Porn 2.0: The online pornography generation

Summary:The Generation Y has been exposed to more pornography online than any other youth group before the 1990's. How has this affected today's youth and with Apple's "freedom from porn" policy, is he making the right move?

The blogosphere is abuzz with the Vallywag editor vs. Apple CEO email banter; a series of back and forth emails which shed some light on Jobs' opinions on porn, which seemingly bleeds into his business life by removing sexual content from the App Store.

I can see his point, and I can empathise with his views. He says, "And you might care more about porn when you have kids...". He probably could have worded it slightly better, but I and many others understand. I have two godchildren. Granted, from what I am told it is nothing like having children so my judgement will not even close to that of a parent.

However I can fairly safely say, that at the ages of six and two years, I wouldn't want them exposed to pornography. But that's a given, really.

Now think about wider society. In a sociology module last year, I studied advertisements from then and now - between the present day and World War II. You may not see the stark differences between the two styles in content because the vast majority of us have simply become accustomed to what we see.

I plead the porn card, ladies and gentlemen. Billions upon billions of gigabytes of stacked up, readily available, still and moving online pornography.

In reality, advertisements and the whole industry of marketing, sales and advertising, has become increasingly sexualised. Men especially are more susceptible to purchasing products when they are being enriched with women, sprawling over the screen or billboard or the man using the product. Nature or nurture, it's mostly part to this in-built sense of hegemonic masculinity that we biologically struggle to control and as those who are partnered with men, will mostly agree.

With the Generation Y being the first generation of citizens to have wide, almost unrestricted access to the web in their homes, university halls and bedrooms, we may as well be called the Porn Generation. But with that, sexist as it might sound - and I apologise for such - it really is mostly the lads.

My generation including myself, have been exposed to so much of this content growing up that we have been sexualised beyond 'repair'. To be fair, you could type in pretty much any arbitrary word into Google Image search with the safety filter turned off, and within the first five pages of results, you are guaranteed to see at least one pornographic image.

But again, thinking of the effect of porn on society from a sociological point of view, there does appear to be a paradigm between pornography and the shift in marketing/sales tactics to a liberalisation of wider society. Which came first - the chicken or the egg? In this case, I am unsure as I am still a young man and haven't been alive long enough to see for my own eyes, but a shift in attitudes away from coyness and reserved public emotions is clear and present in today's culture.

Even to the point where, you have the option to display publicly your sexual orientation on your Facebook profile page, shows a massive shift in our individualistic approach to self-liberalisation of sex within society. While liberalisation may not be the top of some more conservative agendas, nevertheless the Generation Y is by nature a liberal and open minded subset of society.

Some argue that the Generation Y prefer Facebook to pornography. I could explain that, but it would be...

The 'porn domain name' is still to be decided, with Internet regulators still considering the use of an .xxx top-level TLD dedicated to sites providing pornographic content. Though plans were scrapped in 2005 under pressure of conservative groups, this would provide benefits such as allowing legitimate services to be sold through more officiated domain names, but also allowing schools and suchlike to ban a broad spectrum of sites through one filter entry.

So a parallel between 'public service' Internet registrars and regulators to apply dedicated pornography 'controls' against private industries such as Apple and Wikipedia now, trying to remove such content from the web, there is still a clear and present divide splitting the two.

But this isn't an argument for whether pornography should be regulated, criminalised or legalised in any way.

What will be interesting to see is what the future holds for the younger Generation Z. My youngest godchild is yet to experience the wonders of the web, whereas my eldest has had some exposure to the online world. It will be quite some time before they have personal and near-unrestricted access to the web, and therefore the potential risk of being exposed to illicit content.

But it may not get that far. I suspect that not before long, as in some recent times, the web will become a more prominent target in illegal activity- not exclusive to illicit pornography or any variation of - but fraud and terrorism in particular, by governments and states. Whatever controls are in place, if any, by the time that my two young godchildren are of teenage years, will be most likely determined long before then.

My point, in regards to the Steve Jobs and Ryan Tate banter, is simple. He does kind of have a point, but I can see both sides to the argument. Banning explicit material from the App Store may help in Jobs' ideology, but he is of an older generation, whereas Tate is younger and could fill in the generational gap.

Nevertheless, if Jobs' decides to do so for his own company's App Store, and if he feels it's appropriate to maintain certain standards and not be the one distributing porn, then we should respect that. If he was to ban all his Apple product users from accessing porn, that would be a totally different issue.

WIll Apple (for example) do better for the wider market by reducing explicit content to download through App Store? Or will it alienate the Generation Y and other users, in only to seek it elsewhere?

Topics: Government : US, Government

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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