you”.  They told me stories about how they were lured into viewing pornography, their addictions to Internet pornography and the devastating impact pornography had on their relationships, body image and sexual health.  One beautiful, all-American girl named Courtney shared: “It does make them curious, just like a little girl when she watched Cinderella, you know, she wants to be just like her, and kids that watch porn, they want to be just like them.  But it destroyed our lives, our respect for ourselves and our relationships.” As Jason shared, “I just wanted to do what they did in the porn.  I didn’t even care about the relationship anymore.  I just wanted to have sex with as many girls as I could.”  

Fortunately, these kids were able to stop using the drug, break the addiction and turn their lives around. Unfortunately, not all are able to escape the porn trap. The Seattle Times reported that an 18-year-old registered sex offender, J. Reyes, was charged with third-degree rape for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old developmentally delayed freshman he had been dating, despite her insistence that he stop.  “Reyes…began acting out sexually as early as age 13, when Seattle Public Library patrons saw him using pornography and masturbating, according to charging documents.” 

Protecting our children online and offline from sexual exploitation should be at the top of our list of national priorities.  Implementing preventative safety measures should be as automatic to every parent, guardian and educator as using a car safety seat. Unfortunately, since parents are often overwhelmed, ill-informed or ill-equipped about the nature of online dangers and the safety resources available, it often takes a tragedy to wake up a family or a community. What will it take to wake up a nation?

When foreign terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, our nation sprang to action. We declared a war on terrorism.  In the face of economic and environmental devastation in the Gulf, our nation engaged financially, and through creative entrepreneurialism and with volunteers from across the country. 

Just as threatening to our homeland security is the victimization our children face everyday when unscrupulous pornographers and predators prey on their innocence. Aren’t our children our most precious and valuable national resource and the future of our nation?  Aren’t our own children worth fighting for? Isn’t protecting their innocence as important as engaging in freedom efforts abroad?  

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that Congress has a compelling interest to protect our children, so why aren’t we fighting to preserve our children’s innocence with the vigor and dollars we use to fight oppression, environmental havoc and terrorist threats?  It’s morally wrong not to do so. It’s time for our nation to wake up and say No more! Enough Is Enough!

 Donna Rice Hughes is CEO and President of Enough Is Enough (EIE) and served on the Child Online Protection Commission. EIE is  a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which emerged in 1994 as the national pioneer on the front lines of efforts to make the Internet safer for children and families. She is the Executive Producer and host  of the Emmy-award winning Internet Safety 101 PBS TV Series, which educates, equips and empowers parents, educators and other caring adults to keep kids safe online.  You can find our more about this program at www.internetsafety101.org or order the program for yourself here. To schedule a media interview, email Lillian Schoeppler at lillians@enough.org

 

About Enough Is Enough®  

(EIE) is a 501(c)3 national, non-partisan non-profit with a mission to make the Internet safer for children and families by advancing solutions that promote equality, fairness and respect for human dignity with shared responsibility between the public, technology and the law. 

 About Internet Safety 101® 

The Internet Safety 101® multimedia program was created to prevent Internet-initiated crimes against children through educating, equipping and empowering parents, educators and caring adults with the knowledge and resources needed to protect children from online p*rnography, sexual predators and cyberbullies , as well as cyber security risks and dangers related to social networking, online gaming and mobile devices. The proven evidence-based curriculum motivates and equips adults to implement both safety rules (non-technical measures) and software tools (technical measures) on youth’s Internet enabled devices. 

 Making the Internet Safer for Children and Families

 

 

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