Fourth Chapter – Audience

07/30/2008

Now that we’ve introduced the concept of teen pornography, what happens when the audience is the teens themselves? (We could term this ‘peer pornography’ where audience and subjects are the same age.) Much has already been written about the availability of the internet to kids, but let’s review the obvious factors:

(a) you don’t have to leave the house to get it

(b) there’s no budget required (initially) because of the free samples available

(c) there is more pornography online than you could ever view

To continue here, I want to pursue an analogy from a branch of science I don’t really know that much about, but the concept is rather simple: Stem cells. These cells are in such demand right now because they are basically cells in formation; their ultimate destiny and purpose isn’t fixed and so they can be harvested from embryos and implanted in humans. (I’ll stop here before I get over my head with the science.)

I think that teens are like stem cells. They are still being formed, shaped and molded into the people they are meant to be. And a sudden infusion of pornography is just what they don’t need to throw their sexual orientation off course. Kids are influenced. Once they see things online, they are never the same people again. (Which may be why one Proverb says, “Do not awaken desire before its time.”)

In the second chapter I said that porn addiction is more like cocaine than tobacco. In just seconds there is the desire to see more pictures, go to more websites. For a young teen, in just seconds they have become corrupted by what they see. Furthermore – and I’m sure there is much anecdotal evidence for this – I am convinced that given thirty minutes to an hour of exposure to various facets of the dark side of the ‘net, a relatively innocent teen can be thoroughly corrupted by it, and a peer or an adult can probably convince them that behaviors they would have considered off limits or even repulsive half an hour earlier, are suddenly not such a big deal.

Add this to today’s high school environment of “friends with benefits,” “rainbow parties” and “recreational sex” (again, if you don’t know; ignorance is bliss) and you’ve got yourself a climate for intensive youth corruption. Furthermore, each year, the age of sexual curiosity and/or participation drops slightly, as preteens become more sophisticated in their knowledge at earlier stages than their parents might have imagined.

There’s also the question of those websites which are particularly targeting teens (and even much younger kids) which seem to have a hidden agenda beyond simply getting them to watch. That will come up in a few chapters. (A month after writing this, I discovered that Quantcast, an internet traffic reporting service, shows a measurable percentage of activity on these sites in the age 3 – 11 demographic.)

It might be helpful here to note two techniques used by pornographers to entice both young and old. Sometimes the “lease” on a legitimate internet site will run out and the organization or business will move to a new location. At that point, pornographers will swoop in and take over the site, building on the traffic that keeps going to the old location. The other technique involves our tendency to make “typos” or common errors in typing a popular site address. Instead of ending up at the desired site, one is faced with hardcore pornography.

One internet filtering company cites a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that 70% of teens whose exposure to online porn is genuinely accidental, got there because of “porn-napped” websites (the former case above, where the expired domain names of innocent sites are taken over), or “typo-squatted” sites (the latter case; deliberately introducing typographical misspellings). Not mentioned is our common tendency to confuse file extensions; substituting .com for .net; or .net for .us endings.

Teens and adults share a slippery slope when it comes to pornographic images:

(a) initial shock at seeing their first such image

(b) becoming desensitized to such images

(c) looking for other images which will shock

(d) becoming desensitized to those images

(e) looking for an opportunity whereby what were once images are part of real life.

The other challenge we face with teens is not knowing what the long-term effects are going to be for a generation that has grown up with pornography so ubiquitous.   Let me give an example.

In the area where I live, as I write this, we are in the final season where lawn and garden companies will be allowed to apply chemical pesticide and herbicide for cosmetic purposes. Spraying both residential and commercial properties is supposedly in its final year. As an environmentalist, people think I must be overjoyed with this development.

Not exactly. The point is, it’s going to take at least twenty years before we know what the effect is going to be. These pesticides are water soluble; they are not removed by filtering either when rainwater runoff exits the municipal supply into the lake, nor when the lake water is pumped back into the municipal drinking water supply. The results will take at least a generation to be seen.

The case is exactly the same with kids who have been brought up to have unfettered access to images of explicit sex. Some images will be forgotten, but others are forever imprinted in their memory. Whatever place human sexuality held in the era of Leave It To Beaver, My Three Sons, or The Andy Griffith Show; that’s not the same place where it fits in the lives of kids brought up bombarded by sexual imagery in magazines, music, movies and internet media.

For these teens, making those images part of your lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean that you become one of the people in the onscreen picture. It can have more to do with attitudes, beliefs, lifestyle choices and values. But I want to halt the discussion early on this topic because part of this flows into the next section which deserves its own chapter.


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