The Drug of the New Millennium
Researchers had to get creative when confronted with sexually inactive panda bears who refused to mate. So they tried a new drug. They showed the lazy male pandas a porn video of other pandas having sex. And so far, the tactics have proven to boost male panda’s sex drive. The male pandas have started to imitated what they saw in the panda porn. For this shrinking species, this is a pornography success story. I shared this story in our Internet Safety 101 film series for much needed comic relief, just after sharing the following very sad but true story.
A young mother witnessed her precious 5-year-old son attempt to insert a bath toy into his little sister’s bottom, while playing in the bathtub with her. Shocked, she asked him what he was doing and where he got this idea, and he innocently told her he was doing what he had seen on the Internet.
The chilling reality is that we hear stories every day of teens, kids and even young children acting out what they see in pornography. This should wake us up to the fact that pornography is not just harmless fun. This is the drug of the new millennium, and for fifteen years our children have been spoon-fed a steady diet of hard-core pornography via the Internet. Kids accidently (and intentionally) access a wide array of pornography in the privacy of their homes or through any Internet enable device. Portable porn, via PDAs, mobile and gaming devices and laptops make this toxic drug even more accessible to our youth.
I interviewed 12 teenage girls and boys as we were making our Internet safety 101 teaching video. The kids that we have 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 recently 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.”
How can it be that our children have such access to such dangerous content? Perhaps a little history lesson is in order. Some First amendment absolutists, such as the ACLU, have been savvy and successful at framing all pornography as protected speech. This is not necessarily the case. What they keep cleverly hidden from the public, however, is their own agendas, that the pornography that has been deemed by the Supreme Court to be illegal and prosecutable including obscenity (the laws that govern hard-core porn depicting graphic sex acts, and deviant content such as group sex, bestiality, and excretory porn) and child pornography should be treated as protected speech.
To make matters worse, 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 such 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. And Generation XXX, the first generation to grow up on a steady diet of Internet pornography, generally believes that pornography is “no big deal”. But with ties to child sexual abuse, violence against women and human trafficking as reported in the recently released Witherspoon report, The Social Cost of Pornography, this is a hidden public health hazard that we cannot ignore.
Even more alarming, the 3 billion dollar child porn industry is at epidemic proportions and has kept law enforcement overwhelmed amidst limited budgets and resources. The net result is that kids have had a steady diet of soft and hard-core pornography and even child pornography. In fact, 20% of teens are actively engaged in the dangerous practice of sexting, creating child pornography of themselves or their partner.
We have sacrificed an entire generation’s innocence on the altar of the First Amendment. The harm of acting out is only one of the harms reported in the recently released Witherspoon report, The Social Cost of Pornography. Many of my colleagues joined together to brief Congress yesterday about the “war on illegal pornography” and the pornography industry isn’t too happy about it.
We cannot undo the damage but we can continue doing what we have been doing all along. Cry out “Enough is Enough” and hope somebody listens. Call on Congress and the Department of Justice to ensure that our current obscenity laws are aggressively enforced and our child pornography enforcement efforts are well funded. We must continue to expose the harms of the pornography and keep fighting until we have a paradigm shift, a tipping point, in the way America thinks about pornography. It happened with stop smoking campaigns when it was finally discovered and accepted that smoking could be harmful to one’s health. Lots of people died of unintended consequences of tobacco including my own mother and two uncles. How many kids and how many more generations will be potentially destroyed by the unintended consequences of our inaction to keep kids safe from the toxic drug of the new millennium? No child is immune.
In the meantime, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure which is why we created Internet safety 101 to educate, equip and empower parents, educators and other caring adults to be the first line of defense to keep their kids from online pornography and other Internet dangers. We give parents simple Rules ‘N Tools®–non-technical and technical safety measures to help parents dialogue with their kids about dangers like pornography and protect innocent eyes by using filtering technology and other parental controls.
Our children’s innocence is worth fighting for.