Internet porn exploits more than just libido; it drives people beyond their normal sexual curiosity. This is a powerful tool that can drive teens and young adults into fetishism and other unhealthy behavior.
Pornography is widely available on the internet through websites, FTP connections, peer-to-peer file sharing and Usenet newsgroups. The cyber world can tag a computer as having visited porn sites and that can lead to unwanted attention.
The Birth of the Internet
Unlike pornography of the past that could only be obtained behind the red curtain at a seedy video store or hidden under an older brother’s bed, internet pornography is available anytime and anywhere with just one click of the mouse. It can be downloaded directly from websites, FTP connections, peer-to-peer file sharing networks or Usenet newsgroups. Unlike magazines or videotapes, which have to be purchased and physically transported, internet porn can be accessed instantly and without leaving any physical evidence (except for the computer server logs).
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the web was young, bulletin board systems, or BBSs, started to pop up all over the country. Originally, these were local, private affairs where you dialed in to the system and perused its offerings of games, files and programs. Soon, the sysops realized that the most popular sorts of files were pornographic images. With the advent of digital scanners, it was easy for them to quickly put together entire libraries of Playboy and Penthouse pictures for people to download at a moment’s notice.
Academic researchers have used data from the General Social Survey, or GSS, to investigate claims that internet porn is causing a rise in sexual dysfunction. They have found that despite the huge growth in porn on the web, it has not led to a rise in the number of men who report having viewed explicit material. The GSS is an annual, nationally representative interview sample of adults.
Cybercash was an Internet payment system which provided multiple means for users and merchants to move money on the Internet. Located in Reston, Virginia, the company was founded in August 1994 by Daniel C. Lynch, William N. Melton, Steve Crocker, and Bruce G. Wilson. Cybercash’s certificate of incorporation requires that any action required or permitted to be taken by stockholders must be effected at a duly called annual or special meeting of stockholders, and may not be effected by consent in writing. Cybercash has agreed to indemnify the selling stockholders against potentially significant liabilities arising under the Securities Act of 1933.
Bulletin board systems were computer networks that allowed users to dial in from home computers to access e-mail and download files. Some were devoted to a single topic, such as dentistry or guns, while others offered general computer discussions or pornography. Often, system operators, known as sysops, charged members a fee to connect. BBSes became popular with hacker groups and phreakers who could share tips and techniques without the cost of long distance calls.
Most sysops monitored what went on in their systems and self-policed. When a sysop discovered that someone had uploaded illegal software or child pornography, he usually banned them. Word would also spread to other sysops in the area, who might then ban them as well. This was effective self-policing because many local police were computer illiterate and had no idea how these computers were being accessed.
As technology improved, BBSes began to rely on modem connections at higher speeds. This shortened the time it took to download files, and the ability to store more data on hard disks increased the size of libraries available for users. As a result, sysops were able to provide more and more pornography for their subscribers, as well as other material that was of interest to their users. Eventually, BBSes were overtaken in popularity by the Internet, which provided graphical user interfaces and worldwide access.
The expansion of the Internet and increased home video equipment led to a growth in the pornography industry. Previously, pornography had been transmitted over the Internet as ASCII porn, but the use of video required computers with graphics capability. The advent of camcorders, VCRs and cable television also helped spur the growth of the pornography industry.
Pornography websites are generally restricted to adults and typically have a warning that they contain explicit material. In addition, many of these websites have a categorized list of thumbnails (called “thumbnails”) that link to galleries of images or videos. Some of these galleries are tagged as MGP (movie gallery post) and others are labeled as TGP (thumbnail gallery post).
These websites are usually based on Flash technology, which allows the distribution of videos that were uploaded by users. Free advertising-supported sites modeled on the YouTube format have also appeared. The content on these sites can be user-generated or a combination of commercial pornographic videos and advertising clips.
Research indicates that exposure to pornography can lead to a number of negative consequences, including substance abuse, eating disorders and sexual addictions. However, it is difficult to determine the impact on any particular person because there are so many variables. The best way to prevent a problem is to educate children about the negative effects of pornography and to keep lines of communication open.