Pornography (the depiction of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement) has taken on a wide variety of forms throughout the decades, from paintings and photographs to magazines and video. Computers and the invention of the Internet embody the latest technological innovations and have allowed viewers’ interactions with pornography to change dramatically. It is estimated that there are over one million pornographic sites on the Internet, with as many as 10,000 new sites added every week. One quarter of Internet search requests revolve around pornography. In fact, pornographic sites make up 12% of sites found on the web. Sexually explicit websites, bulletin boards, newsgroups, and chat rooms are becoming increasingly popular. The effects of Internet Porn use are widespread and seem to contain both negative and positive elements.
Popular Ways to Interact with Internet Porn
Membership or “pass” sites allow users access to numerous sites with just one subscription. Members gain access to photos as well as streaming and downloadable video content. There are also many free pornography websites. Many feature amateur porn, or homemade, pre-recorded videos of sexual activity. The viewer can navigate these sites and select preferences from the type of sexual activity to actors’ physical traits, in order to find the most arousing material for them. Most sites even have the option of using “webcams” to engage in live-streaming sexual activity. This allows the viewer to watch from their computer screen as actors or amateurs perform live in front of a web camera.
Virtual Reality: The Pros and Cons
Virtual reality is now filled with sexual content. Virtual communities make it possible to invent experiences, relationships, and identities while experimenting in virtual, boundless spaces. Consequently, this modifies interpersonal relationships and the users relationship with technological products. For instance, the web-based game, Second Life, contains a Red Light District, while Sociolotron allows users to participate in sexually coercive activities (including rape).
Virtual reality users often feel a separation from the places and actions they engage in on the Internet. It is suggested that they produce an emotional and ethical distance from what is seen and what actions their avatar may perform. While creating excitement and attraction, it seems that virtual participation in pornographic material does not incite a sense of individual responsibility or accountability in otherwise inappropriate situations (for instance, where pornographic material may involve exploitation of minors or scenes of sexually explicit violence on real (or simulated) people). Virtual reality may create a never-ending uncertainty between the real and the imaginary; this may lead to a psychological distancing from oneself, a sense of not having to take responsibility for one’s own actions.
However, there are positive aspects to virtual reality. Many enjoy the main advantage that virtual reality offers: a place of secrecy and anonymity, where people find intimacy and feel a sense of freedom and power.
Advantages of Internet Porn: Anonymity
The Internet has boosted the consumption of pseudo-pornographic material. This makes the search and sharing of sexually explicit content easier, faster, anonymous, and seemingly “safe.” Internet porn virtually guarantees the anonymity of those visiting pornographic sites. It allows consumers to consult the web from home, which prevents any potential embarrassment from buying pornographic material in public retail stores. Some people may worry about the risk of running into somebody they know (friend, family member, employer, etc.) and being negatively judged. The anonymity of the Internet eliminates the possible stigma associated with this type of consumerism. Overall, privacy, security, electronic payment, and fast pay are fundamental aspects of the sex industry’s success on the Internet.
Internet porn can be used as a tool for learning and becoming stimulated in real life sexual interactions. The availability and anonymity of Internet porn gives people the opportunity to add novelty to their sex lives, learn about their bodies, and explore a variety of techniques and sexual interests. For instance, couples may watch it together and experiment afterwards or during to enliven their sex lives.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the porn industry often enhances and/or alters the original appearance and abilities of their highly sexualized participants. Viewers who compare such imagery and activity with reality may find themselves disappointed or confused in real life sexual interactions. The easy access to sexual images also holds the possibility of fueling sexual addiction, if these images are not viewed in moderation. Some signs of an unhealthy relationship with porn include but are not limited to the following:
1) An inability to stop interacting or watching porn despite previous attempts to do so
2) Losing track of time or spending more time than intended to on porn use
3) Showing less interest in socializing with friends and family and excusing oneself from activities that were once important or pleasurable
4) Decreasing physical affection and taking more stimulation to become aroused or reach climax than it did previously
Overall, self-regulation and limitations become key to a healthy relationship with porn. While pornography has many benefits, excessive exposure to it can cause negative effects.
The Internet’s Effect on the Porn Industry
The increasing availability of free Internet porn includes, but is not limited to:
1) Free teasers
2) Pirated videos
3) Amateur-produced material
Due to the expansion of Internet porn, individual performers are able to market themselves directly to viewers without the once vital need for studios, agents, contracts, and/or corporations. This phenomenon undercuts profits made by the U.S. Porn Industry (which is based out of the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles, California). As a result, the earnings for porn actors have dropped dramatically. Wages for female actors have declined from $800 to $600 per scene, while males earn even less. The industry has become competitive, which has forced pornographic actors to crank up the intensity and vulgarity of their content. Performances now include non-standard sexual activities, such as anal sex or demonstrations of BDSM, without the bonuses that actors once received for such scenes.
Resources and References
Baldwin and Levay, “Discovering Human Sexuality (Second Edition)”
Last Updated 13 November 2012.