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Onanism 2.0

March 31, 2006

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.”


Sigh. ... I give/gave up. That statistic comes from a censorware company (noted in orginal article), and it's very likely phony or at best misleading, and I'll be told that it doesn't matter because Think Of The Children.

Here's my post debunking it, which has had around zero impact (even though I've blogged it!):

N2H2 "State Secrets" - PR and lying with statistics

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at April 1, 2006 12:57 AM

More concerning is the way to handle statistics behind: if every kid is to see porn at a random time between 9 and 19, then half of them at any given time has seen some; draw a box with the age (time) in absciss, the share of the population in ordinate, and drawn a diagonal line from the bottom left corner (no kid has seen any at 9) to the upper left corner (everyone at 19 has); below this line could be the half Turkin is talking about, and above. . . the other half that will see some smut before majority. More interesting would be the know at what age people become the described addict, and compare it with a first-actual-sex curve.

Posted by: B at April 1, 2006 05:31 AM

Seth, No need to whine. Your laissez-faire view of the matter is the one that holds sway. Nick

Posted by: Nick at April 1, 2006 09:02 AM

Nick, if my views held sway, people would not be gullibly regurgitating scare-mongering nonsense from a censorware company.

I was "there" at the first big media hype-fest on the horrors of the Internet and s-e-x, over a decade ago. The topic doesn't get any better with age.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at April 1, 2006 10:39 AM

".. I think it will take years to know what the implications are of young people having absolutely easy access to this material."

Perhaps, instead of prophesied addicted loons, the fact that porn is no longer hard to get may reduce the allure.

As an analogy, I don't see that teenage drunkenness is out of hand in France, where alcohol, in moderation, is part of the lifestyle. It's in places like my country, New Zealand, where the drinking age was lowered to 18 and where there is a serious drinking culture that teen drunken behaviour is out of control. It may be one of those dreaded 'phases' that will pass when society stops making a fuss about it.

Or not.

Posted by: Mark Harris at April 6, 2006 07:56 AM

Regardless of the statistics internet porn addiction is a serious problem for those who suffer from it, as I can confirm. The statistics merely show whether it is becoming more widespread.

Posted by: AdamC at June 9, 2006 05:23 AM

If the statistics aren’t accurate than I do think they should find some that show the real numbers. However, I do think they can’t be too far off. When I grew up, as sad as it was, all most all of my guy friends were involved with online pornography. It definitely damages families and relationships as well. I work with people that are trying to quit the addiction and it is a serious thing. I actually have some of those statistics on my web page, www.personalandlifecoach.com and I hope they are accurate, but if they are not I hope they come out with some real ones. From my perspective it is a rather huge issue. I do not think that once it cools down people won’t care about it much. With the way the human body is made up, it will always have a draw to it.
By the way Mark, I love New Zealand. I am envies of you, I lived there for two years and I would love to move back.

Posted by: jwilcox at June 22, 2006 11:58 PM

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