willis on pr0n
Oliver Willis has an interesting essay on the proliferation of pr0n on the Internet ("The widespread distribution of porn is the triumph of the free market system.
"). He concludes:
The Emerging Pornographic Majority will continue to reject the repression of sexual ideas and beliefs. Americans have seen the dangers of extreme repression of the human libido in venues such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and have utterly rejected it. In our country, people have the ability to make a choice – and they’ve chosen sex.
Willis has an interesting perspective, and when it comes to the the whole consensual-adult thing, it isn't so much that I favor or oppose what people do as much as I think it's none of anyone else's damn business. That said, I do have some reservations. One is, of course, preventing children's exposure to pr0n. Willis, of course, is talking only about adults, but I think parents need to be very careful in monitoring what their kids are doing online. In my day, kids peeked at copies of Playboy or, later on, images of women rendered in ASCII text; I don't think the impulse is harmful, but there amount of easily available hardcore stuff is a definite concern. There's a *lot* of stuff out there I wouldn't want my daughters exposed to.
Connected to that is the fact that, since there's so much free pr0n out there, pay sites up the ante by offering more extreme stuff (you don't really need examples, do you?). While I'm not going to get into condemning non-harmful consensual practices, I wonder if the saturation of more edge-case sexuality might convey the notion that *non* extreme practices are somehow boring. Back in college, a class I took indicated that consumers of porn tended to need more stimulation to achieve the same level of arousal; these days that curve could be pretty steep.
Frankly, I find a lot of the hardcore stuff out there more boring than anything else...it just isn't erotic. My biggest beef with movies--pr0n or otherwise--in fact, is that they often confuse "explicit" with "erotic."
One criticism of pr0n from the comments is that it creates "unrealistic expectations." Of *course* pr0n involves unrealistic fantasy, but so does the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Harlequin novels, fashion magazines, romantic comedies, etc. Anyone who patterns their expectations around any of those is in big trouble, but I think by and large people can and do handle it. I suspect that there are lots of people in healthy relationships in which one or both partners consume pr0n (or romance novels)--the sheer volume of pr0n consumed would tend to indicate that.
For another interesting perspective, check out the online journal True Pr0n Clerk Stories.