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Porn For Children

James Purser writes about the current plans for Internet filtering in Australia and concentrates on the technical issues (whether it will degrade the ISP service) and the issue of who’s moral standards should be enforced for the entire country.

But the fact is that children have never had any problem accessing porn. When I was in grade 4 at primary school (~9yo) a group of boys decided to walk to the local shopping centre at lunch-time and I joined them. At the shopping centre the other boys read Playboy (that was before such magazines were required to be displayed in sealed plastic bays). I didn’t read Playboy because there were some electronics magazines that were more interesting. When in grade 6 (~11yo) a friend told me about his parents video collection which featured fellatio and sodomy. I don’t recall whether he offered to show me the videos but being a good friend I’m sure he would have done so if I had asked. In the early years of high school some boys ran a black-market for second-hand porn magazines (ick), they also sold new magazines that were significantly more expensive. When in year 12 digital porn was just becoming popular and the exchange of porn on floppy disk began.

I’m sure that now children use USB sticks to exchange porn that they get from the Internet or other sources.

When I was in year 10 a female dancing instructor ceased working for the school after an up-skirt picture of her was stuck on a notice-board (I guess that her resignation was related to the picture but can’t be sure).

The evidence that I witnessed while at school is that 15yo boys are prepared to photograph unwilling women and exchange the pictures, and that the exchange and sale of all manner of porn is not uncommon at school (including primary school). I don’t think that the schools I attended were in any way unusual in this regard.

When I was at school cameras were large. Unless you had a polaroid camera (which was even larger) the film had to be developed – and the staff at the photo company were potential witnesses. I expect that these factors significantly decreased the amount of such activity.

Now a significant portion of children have a mobile phone and it seems that a built-in camera is a standard feature in all new phones now. Digital cameras (which have much better quality than phone-cameras) are becoming quite cheap. It’s widely regarded that giving a teenager a mobile phone is good for their safety (and it certainly makes it easier to discover where children claim to be) and it’s also widely regarded that a digital camera is a good toy (babies as young as 2 are often given the old camera when their parents get a new one). We should expect that the number of children who have digital cameras to rapidly approach 100% of children who desire them.

Given these factors it seems to me that it would be a good idea to allow teenage boys access to better quality porn than they are unable to produce (with either willing or unwilling subjects). It has already been shown that increased access to porn reduces the incidence of rape. I expect that the same also applies to the issue of making porn, people who have good access to porn will be less inclined to make their own.

There is some nasty porn out there. If they were to try and prevent access to porn that is illegal under Australian law (IE pictures of children, animals, rape, etc) then I don’t think that anyone would object. But preventing access to soft porn such as Playboy (which is so tame that it’s hardly porn by modern standards) is a really bad idea if it will increase the risk of up-skirt photos and the production of child rape movies.

Let’s be sensible and accept the fact that children who want to see porn will see it and focus our attention on what type of porn will be seen by children and whether the “actors” are consenting adults.

PS I spent several years living in Amsterdam and working as a sys-admin for ISPs there.

35 comments to Porn For Children

  • Hi,

    I find your point of view really interesting, although I don’t have a clear opinion about it yet, as I didn’t have time to think about it carefully.

    In any case, I wanted to explicitly comment or ask about the explicit inclusion of girls in all of this. In many countries/cultures, parents seem to be extremelly more protective to girls than to boys regarding access to sex-related information of any kind.

    If you or any other readers agree to all this idea, they should keep in mind that girls and boys have the same rights in every respect, and that goes for these kind of proposals too. If any of them would allow their male kids the access to this kind of graphical documentation, but not their female ones, they should think about all of this quite deeply.

    Greetings,
    Miry

  • etbe

    Miriam, I agree that girls and boys should be treated in the same way in this regard. In the case of pictorial porn there is apparently less demand from females than males (not sure why this is) and so issues of control of porn tend to be focusses on issues of males accessing porn.

    http://www.the-clitoris.com/

    I’m not sure whether you were serious about the term “graphical documentation” or using it in a humorous manner. If you were serious I think it’s worth noting the quality of the graphical documentation at the above web site – and the apparent lack of documentation of an equivalent quality for males.

  • Thanks a lot for the link, I didn’t know the page and it’s really nice!

    I used the term “graphical documentation” on purpose, because it’s usually there where the problem lies. It’s true, anyway, that males have usually (but not always) a more visual sexuality than females. It’s also true that we (girls) have access to porn contents since we’re very young, through girls magazines. Those magazines, though not graphically strong, have usually quite strong literary contents on sex issues. I guess that some parents might have more of a problem regarding visual sexual contents than other kind, that’s why I was so explicit about the term “graphical documentation”.

  • etbe

    Miriam: Good point about that written porn, some of it is really obscene.

    As for “girls magazines”, some of them give really bad advice to girls. I’m always amazed that pictures of adults happily doing things that they enjoy are regarded by some people as “degrading to women” but those “girls magazines” aren’t.

  • I do not agree that mainstream porn is useful at all for this purpose. The only thing it will achieve is to ingrain the commoditization of bodies and the objectification of human beings (mostly women), as weel as fascist beauty standards from a younger age.

    I believe one of the reasons porn is popular is because of the taboo around sex. Let’s get rid of the prejudices instead of feeding bad porn to the young irls and boys.

    As Rebecca Eisenberg put it, “A truly radical view of pornography recognizes that we are what we consume — and if we are going to alter the face of society, and destroy Victorian and religious notions like gender altogether — as I believe we must — we must be willing to evaluate and change every aspect of our lives, including the images we feed ourselves as we fuck, as terrifying as it sounds. Like it or not, revolution is a scary concept.”

  • etbe

    Amayita: Whether porn should be considered as “good” or “bad” is quite a different issue as to whether it should be legal. In the US it was demonstrated that although alcohol causes many problems there were more and bigger problems caused by prohibiting it. This is the issue I address with my blog post.

    I believe that there is more than adequate evidence to show that banning porn is a bad idea.

  • I didn’t see anything in Amayita’s comment stating that porn should be prohibited. She said that mainstream porn, the way mass media sells us how sexuality should be, is poisoned and is to be redefined for everyone’s sake. There are other possible different kinds of porn and, in fact, I agree with her that mainstream porn as it is will not be useful at all for educating people or for reducing sexual assaults. It we want to get something useful out of porn, it should have to be redefined somehow.

    We’re what we consume, that makes sense. If we consume prejudices and objectification of people, and stereotyping of behaviours and beauty standards, that’s probably related to what we really think about ourselves and the rest of the people. As Amayita states, other porns are possible, and I think you had also something like that in mind when you talked about “better quality porn” and “nasty porn”.

  • etbe

    Miriam: http://etbe.coker.com.au/2007/07/30/porn-vs-rape/
    The best available evidence suggests that an increase in the availability of current porn DECREASES the incidence of rape, read the above URL and the comments too. I think it’s reasonable to assuming that a decrease in the incidence of rape implies a decrease in the incidence of all types of sexual assault.

    If you are going to talk about poisoned media then don’t restrict yourself to porn. Consider rap music videos and lyrics, Barbie, etc.

  • http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=913013 doesn’t seem to be available :(

    Do you know where I can get a copy of that document from?

    Google’s cache reports this abstract: “The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85% in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely available to teenagers and adults. The Nixon and Reagan Commissions tried to show that exposure to pornographic materials produced social violence. The reverse may be true: that pornography has reduced social violence.”

    I think that establishing a cause-effect link between both tendencies (incidence of rape going down, access to porn going up) is a bit premature, subject to be affected by many other variables and not being statistically relevant. I’d have to be able to read the whole document anyway. In any case, it seems to be true that free access to porn has not lead to an increase in sexual assaults, but that doesn’t lead us to believe that there should be any relationship among them. We could statistically link those effects with the climate change, for that matter.

    Regarding poisoned media, I agree with you :)

  • etbe

    I’ve just mailed a copy of the document to Miriam, I don’t know why she couldn’t get it (the URL worked for me although the web site is confusing).

    Miriam and Amayita: I think that it would be good to see an essay from each of you about what types of porn should be permitted/encouraged and how it should be done. Judging from Debian meetings I attend it seems that a significant portion of Debian people are in their early 30’s (the typical age for having children in first-world countries). Now would be a good time to start influencing the next generation of geeks.

  • Etbe wrote:
    > The best available evidence suggests that an
    > increase in the availability of current porn
    > DECREASES the incidence of rape

    You say “The best available evidence”, and I fail to see that evidence. I find the link quite poor, to be honest.

    AFAIK, rape has nothing to do with sexual gratification, it is about domination. Access to ‘sexually gratifying’ material does not prevent rape in my opinion.

    Rape is about consent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape
    I really fail to see how porn addresses this. I actually believe that current mainstream porn, and its commoditization of human beings might encourage a dehumanized gaze upon others as ‘sexual prey’ than as sentient individuals.

    On the other hand, if we are talking about children, and how their curiosity drives them to research about sex, sex being such a taboo that the easiest material they can access is what we currently call mainstream porn, my point is that this material has great potential for enhancement. As Miriam puts it, other porns are possible (and desirable, both for grown ups and kids).

    I am no prude, but I dislike current mainstream porn, greatly.

  • Regarding poisoned media: Damn I have noticed! ;)

    Anyway, may you have good & sexually gratifying material that does not perpetuate demeaning gender roles and does not suck, and may you send it my way too :)

    Ditto to: Now would be a good time to start influencing the next generation of geeks.

  • etbe

    Amayita: The evidence is that as net access (and porn access) is increased in a region the incidence of rapes decrease. It’s the best evidence that we can get without actually doing some experiments (which I believe can be easily and ethically done in prisons).

    The idea that rape is caused by porn seems mostly spread by religious nutters (such as a religious studied teacher at my high-school who told a boy that he would become a serial rapist because he admitted to reading Playboy) and lacks any evidence to support it.

  • The idea that rape is caused by porn is totally nuts. As Amayita said, Rape is more about domination than about sexual gratification, so I don’t think access to porn changes that in either way (neither for increasing nor decreasing it). In fact, the domination-submission culture spread by (some) religious churches might have more influence in the number of rapes than access to porn, in my opinion.

  • etbe

    Miriam: Why do you believe that porn availability will make no difference either way? Why do you reject the paper I cited which is (AFAIK) the best available evidence on the topic? If you have some better evidence then please cite it.

    I think that you have a point about the culture of some churches.

  • “The idea that rape is caused by porn is totally nuts”

    I agree!
    But maybe the the type of porn children watch could effect them. If the are exposed to hard core porn like bondage they might interpret that it okay to treat others like that. That could result in rape.

    If done right, porn may actually be a teaching tool that could prevent rape. Porn where both sexes are respectful to each other could teach the viewers that they should get a person consent before having sex. Thus preventing rape.

    I sort of hate the way the term pornography is it is very loaded and seen as negative today. I is so hard to find people saying something positive about porn.

  • i also forgot to ad a little quote:

    “The more we try and turn porn into something that’s seen to be bad and has to be kept away from families, the more problems we might be causing for ourselves.” Dr Alan McKee

    got it from here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/08/16/net_smut_ok/

  • etbe

    Nick: In writing this post I carefully avoided the issue of precisely what porn is suitable for children. My point is about the fact that children can not be prevented from making porn (including rape porn) and that they should be able to obtain “better” porn from the net. In this context, it seems unlikely that children would make their own B&D porn so there is no reason for allowing them to access it.

    If a firewall was proposed that would limit access to the type of porn that is legal in Australia (non-violent erotica which concerns consenting adults) then I would have no objections to it on moral grounds.

  • I have lots of feeling about this topic so i have not really formulated a solid opinion on it.

    What im going to say know might not relate to your article. I also will throw many ideas and thoughts that may not flow logically.

    I live the United States, in the state of Minnesota. In all states but California the making of porn is considered prostitution. The porn as in paying the actor and actress for the job. So California is heaven for making porn in the US.

    I see that you talk about children making their own porn and I understand your point but i can’t relate to it, maybe because making porn in my school was never big, (drugs were a bigger deal).

    We can never stop porn, and i think we should accept that porn is here to stay, whether we like it or not. The statistics for the USA show that rape and violent crime against women is down from the last 15 years, so maybe porn is not that bad after all, as some people think. Just think what all those lonely guys be up to if there was no porn.

    Truthfully i don’t see how porn causes trouble. Parents are worried that their child will become hooked on porn or become a rapist. But they should really be worried about if their child starts doing drugs, or joins a gang!!!

    In the end perhaps what im trying to say is that we cannot blame just one factor in a persons life, for the way that they turned out, when there are so many other factors in life.

  • etbe

    nick: You say “making porn in my school WAS never big”, I wonder when you went to school. If it was a decade or two ago then I think that changes in technology may mean that children at the same school do different things now.

    When I went to school digital cameras did not exist. So anyone who wanted to make porn had to use a polaroid camera (only one copy) or go to a photo lab (which risks getting caught). Now some schools have about half of their students owning mobile phones with digital cameras, this changes things significantly.

    But it seems that we agree on essentially every issue.

  • Actually I am still in school!!!

    I totally agree with you, nearly every student in school has a mobile phone with picture, and sometimes video capabilities. I never denied that porn was made in our school, just that i believe this is not a “thing” in our school. I would hear about people trading porn, having sex with so and so, but never on making porn.

    Obliviously i can’t speak for the whole school, so I have to base these assumptions on what i have heard and seen. But I do believe some kids at our school did make porn.

    Maybe i don’t hear about these this things because I hang around a different group of people.

  • […] Comments Wouter Verhelst on Blogging and Documentsetbe on Eating Corpsesnick on Porn For ChildrenAnonymous on Blogging and Documentsetbe on Porn For ChildrenJeff Waugh on Blogging and Documentsnick […]

  • Amayita and Miriam,

    I don’t know who was the person that first said that rape was about domination and not sex, but I think that is hogwash. Rape is about many things, and one of the defining factors is sex. Well, not being a rapist, I cann’t do better than guess, but neither can you ;)

    I also agree with Russell on the gist of his argument that porn should be allowed, not because it’s good (I think it can be in many respects, but reading Russell’s article I don’t know what he thinks), but because allowing it is more sensible public policy than not allowing it.

    I would go further and say that porn reflects people’s fantasies, and that nobody watches porn that doesn’t excite them. Out of curiosity, I have downloaded and watched porn around fetishes that I find weird, disquieting and sometimes plain silly), and I don’t think exposure to these films would suddenly make me like to dress as a clown, or to have intercourse with animals. I don’t think media (or even The Media) are as powerful as you make them out to be.

  • etbe

    Javier: I am intentionally segmenting discussion of these issues on my blog, mixing them gives more heat than light. I will write some other blog posts about porn in future that cover topics I didn’t cover here.

    As for domaination vs sex, there’s probably some of each factor. I am not aware of any good research – does anyone have any references?

  • rob

    Speaking for myself, the fact that sex was so awsome was because it was so mysterious and new (sure, we all seen dad’s mags and vids) The fact that it was “wrong” or taboo is what made it so great. If I had been flooded with it via the web, those memories would be destroyed.

    On top of that, kids are SOOO impressionable (I know “I” knew it ALL back then)They can view any site catering to a plethora of “interests” and not know what is normal or what is not. Their is alot of sick shit out there.Kids go through phases almost daily, now we can add “the latex phase” or the s&m phase.

    As for me, I know that internet porn has greatly affected my tastes and behaviors negatively.
    It is hard enough being a Parent with or without the internet. We don’t need more problems.
    Plus this just opens the door to legalized child porn, why should a child HAVE to watch old people porn, they should be able to make, distribute, and buy the porn of thier choice.
    Going out and fixing non-problems ONLY makes alot of problems for the future every time.

    Is this REALLY being considered, or are you just raising an intellectual conversation??

  • rob

    Oh, and i wanted to say…. Wher could they possibly have gotten that study.Did they ask the rapists, “er, how much porn did you view a. none, b.some, c. enough, d. alot” I think a rapists view on an adequate porn intake may be a little skewed. That study is ridiculous, as most are these days. You can twist any conclusion you want out of them. They are so easily manipulated.

  • etbe

    Rob: Regarding the issue of Rape vs Porn, just follow the link and read.

    As for the rest, could you please make some clear points so I could respond to them.

  • rob: “Speaking for myself, the fact that sex was so awsome was because it was so mysterious and new (sure, we all seen dad’s mags and vids) The fact that it was “wrong” or taboo is what made it so great. If I had been flooded with it via the web, those memories would be destroyed.”

    Well, what about getting rid of the taboo about sex, which gives a lot of problem, and create a taboo about something else, so that there can be something equally awesome and great? Maybe creating a taboo against football or about punk music would be enough? :P

    (just joking, but I’m using that joke to show how ridiculous would be to keep a taboo that really hurts just to have something mysterious to be surprised about)

  • etbe

    Miriam: ROFL

    How about a taboo on writing comments on blog posts without reading the references? ;)

  • rob

    You guys are gross!

    References and links alike destroy the innocence, purity, and overall pleasure of any site. Besides I’m too young as was arbitrarily decided by “the Man”

  • rob

    etbe – So, it sounds like you have developed one of them freaky “ROFL” fetishes.Hmmm….. Yup, Thats where it starts. There is no end to the madness at your stage in the game. Damn internet porn.

    I know though, I re-read it and I did seem overly nostalgic and idealistic. Still though………. to be young and dumb.Ahhhhh ;)

  • rob

    miriam – In all seriousness, that is exactly my contention that we would in fact not decrease problems by loosening “acceptability” of these well established taboos, but increase problems such as increased teenage pregnancy and STD’s resulting from the increased sexual promiscuity.

    “Oh, We will teach the kids sex ed. so they will be informed about the dangers”…..

    Yeah, I know how I heeded everything from the warnings of dangerous car driving to drugs and alcohol”

    So, in the end who’s moral standards should we apply…..how about the one that harms our children LESS.

  • I’m totally convinced that sex ed. is the way to decrease those problems and to harm our children less. Your affirmation about loosening those taboos lead to the increase of problems related to sexuality are not based in any rational data and, in fact, seems to be just a matter of faith. Of your faith.

    My moral standards is that we should go towards a better world, not towards the imposition of unhealthy taboos on our children based in a criteria as arbitrary and random as that. Don’t teach children what a condom is, or how to use it, and you’ll end up with more abortions, teenage pregnancy and STDs. It’s as simple as that. That’s where taboo leads to.

  • etbe

    http://std.about.com/od/prevention/tp/toptencompsexed.htm
    Rob should read pages such as the above, it’s well researched.

    I agree with Miriam regarding morals. Good people want to protect the lives, health, and safety of others. Bad people don’t. It seems that Rob fits my criteria for being a bad person.

    This may sound nasty. But Rob has shown great disregard for the health of children and refused to even examine any of the research on the topic.

    Rob, you have had plenty of opportunities to represent the fundamentalist Christian view on this issue. Unless you start citing references to useful articles I’ll remove further comments that you write. Also as I think that the Fundy view has been well represented I won’t approve comments from any other people who express the same opinions.

  • Testicle

    Yeah I spread porn mags around in elementary school too, sold em for 5 bucks even. I had sex when I was 10 and never had a problem with it. I don’t believe kids have sex any more recklessly than adults do.

    Look at all the nasty things sold in adult sex shops, I doubt kids would think about half of that stuff. They just like natural sex.. not hardcore transexual interracial gangbang midget porn blowup doll stuff.

    So let’s review, discrimination does still exist in America and worldwide, but racism is dead, sexism is slowly dying off, but age discrimination remains powerful. I was punished beyond many times for doing sexual things, these days they even register kids as sex offenders if a 15 year old is caught touching his gf’s boobs.

    Soon they’ll be administering pills that stop all sexual feelings, as depicted in the book The Giver, and The Almighty State will control genetics and who is bred in laboratories. Doubt that? Take a closer look into the new technology and eugenics operations that come from the upper echleons of societies controllers.

    One Child policies and population control is already being indoctrinated into western societies now.