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Painting Porn by the Numbers

DQmXcvgULV3UcRgrePmmTKAPx3ua6xPTfRWVZ9m8fcPrdTdSex commerce is the largest and most profitable industry in the world, and includes some 4.2 million pornography websites. In America, sex-as-a-business (pornography, prostitution, strip clubs, phone sex, and even comic books and Play Station games) is estimated to be worth $97 billion. U.S. sales of sex toys alone generate $15 billion.

In 2016, the porn industry raked in $13+ billion by producing 13,000 videos (a basic tenant of the porn industry is “if it exists, there is porn of it.”) This is remarkable considering that making a porno film or acting in one is not legal in most states. Meanwhile, Hollywood grossed about $12 billion in the movie business.

Porn and the Internet

Gail Dines, Professor of Sociology at Boston’s Wheelock College, has observed that, “A lot of people believe the Internet drives porn, but, in fact much of the research and development for today’s technology is driven by the porn industry itself.”

Mind Geek, who owns several porn sites, is the number three bandwidth-consuming company in the world: the other two being Google and Netflix. Pornography sites attract more visitors each month than Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter combined.

As scored by the List25 Internet Service, the porn industry makes more money than the National Football League, the NBA, and Major League Baseball combined. On its own, one website, XVideo, is bigger than the websites of CNN and the New York Times combined.

Pornhub, with a net worth of $2.5 billion, sells its “premium gift card membership” on Amazon with the promise of “no ads, exclusive 632130220.0content, faster downloads, and 10,000+ full-length movies,” [the website features such flicks as “Who’s Your Daddy,” “Nineteen,” and “Tortured.”] Amazon ranks the Pornhub gift card at number 198, behind Starbucks and iTunes, but ahead of Applebee’s, Nordstrom’s, Taco Bell, and JC Penny.

Pornhub recorded 23 billion visits last year, and reports that “teen,” “mom,” and “step-sister” were among its top ten search terms. “Step-mom” was number two.

The porn business thrives on the notion of being a benign no-one-gets-hurt activity that is protected by privacy rights as enshrined in the Constitution. Most adults agree: a Pew Research Center found that by a 48-41% margin, Americans see a greater danger in the government’s imposing undue restrictions on the sex entertainment industry then to just leave it as is. Porn star Mercedes Carrera summed up her defense of the porn industry by declaring it to be “the last truly free market.”

However, some lawmakers, pro-family advocates, and sociologists are worried about the influence and impact of unregulated and unfettered pornography.

Youth and porn

Gail Dines, who is also author of Today’s Pornography and the Crisis of Violence Against Women and Children, observes: “We cannot speak about rape, child sexual abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, teen dating violence, domestic violence, or college sexual assault without understanding porn as a driving force behind the normalization and legitimization of violence against women and children.”

Youth are on the front line of constituencies pornographers target – a University of Montreal study: most men are exposed to porn for the first time at age ten. According to Psychology Today, 90 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls are exposed to Internet porn by age 18.

A North Carolina State University poll (38% of respondents were female) on the question of “How often did you view pornography” found that 30 percent of students watch porn at least once, maybe a few times a month, 20 percent said several times each week, and 10 percent admitted they watch porn daily.

DJiepwOXUAAgkSXStanford University Emeritus Professor Philip Zimbardo writes in Psychology Today: “Some people can watch porn occasionally and not suffer significant side effects; however, plenty of people, including teens and pre-teens with highly plastic brains, find they are compulsively using Internet porn, and their porn tastes are becoming out of sync with their real-life sexuality. Researchers found that the hours and years of porn use were correlated with decreased grey matter in regions of the brain associated with reward sensitivity. It may be no coincidence then that porn users report less satisfaction in their relationships and real-life intimacy and attachment problems.”

That insensitivity and alienation is reflected in the results of an annual survey of 8th-12th graders published in September 2017 issue of The Atlantic

  • In 2000, 80 percent of teens dated, but by 2015, that number had steadily gone down to 55 percent.

  • Teens “hung out” with friends on the average of three days a week in 2000, but in 2015, the average dropped to two days a week.

  • In 2000, 22 percent of teens admitted to “often feeling lonely;” that figure jumped to 34 percent in 2015.

 Children and porn

One in three Internet users are children under the age of 14.

In 2016, the London-based Internet Watch Foundation identified over 57,000 URLs containing child sexual abuse images. The Internet security company McAfee did a “cyber squatting” study and found that there is a 1-in-14 chance of a child typing in a misspelled URL and stumbling upon a porn site by accident.

Over 39,000 Verified Registered Sex Offenders have profiles on MySpace, and those are just the ones who have registered their real names. According to Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in five teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web. Solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give personal sexual information. Only 25 percent of solicited children were upset by their encounters and told a parent.

The US Justice Department warns: “Only five percent of online predators pretend they’re kids. Most reveal that they’re older, which is especially appealing to 12-to-15-year-olds who are most often targeted.”

Faith and porn

The most popular day of the week to watch porn is Sunday. A Public Religion Research Institute study revealed that 29 percent of Americans think watching porn is morally acceptable – 23% of women and 35% of men do not consider porn as immoral.

According to a study of 3,000 adults and teenagers, 432 pastors and 338 youth pastors commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministries, 14 percent of pastors and 21 percent of youth pastors admit they struggle with using porn; 12 percent of youth pastors concede they are addicted; 26 percent of self-identified Christian teenagers, ages 13 to 17, watch porn at least once a week.

Smart phones are now smut-phones: 41 percent of Christian teens have “sexted,” that is, used a cell phone to send a sexually explicit image.

Dozens of well-known porn stars, and many others, have left the X rated movies business and turned to God. Former porn movie producer Donny Pauling admits, “It hasn’t been easy. In fact, at times it’s been one of the hardest roads I’ve had to follow. But the peace inside has been amazing. I’ve learned God really can use all things for good.  He’s since put me in front of more than six million people, all over the world, sharing a story of His grace and forgiveness, and exposing what really goes on behind the scenes in the porn industry.”

The government and porn

According to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the Justice Department has not initiated any new enforcement actions against adult-obscenity cases since President Barack Obama took office in early 2009. In 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ended the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force that President George W. Bush created in 2005.

499ad3654148d7c28f6e464d90122dacCandidate Donald Trump signed a pledge to aggressively enforce “federal obscenity laws, child pornography laws, and the sex trafficking laws,” and to appoint “an Attorney General who will make the prosecution of such laws a top priority.” However, when Senator Orrin Hatch asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions about re-establishing the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, Sessions said, “I didn’t know it was shut down – I’ll look into it.”

In at least 13 states, most visibly Alabama and Utah, conservatives are pushing legislation to restrict and regulate the porn industry. A bill in South Carolina would make it illegal for anyone in the state to sell a computer, tablet, or smartphone without a porn filter, which companies would update via dedicated 24/7 support centers. Consumers would have to submit a written request and a payment of $20 to get the filter removed and money from these fees would go toward anti-trafficking efforts. Mark Stabile of the porn industry’s lobbying front, the Free Speech Coalition, believes these filter laws will soon be moving through the legislature in up to 24 states.

Last March, Utah became the first state to allow lawsuits against pornographers for damage to minors, including seeking reimbursement for any therapy expenses. Rep. Kevin Stratton, the House sponsor of the bill, said, “This is an effort to hold those who are profiting from the harm [of pornography] accountable for the damages that are done.” Utah State Senator Todd Weiler notes that, “Seventy years ago the tobacco industry denied that its product was addictive and they denied that their products were harmful. The first 30 or so people that sued them lost, but eventually that tide turned.”

In June, New York City prevailed in its two-decade long legal fight to curtail the adult entertainment industry, winning a decision in New York State’s Court of Appeals that bans adult businesses from most residential and commercial districts.

Porn and the private sector

There is encouraging news, some from surprising sources. Porn film star James Deen is campaigning for a mandatory paywall: “I want all adult websites to be behind an age-verification wall. You can’t just say, ‘Yes, I’m 18,’ you actually have to input a credit card, or something, to create an 18-and-older environment.”

Starbucks and McDonald will block X-rated websites on their complimentary Wi-Fi services. Combined, Starbucks and McDonald’s have more than 21,000 venues offering Wi-Fi. Marriott Hotels announced that, “Adult content will be off the video menu for virtually all of our newly built hotels. Over the next few years, this will be the policy across our system.”

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation cites a series of wins: Google has stopped running pornography in Google Play and on their advertising platform, and the U.S. Air Force and Army have banned the sale of pornography in military exchanges. Recently, Hilton Hotels announced that their cable offerings would no longer include the pornography channels. 

Efforts to put porn in its place have experienced push back, however. Diane Duke, CEO of Free Speech Coalition insists: “Our industry now employs hundreds of thousands of people all over the country [in San Fernando Valley alone, the industry employs 20,000 people.] It would be a mistake for politicians not to listen to a large part of their constituency.”

Porn in context

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist David Horsey, a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times has asserted, “Thanks to the Internet, Americans have been pushed, unwittingly, into a vast social experiment testing whether unfettered access to the most freakish and foul pornography will warp sexual relations for generations to come. Common sense and a growing body of evidence suggest that there is a negative cost being paid that only begins with the sex trafficking and exploitation undergirding the lower depths of the porn industry.”

The fight to restrict and regulate porn is not simply a problem the government can or should address. As Samuel Adams warned, “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” The battle must first be won in the education and motivation of parents, those responsible for the education of children, and taxpayers who hold political leaders to high standards. George Mason put it this way: “No free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”

 

This article appeared in Communities Digest News, November 28, 2017

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