Friday, May 15, 2009

The American "adult" industry could be on its way out?

David Goldstein has an amusing, or perhaps sobering article in "The American Prospect", reprinted by Alternet. May 15, “Is the Porn Industry Doomed?” I couldn’t get the American Prospect site to come up, so the Alternet copy is here.

Larry Flynt reportedly asked Congress for a $5 billion bailout of the “adult” industry. Is he pulling our leg? Okay, conservatives say, its because of the porn business that men don’t want to get or stay married. Fantasy is more appealing than reality, but that goes beyond porn, doesn’t it. That was a key point in the COPA trial.

Diane Duke, Executive Director of the Free Speech Coalition, admits that piracy and free content could be driving the business down.

Goldstein goes on to discuss the politics of it on Capitol Hill, including Barney Frank, and pretty soon we get into “Outrage” territory.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Northern VA authorities take cautious approach on "sexting" by minors

The Fairfax County (VA) Police Department has been handling the “sexting” issue carefully, according to a front page story in The Washington Post on Thursday May 7.
The story is “Sending of explicit photos can land teens in legal fix,” link here.

Typical the police department confers with a Commonwealth attorney, and may recommend counseling or juvenile court instead a full prosecution, as has happened in other states. The laws were never really designed to protect kids from each other this way and lump them in with “predators.”

Police say that many are “good kids” with no records, and have no concept that explicit photos could wind up on the Internet and be found by future employers or schools.

Update: May 13, 2009

Station WJLA-7 announced that Fairfax County police will have an information forum for the public on the sexting issue at West Springfield High School tonight, May 13.

WJLA provides a report of the meeting "Concerned Local Parents, Teens Gather for Sexting Meeting", link here. WJLA provides a video from the meeting there. The suggestion was made that parents take cell phones away at bedtime, and police said that over 20% of teens have texted. Technically, they are committing serious felonies. There is talk of changing the laws (with "Romeo and Juliet" age provisions) but police say it is difficult to do so without inviting real "predators" back in. Kids don't think what they are doing is wrong, and the problem it creates is indirect and existential.

Today, Ellen DeGeneres, on her show May 13, frivolously called "Sexting" "Texting with a booty call". I wonder if she realizes how serious the legal issue is.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Recent columnist: do "adult materials" discourage "real relationships?" If so, there's a "continuum"

This column may sound like it is more about young adults than minors, but I thought I would put it here anyway. Cheryl Wetzstein of the Washington Times contributed a two-part series on pornography, starting Sunday April 26 in the “Sunday Read”. The first link leads to the second, so I’ll just give the first one. In the first part, she discusses the controversy at the University of Maryland over the showing of “Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge” on campus, at taxpayer expense. No, I haven’t seen it or rented it, and don’t expect to review it. She goes on to make a modern metaphor of the porn business to “big tobacco”. Only in these times; such a comparison would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

But it’s the second part (p 17 of the May 3 “Sunday Read”) that gets interesting. She characterizes pornography as encouraging people to “develop secret lives”, “feel bad about themselves”, and, most importantly, “lose any interest in making love with an actual person.”

The reader can imagine how this all might connect with past debates over COPA.

But it also connects to other areas of psychology, like discussions of “narcissistic personality disorder” and the “milder” (if that’s a good word choice) “schizoid personality” where people just prefer to stay in their own worlds rather than maintain emotional connections to specific others. It’s quite far from the libertarian notion of harmlessness; it’s more about karma. We have a meritocratic, competitive society, and living by its values has “logical consequences” – which could mean, following the example of zoo animals (following after Desmond Morris) that many people lose interest in continuing with their own progeny. Does that tie in to conservative concerns about “demographic winter”?

But if so, this takes us away from focusing just on pornography for its own sake, to going deeper into our value systems, and ponder what makes us important to other people.

That was one of the dichotomies that characterized the COPA trial in Philadelphia in 2006. The government focused so much on the technical definitions of “HTM” and of specific kinds of images. The ACLU, quite correctly, reasoned that expressions are connected and form a continuum. If you’re going to have open individual expression, you’re going to have to become bigger than the risk.

Wetzstein's second column reminds me of a comment about "self-dating" in a book by Katherine Kersten and Mitchell Pearlstein of the Center for the American Experiment in Minneapolis, the book called "Close to Home", reviewed here on March 28, 2006 on my books blog, link.