In 2010, Ruvolo (2011) notes that of the one million most popular global websites, over 42,000 (4%) were dedicated to pornography, with nearly 13% of internet searches in the previous year involving sex-related websites. In April 2005 alone, 23% of internet users worldwide viewed pornography on the web’s estimated 420 million pornography pages (D’Orlando, 2011). Though slightly dated, this data suggests what most of us already know: the production and distribution of pornography is a tremendous revenue-producing business. 2005 global pornography revenues exceeded $97 billion of which $2.5 billion was for web pornography; as more individuals have gained access to the Net, it is a valid assumption that these figures have increased in the decade since the above data was collated (D’Orlando, 2011).
The viewing and ownership of pornographic material is, of course, a contentious topic. Historically, liberals have defended the right for individuals to own or view sexually-explicit material in private as an expression of the individual rights and freedoms conveyed by the First Amendment (Stanford University, 2012). Conversely, traditional conservatives view pornography as obscene and one of many contributions to the moral demise of society (Stanford University, 2012). Nevertheless, getting two people to agree on the definition of what pornography is, and whether it is harmful, can be an exercise in frustration (Schell, Martin, Hung, & Rueda, 2007).
No matter whether pornography is liberating for women or aids in perpetuating an idea of female subservience to men, sexually-explicit material is frequently produced in illegal and despicable means (Weinberger, 2011). Seemingly innocent use by couples in private homes allows many to ignore the plight of individuals forced to make the material, and, even worse, perpetuates the creation and distribution of child pornography. The vastness of the internet, featuring millions of websites, blogs, and social sites, provides predators seeking to view or produce child pornography a shadowy realm that cannot be continuously monitored by law enforcement officials. While some perpetrators are caught- such as a New Jersey resident last week who was arrested for distributing an online broadcasting service that allowed site visitors to pay to observe sexual acts conducted by underage girls- many act with impunity for years (The Associated Press, 2016).
Child pornography, generally defined as sexual material depicting someone younger than 18 years old, is obviously illegal, and its production, distribution, and possession are not protected by the First Amendment (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015). Females of all ages around the globe are frequently sold into slavery to be used as prostitutes or to create pornography. Young girls in particular are preyed upon due to their innocence and the ease predators can frequent social media sites used by minors. Children have access to the internet at increasingly younger ages, and the ubiquitous ownership of cell phones and tablets means instant access to potentially harmful material located on the web (Hanson, 2011).
Perhaps even more confusing is whether it is immoral or illegal to view pornography on the Web as an avatar in a virtual world. Customers can have “consequence-free experimentation” with minors or experience any manner of masochistic scenarios without the fear of legal reprisal (Russell, 2008). Paying membership for sites that host these virtual worlds is growing, but is having intercourse with a minor in a virtual world illegal (Russell, 2008)? Is hosting and consuming material on these sites protected by the First Amendment, or are we, as a society, condemning future generation to have access to historically obscene material with no consequences? These and similar questions will continue as the Internet continues to become interwoven into our daily lives, business, and entertainment.
D’Orlando, F. (2011, March). The demand for pornography. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(1), 51-75.
Hanson, E. (2011). The child as pornographer. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 673-692.
Russell, G. (2008). Pedophiles in Wonderland: Censoring the sinful in cyberspace. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 1467-1500.
Ruvolo, J. (2011, Deptember 7). How much of the Internet is actually for porn. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com
Schell, B., Martin, M. V., Hung, P. C., & Rueda, L. (2007). Child cyber issues: A review paper of the social and legal issues and remedies- and a proposed technological solution. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 45-63.
Stanford University. (2012, October 1). Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy: Pornography and censorship. Retrieved from http://www.plato.stanford.edu
The Associated Press. (2016, March 29). New Jersey man accused of prostituting young girls online. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com
U.S. Department of Justice. (2015, July 6). Citizen’s guide to U.S. federal law on child pornography. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know. New York: Basic Books.