In a long and thoughtful article on the internet pornography phenomenon, Adrian Turpin notes that the number of porn pages on the web reached 260 million in 2003, up from 14 million in 1998, and that online porn sales hit $2.5 billion in 2005, well over double the sales of music downloads. Writes Turpin:
You don’t have to be a moralist to see a downside in millions of men regularly seeking oblivion in an activity that is doomed to disappoint them and which … frequently depresses them. However you judge it, the scale of this flight into fantasy is strange. To some it may look like both symptom and symbol of a wider malaise, marking a collective failure to connect with one other and engage with reality. Has an addictive, acquisitive society lost sight of what makes it happy beyond the next serotonin-inducing surfing session?
Turpin also notes that, according to one U.K. study, more than half of children from 9 to 19 who have internet access in their homes have viewed porn online. The potential effects of the exposure are “almost impossible to quantify” because, as one researcher puts it, “The ethical problems of conducting research involving children are so great it’s hard to identify the areas for concern.” While “counsel[ing] against a moral panic,” psychoanalyst Jane Haynes tells Turpin:
You could say, though, that we are undergoing a huge experiment. This is the first generation who are flicking on pornographic websites … I think it will take years to know what the implications are of young people having absolutely easy access to this material.”