- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What should people do if they don’t like having pornography thrust in their faces — or their children’s faces?

They certainly have tried to push it away. They have used parental controls, the V-chip, anti-pornography filtering software and restrictions on family members’ time online and/or have set computers in “public” places in the house. One mother I know solves her Internet problem by unhooking the router, sticking it in her purse and taking it with her whenever she leaves home.

But how does a vigilant parent “unplug” an iPod? Or filter the Xbox or the kids’ cell phones with Internet access (and camera)? Thanks to open Wi-Fi, uncensored library computers and unfiltered Internet at friends’ homes, pornographic images can pop up virtually anywhere, anytime.

So I ask again, what are people to do if they don’t like having pornography thrust in their faces?

Here is a laundry list of solutions released recently by the Witherspoon Institute, an independent research center in Princeton, N.J. More than 50 academics signed the report, “The Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations.”

Some of the institute’s proposals, by professional category, are:

For therapists:

• Become familiar with the burgeoning research on the negative effects of pornography use, especially Internet pornography. Resist the idea that looking at pornography is “anodyne entertainment” — mind-numbing and pleasurable but harmless — like watching TV.

• Stop using pornography as a “marital aid” in therapy. In light of evidence about pornography’s destructiveness to personal relationships, using pornography in couples’ therapy is like the Red Cross passing out cigarettes to benefit the troops.

For educators:

• Teach a session or two on the sex industry as part of sex education so young people can see “the underpinnings and implications” of the commercialization of sex.

For media:

• Examine the links between human trafficking and the pornography industry.

For businesses:

• Recognize that while “zero tolerance” for pornography and sexual exploitation are essential workplace policies, employers should “take an enlightened view” of employees with these problems. As with abuse of alcohol and other substances, helping employees break their addictions can benefit both the company and the employees.

• Because many people first encounter pornography on a hotel-room television, the hospitality industry should do more to block content on their televisions “in the interest of protecting those who do not want their space invaded with pornographic imagery.”

For pop-culture leaders:

• Just as some Hollywood entertainers and industry members have stopped glamorizing smoking, they can do the same for pornography. This is particularly needed in pop-music circles because music videos “routinely feature” images that are degrading and oversexualized.

• Celebrities could lead public-service campaigns against “pornified” images of women, acceptance of a “stripper culture” and the “mainstreaming of pornography in juvenile culture.”

For government and lawmakers:

• Find ways to change Internet-server laws so that a company must agree, as a condition of operating, that its service will not be offered to Web sites that propagate obscene materials.

• Similar to warnings on tobacco products, require “adult” materials to carry information about the “addictive potential of pornography” and “consequent possible psychological harm to the consumer.”

• Create a private civil right of action, called the “negligent exposure of a minor or an unwilling adult to obscene materials,” to be used against pornography providers. Such a civil action would permit recovery — i.e., monetary damages — for “emotional offense to adults” or endangering the welfare of children.

That last suggestion might give a whole new meaning to “pay-per-view.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.



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