The Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Saturday, March 13, 1999

Porn doesn't belong on the Net

by Marie Snyder

Remember that television ad for Labatt Blue featuring Generation-Xers racing shopping carts down busy city streets? It was pulled off the air after 21 people complained that it encouraged reckless behaviour.

Advertising Standards Canada claimed the cart chase "appeared to be real, dangerous, exciting, and an inviting thing for anyone of any age to try".

It is incomprehensible that consumers can pull this much weight in a shopping cart shenanigans controversy, yet every day, in every home and office wired to the World Wide Web, images of four-on-one sex, bestiality, and all manner of harmful sexual experiences too unseemly to mention remain available for viewing pleasure.

Twenty-one complaints will not eradicate these sites. these activities are real. The creation of the material may be dangerous to the women involved. If the images are motivational, they are dangerous to women everywhere.

Violent pornography on the Internet, which may invite reckless dangerous behaviour (like smoking may cause cancer), is restricted by laws which limit enforceability and filters do little more than placate the public.

Armed with a credit card number and significant spare time, any novice Web surfer can see full-screen still photographs of adults engaging in oral sex and intercourse. With a bit of hunting, two men copulating with a chimpanzee is available for perusal. And last fall, interested parties could watch the live sexual abuse of a five-year-old girl until members of an Internet club specializing in hard-core kiddie porn were discovered and arrested.

There are more than 250,000 pornographic sites for subscribers to absorb.

Pornography is not just a picture, it is a practice and a lifestyle. The images on the Web are not images of mutually consenting adults pleasuring one another, but of women being held down and forced to smile and appear to enjoy being bound, urinated on, filled at every orifice. The photographs and films at once glorify and understate the pain of the victims.

A 1984 study by American researcher Murray Strauss discovered a direct correlation between readership of pornographic magazines in each state and the number of sexual assaults in that state. Linking violence or cruelty with a perception of sexual pleasure promotes violence as a sexual turn-on.

The Band-Aid solution to the improper viewing of pornography on the Internet is an "X-chip" which could be updated regularly to search for pornographic Web sites entering an owner's computer. Parents and teachers can be assured unsavoury sites are not being investigted.

But the problem is not just keeping porn from the curious eyes of adolescents, but monitoring what is accessible to the porn industry's target audience.

As one site attests, the Internet is "revolutionizing the adult video industry by bringing thousands of the hottest uncensored videos out of the video store 'back room' and onto your computer screen."

Outside the Web, 97% of the pornography available in Canada is imported from other countries. Films, books, and magazines are detained and screened at the border. Offensive products by our Canadian standards, are refused entry.

The World Wide Web is borderless. Unencumbered by geographic or political boundaries, cyberspace is anarchy, a place where the individual has free reign. What co-workers or neighbours with a penchant for porn are able to view or produce is not restricted by customs initiatives.

There are laws against violent pornography that apply to the Internet. But they are almost impossible to enforce. Searching "polite" phrases regarding children or animals and pornography on the Internet signals a warning that content being sought is illegal. However, profane and creative searches do yield results.

David Colville of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is leading hearings into restricting new media. A report of the findings is expected to be released in June. But the CRTC seems to be leaning against regulating content on the Internet for fear of sending service providers and businesses to other countries that do not have regulations. Refusing to regulate and monitor Web sites seffectively condones the glorification of violence, rape, pedophilia, and bestiality.

Twenty-one people were sufficiently concerned about shopping carts potentially being driven on their streets to take specific and direct action against an offending commercial. It is perplexing that there are not tens of thousands of people taking action against violent pornographic images becoming accessible to the world.

Is the fear of censorship with slippery-slope arguments to blame? It is possible to obliterate violent porn without infringing on the enjoyment of erotica. A line can be drawn between the two camps based on true consent, mutual pleasure, and an absence of cruelty, for instance.

Or is the fear of appearing sexually repressed stopping a general outrage? Accepting the filming of painful, degrading activities in a sexual context is not necssary to an active, passionate sex life.

Perhaps the public's quiet tolerance of the pornographic industry is because it is too painful to acknowledge and possibly too monolithic to effect changes. But placid acceptance is a poor alternative.

As the technology to produce and distribute pornographic films and photographs to homes and offices worldwide is being perfected, surely the capacity to monitor and delete the images at source across phone and cable lines can be adequately developed in an equally timely fashion.

Marie Snyder of Waterloo, a high school teacher, is completing a master's degree in religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Copyright © 1999 by The Kitchener-Waterloo Record. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.