Carolyn Moynihan

Protecting children from porn

Carolyn Moynihan
By Carolyn Moynihan
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June 4, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - How serious is the problem of pornography on the internet? Important enough to be the central issue in a rally drawing more than 40,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews to a New York baseball stadium two weekends ago. The men (it was too difficult to segregate the women, as Haredi laws require), all dressed in black suits and white shirts, filled the benches to hear pep talks about the dangers and temptations of the internet, with exhortations to use it sparingly, and then, only with effective filters.

“We’ve been retreating for years—enough! Tonight we draw a line of demarcation in the sand, tonight we begin to fight back!” said Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman in his opening “powerhouse” speech, as reported by a (sceptical, Jewish) Tablet magazine. “If one sins on the Internet, he commits an aveira [sin]; if one separates from the community [by not installing a filter], he loses his share in olam haba [the world to come]!”

Next to this show of numbers and moral fervour the report of a group of British members of parliament about the protection of children online might seem rather tame. But it has generated its own kind of drama as advocates of stronger protective measures and anti-censorship forces argue over proposals to force (if necessary) internet service providers to filter content for porn before it goes out to subscribers. You could probably fill several football stadiums with Britons who are worried about the risks of the internet for their children—if only they had rabbis to tell them, under pain of eternal retribution, to come.

Except for child abuse imagery—which the UK internet industry has agreed to block since 1996—British leaders in general, unlike the Jews at the New York event, do not attempt to deal with pornography as such. But there is enough community and expert concern about the effect of porn and other sexual material on children for David Cameron’s government to treat it as a political issue. One of his Conservative MPs, Claire Perry, chaired the cross-party group that produced last month the report of the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection. Its opening comments are worth quoting:

Since the early days of the World Wide Web, pornography has been one of the most widely available forms of internet content. Freedom from prying eyes, human imagination and zero barriers to entry have led to an explosion of pornographic creativity with every possible sexual act represented online including many that are deeply degrading, disturbing and violent. It is said that the whole history of human perversion is only a few clicks away. Unfortunately, our children, with their natural curiosity and superior technological skills are finding a viewing these images.

The group’s main finding is that the “opt out” filter systems for individual computers and devices such as tablets currently offered by Internet Service Providers benefit less than half of children in the UK. Consequently ISPs need to offer network level filtering whereby adult content will be blocked until customers “opt in”, a move that is not nearly as difficult as the industry makes out.

At present, six out of ten children in the UK can access the internet without device-level filters, and use of filters has actually declined 10 percentage points over the past three years. Parents are often less computer and internet savvy than their kids and they feel powerless in the face of rapid innovation. Many also surrender their power: in 2010, 61 per cent of 11- to 16-year-olds had access to the internet in their own rooms. Mobile phones could be playing a larger role in this, although the large phone companies mostly require age (18) verification to access porn.

Opting in has already been accepted in principle by the largest ISPs in Britain in the form of a system called Active Choice, to be rolled out by October this year. But this applies only to new customers and the companies are loath to extend it to their existing clients, even though higher level filtering is already standard in many commercial settings, schools and public Wi-Fi hubs, and the technology behind it is well advanced. The industry resistance to default blocking, says the Perry report, seems to be “ideological, not commercial”.

The ideology in question concerns free speech. The report itself begins by affirming the “core principles—almost religious tenets—of decentralisation and freedom” that underpin the internet and says it “would be anathema to see these principles compromised”. It says it would be “difficult and wrong to impose mandatory government censorship” of internet porn, but a network level opt-in system maintained by ISPs would preserve choice while giving children more protection.

To opponents—captains of the porn industry and cable TV companies included—it is still censorship. They don’t see why they should be responsible for anyone else’s children. In fact the great theme of those opposed to default filtering or ambivalent about it is the responsibility of parents. Reading their views it’s as though they have made a revolutionary discovery: children have parents who should be protecting them! Parents need to be educated about their role in this!

This is true, of course. Parents should make it their business to get the hang of filters, and go to the school information evenings about it if necessary; they should insist that there are no electronic devices in kids’ bedrooms; parents should bring up their children to have confidence in them so they can talk about bad stuff they run into; they should talk to their children about sex and prepare them, somehow, to keep their innocence in a pornified world…

And if sewage is getting into the town water supply they should ensure that they have an effective water filtering system in the house, because protecting their children’s physical health is all their job too. Isn’t it? If not, if it’s only reasonable that the town fix the water supply at source, why should the rules be so different when it comes to the mental health of children?

Furthermore, not everyone who wants to help parents deal with the problem of internet porn will be equally helpful. A record of oral evidence in the Perry report reveals an attitude among some that porn is a “rite of passage” for adolescents and that keeping them away from it only makes it more desirable. What kids need, to quote the lady from the Family Planning Association, is to have someone “contextualise” it for them—which seems to mean explaining how certain images and behaviour belong on porn sites or page 3 of the tabloids but not in real life—as part of “good quality sex and relationships education”. Somehow, one is not convinced.

Unfortunately, the anti-blockers don’t have to convince everybody; they only have to put up an argument backed by some kind of research that will give authorities an excuse to put the issue of protecting children aside. Crossing the Atlantic, we find dana boyd, described in a recent Slate article as an “academic and Microsoft researcher” (who writes her name without capitals) dismissing fears about kids and porn as a “moral panic”. She also believes that teenagers are not necessarily harmed by encountering porn; it all depends on the youngster and how well they have been prepared to deal with it. “The kids are all right,” she insists.

The research: She studied young adolescents involved in Chatroullet, a webcam conversation launched in 2009 where people talk to random strangers around the world. She reckons that when the teens did come across a flabby, bald middle-aged man … performing sexual acts their response was “Ew,” and they clicked past him. “It was the best abstinence-only education you can think of,” she joked to the interviewer. Uh, and how is this comparable to teens watching a hardcore porn film for hours on end?

Boyd (sorry, Microsoft just capitalised that) is right that young people need to be prepared to deal with porn if they run into it; she is even correct, as reported, that a parent needs “to create the kid who can handle the internet without you” and that “they can’t become that kid if you are watching them all the time” (as if any parent did). But by “dealing with porn” she does not mean running straight away from it. No, she means looking at it critically and “interrogating” it—“contextualising” it, perhaps. And her alternative to not being hovered over all the time by an anxious parent is for that parent to let them roam totally free on the net, free to take calculated risks with the content they encounter. This approach severely underestimates the power of imagery to stay in the mind and the well-documented addictiveness of porn. It also grossly overestimates the ability of the adolescent to manage “risk” and to resist the sexual drive when strong temptation and privacy are combined.

This week a 14-year-old boy appeared in the High Court in Edinburgh charged with raping and sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl when he was only 12. His defence counsel said the boy at that age already had unfettered access to the internet and copied something he saw in a porn film. Pornography was discussed by first year students at secondary school, said the lawyer. “There is a real risk that young people of the current generation of teenagers are growing up with a skewed view of what sex is and sexual activity.”

It’s a tragic episode that makes the fulminations of the rabbis at Queens’ Citi Field against the internet begin to sound reasonable. As for the network filtering recommended by the British MPs, that is the least a society that calls itself civilised can do.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet. This article reprinted with permission from Mercatornet under a Creative Commons license.


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‘It’s a miracle’: Newborn girl survives two days after being abandoned in a field

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

The survival of a baby who was abandoned by her mother and left in a field for two days has been described as "a miracle" by the doctor attending the newborn girl.

"She had been left alone naked, and weighed less than a kilogram, in part because she was so severely dehydrated," said Doctor Barbara Chomik at the hospital in the northern Polish city of Elblag, according to a report from Central European News.

"It is a miracle that she survived under those conditions for so long. It is simply a miracle," Dr. Chomik said.

The report said that the child's mother, Jolanta Czarnecka, 30, of Ilawa in northeastern Poland, had concealed her pregnancy from friends and fellow workers, and had given birth in a field during a lunch break, then returned to work.

When blood was noticed on her clothing, the woman at first claimed she had accidentally given birth in the toilet and the baby had gone down the drain.

However, when investigation found no evidence supporting her claims, Czarnecka admitted to having given birth to the child in a nearby field and leaving her there.

When searchers found the child, two days after her birth, the little girl was dehydrated and covered with insects.

Czarnecka is facing charges of attempted murder for allegedly abandoning her child.

Czarnecka, who has entered a not guilty plea to the charges against her, could be sentenced to five years in prison if she is convicted.


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To the Christians who think 50 Shades is all sorts of awesome: Please, stop and THINK

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By Jonathon van Maren

It’s pretty depressing when you realize that, in 2014, many people seem to think that destruction of human dignity is a small price to pay for an orgasm.

I suppose when I write a column about a book that just sold its 100 millionth copy I shouldn’t be surprised when I get a bit of a kickback. But I have to say—I wasn’t expecting hundreds of commenters, many saying they were Christian, to come out loudly defending the porn novel 50 Shades of Grey, often tastelessly interspersed with details from their own sex lives.

People squawked that we “shouldn’t judge” those who practice bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (BDSM), and informed me that “no one gets hurt” and that it “isn’t abuse” and said that it was “just fantasy” (as if we have a separate brain and body for fantasy).

Meanwhile, not a single commenter addressed one of the main arguments I laid out—that with boys watching violent porn and girls being socialized to accept violence and torture inside of a sexual relationship, we have created a toxic situation in which people very much are being hurt.

In response to the defenders of this trash, let me make just a few points.

  1. Not all consent is equal.

People keep trumpeting this stupid idea that just because someone consents to something or allows something to happen, it isn’t abusive.

But if someone consents to being beaten up, punched, slapped, whipped, called disgusting and degrading names, and have other things done to them that I will choose not to describe here, does that make it any less abusive? It makes it legal (perhaps, but it certainly doesn’t make it any less disgusting or violent.

Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with Christian Grey? Would you want your son to turn into Christian Grey? If the answer is yes to either of those, someone should call social services.

Anyone who works with victims of domestic and sexual assault will tell you that just because someone permits something to happen or doesn’t extricate themselves from a situation doesn’t mean it isn’t, in fact, abuse. Only when it comes to sex are people starting to make this argument, so that they can cling to their fetishes and justify their turn-ons. Those women who defend the book because they think it spiced up their sex life are being incredibly selfish and negligent, refusing to think about how this book could affect other women in different situations, as well as young and impressionable girls.

In the words of renowned porn researcher and sociologist Dr. Gail Dines:

In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Christian [Grey of 50 Shades of Grey] is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.

The most likely real-world ending of Fifty Shades of Grey is fifty shades of black and blue. The awful truth in the real world is that women who partner with a Christian Grey often end up hightailing it to a battered women's shelter with traumatized kids in tow. The less fortunate end up in graveyards.

  1. 50 Shades of Grey normalizes intimate partner violence…

…and sickeningly, even portrays it as romantic and erotic. Amy Bonomi, Lauren Altenburger, and Nicole Walton published an article on the impact of 50 Shades last year in the Journal of Women’s Health. Their conclusions are intuitive and horrifying:

While intimate partner violence (IPV) affects 25% of women and impairs health, current societal conditions—including the normalization of abuse in popular culture such as novels, film, and music—create the context to support such violence.

Emotional abuse is present in nearly every interaction, including: stalking (Christian deliberately follows Anastasia and appears in unusual places, uses a phone and computer to track Anastasia’s whereabouts, and delivers expensive gifts); intimidation (Christian uses intimidating verbal and nonverbal behaviors, such as routinely commanding Anastasia to eat and threatening to punish her); and isolation (Christian limits Anastasia’s social contact). Sexual violence is pervasive—including using alcohol to compromise Anastasia’s consent, as well as intimidation (Christian initiates sexual encounters when genuinely angry, dismisses Anastasia’s requests for boundaries, and threatens her). Anastasia experiences reactions typical of abused women, including: constant perceived threat (“my stomach churns from his threats”); altered identity (describes herself as a “pale, haunted ghost”); and stressful managing (engages in behaviors to “keep the peace,” such as withholding information about her social whereabouts to avoid Christian’s anger). Anastasia becomes disempowered and entrapped in the relationship as her behaviors become mechanized in response to Christian’s abuse.

Our analysis identified patterns in Fifty Shades that reflect pervasive intimate partner violence—one of the biggest problems of our time. Further, our analysis adds to a growing body of literature noting dangerous violence standards being perpetuated in popular culture.

  1. Really? Sadism?

I notice that commenters rarely break down what the acronym “BDSM” actually stands for: bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. If they did, they could no longer make the repulsive claim that “love” or “intimacy” have anything to do with it.

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The definition of sadism is “enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain, especially sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone…a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others.”

As one of my colleagues noted, we used to send sadists to a therapist or to prison, not to the bedroom. And 100 million copies of this porn novel have been unleashed on our society informing people that getting off on hurting someone is romantic and erotic. It is a brutal irony that people who scream about water-boarding terrorists are watching and experimenting with sexual practices far more brutal. As one porn researcher noted, some online BDSM porn promotes practices and behaviors that would be considered unlawful under the Geneva Convention if they were taking place in a wartime context.

It seems the Sexual Revolutionaries have gone from promoting “safe sex” to “safe words”—just in case the pain gets too rough. And none of them seem to be volunteering information on just how a woman is supposed to employ a safe word with a gag or bondage headgear on.

But who cares, right? Just one more casualty on our culture’s new Sexual Frontier.

  1. “It’s just fiction and fantasy and has no effect on the real world!”

That’s total garbage and they know it. I’ve met multiple girls who were abused like this inside of relationships. Hotels are offering “50 Shades of Grey” packages replete with the helicopter and private suites for the proceedings. According to the New York Post, sales of rope exploded tenfold after the release of the book. Babeland reported that visits to the bondage section of their website spiked 81%, with an almost 30% increase in the sale of things like riding crops and handcuffs.

I could go on, but I won’t. As Babeland co-founder Claire Cavanah noted, “It’s like a juggernaut. You’d be surprised to see how very ordinary these people are who are coming in. The book is just an explosion of permission for them to try something new in the bedroom.”

  1. What does this book and the BDSM movement say about the value of women and girls?

I’d like the defenders of this book to try stop thinking with their nether-regions for just a moment and ask themselves a few simple questions: What does sadism and sexual torture (consensual or not) say to our culture about the value of girls? What does it say to boys about how they should treat girls? The youth of today are inundated with porn and sexually violent material—is nobody—nobody—at all worried about the impact this has on them? On the girls who are being abused by boys who think this is normal behavior—and think it is normal themselves?

Dr. Gail Dines relates that when speaking to groups of women who loved the book, they all grow deathly silent when she asks them two simple questions: Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with Christian Grey? Would you want your son to turn into Christian Grey?

If the answer is yes to either of those, someone should call social services.

__

This book and the sadism it promotes are an assault on human dignity, and most of all an assault on the worth and value of girls and women. Please consider the impact you will have on your daughters and the vulnerable and confused people around you when you read and promote this book. Anastasia Steele is, thankfully, a fictional character. But real girls are facing these expectations and demands from a culture that elevates a sexual sadist to the level of a romantic hero. Ask yourselves if you want their “love” and “intimacy” to include sadism and domination, or real respect.

Because you can’t have both.

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Ryan T. Anderson

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New York Times reporter: ‘Anti-LGBT’ people ‘deserve’ incivility

Ryan T. Anderson
By Ryan Anderson

As I recounted Monday at The Daily Signal, The New York Times reporter Josh Barro thinks some people are “unworthy of respect.” Yesterday Barro doubled-down and tweeted back at me that “some people are deserving of incivility.” He argued that I am such a person because of my views about marriage policy. You can see the entire exchange on my twitter page.

What Josh Barro says or does doesn’t really affect me. I’m not a victim, and I’ll keep doing what I do. But incivility, accepted and entrenched, is toxic to a political community. Indeed, civility is essential for political life in a pluralistic society.

It also has deep roots.

The Hebrew Bible tells us that all people are made in the image and likeness of God and have a profound and inherent dignity. Sound philosophy comes to a similar conclusion: as rational beings capable of freedom and love, all human beings have intrinsic and inestimable worth. And so we should always treat people with respect and dignity—we should honor their basic humanity. We should always engage with civility—even when we sharply disagree with them. Faith and reason, the natural law and the divine law, both point to the same conclusion.

Just as I think the best of theology and philosophy point to the conclusion that we should always treat people with respect, so I think they show that marriage is the union of a man and a woman—and that redefining marriage will undermine the political common good.

The work that I’ve done for the past few years for The Heritage Foundation has been at the service of explaining why I think this to be the case. Bookish by nature, I thought the best contribution I could make to public life was to help us think about marriage. So while my early work after college was in philosophy and bioethics, and my graduate coursework was in the history of political philosophy, I put my dissertation about economic and social justice on hold so I could devote myself to this debate at this crucial time.

Along with my co-authors, a classmate of mine from Princeton and a professor of ours there, we set out to write a book making what we considered the best philosophical argument for what marriage is and why it matters. Our book seemed to help the Supreme Court think about the issue, as Justice Samuel Alito cited it twice. The reason I’ve written various and sundry policy papers for Heritage, and traveled across the country speaking on college campuses, and appeared on numerous news shows (including, of course, Piers Morgan) is that I know the only way forward in our national debate about marriage is to make the arguments in as reasonable and civil a spirit as possible.

Some people, like Barro, want to do everything they can to shut down this discussion. They want to demonize those who hold contrary viewpoints. They want to equate us with racists and claim we are unworthy of respect and ought to be treated with incivility. This is how bullies behave. In all of recorded history, ours is the first time where we can have open and honest conversations about same-sex attraction and marriage. This discussion is just beginning. It is nowhere near being over.

All our fellow citizens, including those identifying as LGBT, should enjoy the full panoply of civil rights—the free exercise of religion, freedoms of speech and press, the right to own property and enter into contracts, the right to vote and have a fair trial, and every other freedom to live as they choose, consistent with the common good.

Government redefinition of marriage, however, is not a civil right—nor will redefining marriage serve the common good. Indeed, redefining marriage will have negative consequences.

We make our arguments, in many fora, as transparently as possible. We welcome counterarguments. And we strive to treat all people with the dignity and respect they deserve as we carry on this conversation.

One of the most unfortunate parts of my exchange with Barro last night was his reaction toward those who identify as LGBT and aspire to lives of chastity. They freely choose to live by their conviction that sex is reserved for the marital bond of a husband and wife. Some of them also seek professional help in dealing with and perhaps even diminishing (not repressing) their same-sex sexual desires.

I have written in their defense and against government coercion that would prevent them from receiving the help they desire, as New Jersey and California have done. Barro describes my support for their freedom as “sowing misery…doing a bad thing to people…making the world worse.”

There really is anti-LGBT bigotry in the world. But Barro does a disservice to his cause when he lumps in reasonable debates about marriage policy and the pastoral care that some same-sex attracted persons voluntarily seek out as, in his words, “anti-LGBT.” If we can’t draw a line between real bigotry and reasonable disagreement, we’re not helping anyone.

This debate isn’t about restricting anyone’s personal freedom. However it goes, people will remain free to live their romantic lives as they choose. So too people who experience same-sex attraction but aspire to chastity should be free to lead their lives in line with their beliefs, and to seek out the help they desire. We can have a civil conversation about which course of action is best—but let’s leave aside the extremism.

Barro asks, “Why shouldn’t I call you names?” My answer is simple: you should not practice the disdain and contempt you claim to abhor.

All my life, I’ve been educated at left-leaning institutions. Most of my friends disagree with me about these issues. But they’re still friends. And their feedback has made me a better person.

My final tweet to Barro is where I still remain committed: “people on all sides of LGBT debates and marriage debates need to find a way to discuss these issues without demonizing anyone.”

Reprinted with permission from the Daily Signal, where you can find Ryan Anderson's Twitter exchange with Barro.


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