In his book, The Drug of the New Millennium,19 author Mark Kastleman outlines what he calls “The Four A’s of Internet Pornography”: Accessible, Affordable, Anonymous, and Aggressive.
As we review each of these characteristics of Internet pornography, ask yourself the following question: “If we applied these four attributes to any addictive substance or activity, how much more serious a problem would we have?”
In previous generations, pornography was available primarily via books, magazines, and films. Obtaining these materials normally required a trip to the wrong part of town and into a business location where one would have to risk their reputation by parking and entering. For most would-be consumers, it simply wasn’t worth the risk.
The most pervasive content in prior generations was “soft-core” pornography delivered via magazine subscriptions or behind the counter at the local drug store. While pornography addiction has existed for ages, in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations there was simply too little fuel for the fire to create a widespread epidemic.
Enter the World Wide Web, and we find ourselves in a world where everything from immodest swimwear to the most vile and corrosive pornographic materials are easily within reach, not just in the home or in the bedroom, but in the backpack or pocket.
You may be wondering, “If pornography is such a huge money maker, why are we talking about affordability? Someone must be paying for this stuff.” Absolutely. The seriously addicted are coughing up their credit cards to view larger quantities of material as well as more corrosive and stimulating material than they can get for free. Still, literally billions of pornographic images are available on the web at no cost.
Three main sources account for free material on the web:
- Pay sites provide teaser material for potential customers, enough to whet the appetite for more. Once a user has exhausted the free material and found themselves unsatisfied, the next step is to break out the credit for access to the full store.
- Amateur pornographers create and disseminate material in part to feed their own appetites by creating their own material and posting it online. Some of these producers do so in order to share with other users in private or semi-private online social networks.
- The entertainment industry regularly produces salacious or prurient material in order to sell more magazines or attract more viewers and paying customers. They know that “sex sells” and they use that to their advantage. While much of this material may not be sexually explicit, it still feeds the appetite of viewers and contributes to a sexualization of society that exacerbates the overall problem.20
Accessing pornography on the Internet requires no face-to-face contact with the vendor, and provides a reasonably low risk of detection. The user operates with a strong sense of anonymity.
The anonymous nature of Internet pornography creates a buffer from reality and consequence. Internet pornography has increasingly become a secret addiction. Unlike violations of the Word of Wisdom, you can’t smell it on someone’s clothes or see it in the way they stagger drunkenly to their car.
The reality, of course, is that Internet pornography use is not truly anonymous since it’s almost impossible to completely cover one’s tracks. But for the average family, it’s often difficult to detect Internet pornography use by a loved one.
The brethren have clearly counseled us to avoid pornography in all its forms. We follow that counsel when we avoid “anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way.”21 But the challenge in this generation is that pornography is increasingly aggressive and predatory. You can do your best to avoid it, but it’s still going to come looking for you.
Pornographers understand that their industry is extremely profitable once individuals become addicted, and they do everything possible to create opportunities for exposure to feed the next generation of paying addicts, including giving away free material. They do other aggressive things to hook potential users, including spam emails, disguised web site names, pop-up ads, spyware, adware, hijacked browsers, and attempts to get their sites into otherwise legitimate Google search results.
When we talk about protection from pornography, we can’t simply talk about how to control yourself to not go looking for it, but also how to protect yourself when it comes looking for you!