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Pornography undermines decent society
Recent stories about the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley temporarily closing down because of HIV among performers calls attention to just how prolific this business is. It reminded me of a probation-officer colleague who some years ago predicted that by the turn of the century, pornography would be so common that it would invade every home. Then, I thought Joe a dour cynic -- now I see him as a prophet issuing a warning.
A recent report from N2H2, an Internet filtering company in Seattle, shows how the viewing of porn has risen 1,800 percent, from 14 million Web pages in 1998 to 260 million in 2003. In the process, it's exposed minors and children to a sea of pornography and affected many adult relationships adversely.
In the United States, pornography has become a $12 billion "industry." Revenues from porn exceed the combined revenues of the ABC, NBC and CBS television networks and all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises together. Child porn alone generates $3 billion annually.
Joe also had a theory that easy access to pornography leads to boredom with the familiar, thus the constant demand for the sex menu to be enlarged. True enough, the pornography explosion has led to even greater degradation within the industry itself, with the portrayal of certain deeds once considered perverse or disgusting now regarded by some as "mainstream."
As Judith Reisman, president of Washington's Institute for Media Education, has asked: "Can there be a causal relation to the many sex and sadism messages to the fact that 58,200 children were kidnapped in one year from yards, parks and streets, most to be sexually assaulted?"
There is a general lack of knowledge in the public arena about how pornography commercializes women and children into pawns being trafficked for sexual purposes. And as Joe observed, consumers of anything, including sex, want more of what they like and also want some new stuff. It has created an increasing demand for more new bodies and ever younger, fresher commodities.
In April, Marianne Eriksson, a Swedish member of the European Parliament, issued a study finding that Internet access has put hard porn into every home and boosted the the numbers of women and children being trafficked with the intent of making them sex slaves. According to the British National Crime Squad, 600,000 people are illegally brought into England each year -- most for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
The numbers have skyrocketed alongside the soaring popularity of in-home pornography, strongly suggesting that whetting appetites for ever more commercialized sex is producing ever more human victims.
There is still too little research disseminated as to how porn affects children and teens particularly. But according to sex researcher Dr. Laura Berman, director of Chicago's Berman Center, "exposure to porn can make young men less sexually inhibited because they have seen it all. But it can also render them inhibited because they are not involved with a real female person who has needs and feelings of her own and limits as to what she will do, unlike females in porn movies who never say no. ... So young men who grow up watching porn become disappointed later in real life by real women."
For young women, online sex can also be detrimental, says Dr. Jennifer Berman, director of the Female Sex Medicine Center at University of California, Los Angeles. "It creates an unrealistic expectation of what she should look like, what she should expect for herself and her partner." Berman urges parents to provide their daughters "with real information -- that women do not look like that and may not like what they are doing in a film."
That porn is addictive is hardly a secret. A compelling case for this reality is made by researcher Dr. Harvey Milkman, who has used 3D computer graphics to show viewers, at a cellular level, how sex addiction occurs within the human brain. It is similar to the way cocaine immediately forms a tracer into that part of the brain that creates an addiction to the drug, which must then be constantly replenished with ever increasing doses.
A growing acceptance of pornography has led to the assumption that females and children are to be bought and consumed like meat that goes onto our tables. Isn't this a form of high-tech cannibalizing? To desensitize viewers to child porn, sophisticated adult magazines often use cartoons of child rape, bondage, sadism, etc., ostensibly in the name of "humor."
Yet, when pornography is criticized, the claim is often made that, in itself, pornography is not harmful. Such lame defenses ignore the crimes committed to operate the "sex industry," which undermines the right of every American to live in a decent society.
A sad example of this would be our own San Fernando Valley, once considered an ideal place to raise children, which now bears the dubious distinction of "pornography capital of the world."
How much longer will supposedly intelligent Americans continue to condone -- in the name of "free speech" and "mutual consent" -- any form of debauchery that permits damaging our youth and society in the process?
Sonya Jason, a San Fernando Valley writer, is a former social worker and probation officer.