A recent article in The Economist reports that social networking sites may be gaining on the popularity of internet porn. According to the article, 13% of American-based website visits were “pornographic in nature.” However, this percentage seems to have declined to a low of around 11% in Februrary 2007. Interestingly enough, this pattern is mirrored by an almost directly proportional increase in the use of social networking sites.
Could it be that people are no longer interested in paying for their adult content, and instead are seeking (or creating) their own — for free? The correlation is not lost in The Economist: “The growing popularity of social-networking sites is not entirely unrelated to sex.”
Another bill that would require web sites to have warning labels. Though this one would also require such sites to register in a national directory, as reported by CNET news.
The bill, sponsored by two democrats, states that a web site that contains adult content would have to be labeled as “Harmful to Minors” (read Levine’s book of the same title to see the irony in choosing this label). These sites would also have to tag themselves with a special code so that they could be filtered and monitored easily. There is no exemption for news outlets in the current legislation.
According to CNET, “Harmful to minors is defined in the legislation as any type of material that appeals to the prurient interest by depicting or describing an actual or simulated sex act–and lacks serious scientific, literary, artistic or political values for minors.” This definition is very similar to the one laid out in 1973 by the Supreme Court in Miller v. California which is still the most current legal definition we have for “obscenity.”
Note how extreme violence is apparently not even considered as deserving of this label.
This is not the first time, nor the last, that such legislation has been brought up for consideration. So far, the First Amendment has won every time.
Girls Gone Wild host and creator Joe Francis remains at large after being found in contempt of court during his trial in which, according to the LA Times, “seven women, filmed on a Florida beach in 2003, say they were “victimized” by Francis’ crew by being put in explicit scenes.”
There is no question about the success this man has had getting young girls (all of age, he insists) to either make out with their friends, flash their boobs, or do something else sexual in order to become the proud owner of a T-shirt or a hat. Then, he turns around and sells those images turning a multi-million dollar profit.
Some say it’s genius. Some say it’s exploitation. But in a powerful story, also previously published in the LA Times by Claire Hoffman, states that the Internet has had an impact on these girls and their willingness to expose so much for so little: “Francis has aimed his cameras at a generation whose notions of privacy and sexuality are different from any other. Nursed on MySpace profiles and reality television, many young people today are comfortable with being perpetually photographed and having those images posted on the Internet for anyone to see. The boundaries that once contained sexuality have also fallen away. Whether it’s 13-year-olds watching a Britney Spears video, 16-year-olds getting their pubic hair waxed to emulate porn stars or 17-year-olds viewing videos of celebrities performing the most intimate acts, youth culture is soaked in sexuality.”
Other girls have tried to sue Francis for sexual exploitation. At least one claims he raped her and tells her story in Hoffman’s article. Most of these women have received no justice through the court system or anywhere else.
Still think we can shy away from the role the Internet plays in the sexualization of our youth?
More on that research conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited about how teens are staying in touch with their significant others. According to an article in the Seattle Times, “From 10 p.m. to midnight, almost a third of teens in a relationship call or text 10 to 30 times an hour.” Still no word on how many teens that actually is, but the data is a little more informative than when I first mentioned it here and tried to guess about the sample size.
So, as the Seattle Times article states, the incessant communication between young people is becoming more and more subtle. I remember needing to talk to my best friend and my s.o. constantly (usually on the phone after school and sports practice) even if I had just spent most of school with her or him. I remember in college, where I lived dorm style, that I was essentially living with my boyfriend in a dinky little room complete with twin bed and roommate. So the idea of a teen spending almost literally ALL of his or her time with that special someone is not new. It’s just been put into stealth mode.