Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stating the sexually obvious is not allowed...

Some time ago we reported how the panic about teens and kids being molested due to using the internet was much to do about almost nothing. It was one of these panics that politicians and special interest groups push to stampede the public into supporting ill considered legislation which rightfully ought to be rejected.

I just received a new report from the Internet Safety Technical Task Force which was set up with the help of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. In a nutshell, the report said the fear of kids being seduced through on-line interaction by adults is grossly overestimated.

Blumenthal was not happy with that. Blumenthal uses the panic he tries to create about on-line “predators” to make a career for himself. His own web site, paid for by the taxpayers, praises Blumenthal as as leader in the fight against “Big Tobacco”, an advocate of “forced reforms in health insurance” and someone who “personally argued major cases, as he did the successful effort to uphold the sex offender registry in the U.S. Supreme Court.” In other words, if there is a campaign based on exaggerate or imaginary fears, pushing a series of bad legislation, Mr Blumenthal is there. When the voters retire him the world will be a safer place, not because of the bogus legislation he pushes, but because he will be out of office.

If there is one thing a politician hates it is a problem that isn’t a problem. Problems are the means by which politicians secure power and make a name for themselves. To tell a politician that things are just fine is to challenge their entire reason for existing. They are our saviours, at least in their own eyes. So they must always justify their existence by saving us from ourselves or saving us from one of the multiple imaginary hobgoblins that they hype up as a threat.

And if you really want to stampede the species Boobus Americanus then shriek loudly about a threat to “the children.” “The children” and imaginary monsters imperilling them have been responsible for more bad legislation than anything else.

What they found was that a small percentage of children (defined as under the age of 18), just 13% “receive sexual solicitations online”. They also found that of those who did received online advances over 90% of them came from other “children”. (I put children in quotes because it is absurd to call a 17-year-old a child, making no distinction between them and a five-year-old. )

Approximately 90% of all “children” on the web don’t receive “solicitations”. Of those who do over 90% receive them from other “children”. The percentage of children who do receive some sort of solicitation from an adult is well somewhere in the range of one-half a percent. But what about the 0.005% who do receive such solicitations. According to the report (p. 4) these “cases typically involved post-pubescent youths who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.”

Only a tiny percentage of net users under the age of 18 are solicited by adults and those who do get involved with adults are not small children but randy adolescents who are intentionally seeking out a sexual liaison. The report noted (p. 16):
Interviews with police indicate that most victims are underage adolescents who know they are going to meet adults for sexual encounters and the offences tended to fit a model of statutory rape involving a post-pubescent minor having nonforcible sexual relations with an adult, most frequently adults in their twenties.
So the teens meeting as “adult male” actually turn out to be only a few younger than the adults they are meeting. This would be the case if the adults were “most frequently adults in their twenties.” In other words we are talking about age differences, in most the cases, of between two and ten years. The image of lurking dirty old men preying on young kiddies on the internet is a lurid fantasy which says nothing about reality but a lot about those who conjure up such images to stamped the public. The report even says this (p. 16): ...the image presented by the media of an older male deceiving and preying on a young child does not paint an accurate picture of the nature of the majority of sexual solicitations and Internet-initiated offline encounters...”

Another factor that the public doesn’t realize is that of these “solicitations” most are not solicitations at all. The report notes (pp 13,14):
These reports are frequently referenced to highlight that one in five or one in seven minors are sexually solicited online. Without context, this citation implies massive solicitation of minors by older adults. As discussed below, other peers and young adults account for 90%-94% of solicitations in which approximate age is known (Finkelhor et al. 2000; Wolak et al. 2006). Also, many acts of solicitation online are harassing or teasing communications that are not designed to seduce youth into offline sexual encounters; 69% of solicitations involve no attempt at offline contact (Wolak et al. 2006). Misperception of these findings perpetuates myths that distract the public from solving the actual problems youth face.
Combine these facts together. About 13% of “children” receive a “solicitation”. Of those somewhere between 93% and 97% are from other “children”. And most of these solicitations “are harassing or teasing communications” with no attempt to meet offline. And 14% of these “solicitations” came from “offline friends and acquaintances” (p. 15). And how did the young people respond to these solicitations that have politicians so worried? “Youth typically ignore or deflect solicitations without experiencing distress.”

What about exposing kids to pornography? The report says (p. 5) that “exposure to pornography does occur online, but those most likely to be exposed are those seeking it out, such as older male minors.” They also refer to “problematic content that youth themselves generate.” One has to understand that the bulk of what qualifies as “child pornography” today is not produced by pedophiles but by adolescents who engage in erotic behaviour that they record and share. One of the anomalies of the way adolescent sexuality has been criminalized and defined is that a child pornographer is today a CHILD pornographer.

The report actually gives away a great deal of information with one fact that site in regards to exposure to pornography. “males and older adolescent are more likely to be exposed to pornography.” Why is this? If the exposure to porn were involuntary that would mean it is imposed on the viewer by an outside source. That outside source is unable to peer through the computer and see that the viewer is a male in the later stages of puberty. They would have no way of knowing this. It could just as easily be a grandmother or a six-year-old girl. But these other groups are not the ones being “exposed”.

Since the pornography can not distinguish a viewer who is an adolescent male from these other age groups or from females the fact that those exposed tend to be male adolescents is a clear indication that the bulk of this “exposure” is voluntary. The boys are looking for it. In fact, the study found that younger viewers (p. 17) “report encountering pornographic content offline more frequently than online (10.8% versus 8.1%) (Ybarra and Mitchell 2005) and a study of seventh and eighth graders found that of those who are exposed to nudity (intentionally or not), more are exposed through TV (63%) and movies (46%) than on the Internet (35%) (Pardun et al. 2005).”

The reason for this disparity of exposure is because most pornography is seen willingly and voluntarily. Because of our anti-sexual attitudes, pushed by the Church for centuries, Americans don’t like to state the obvious and create monsters to explain what nature explains quite adequately. Teenage boys masturbate --- a lot. And they like to seek pornography to help them achieve the orgasm that they are seeking. No sex researcher disputes that well over 90% of adolescent boys masturbate, they need sexual release and they will seek it quite actively. They seek out erotic material to fuel their fantasies. Eventually they start seeking out other people, not just images, with whom they intend to seek sexual pleasure.

Once we realize this, and accept it as part of human sexual maturation, we will see that 90% of the hysteria over sexual predators and “children” is pure bullshit. We aren't protecting children from predators with this hysteria -- what we are trying to do is stop teenage boys from masturbating and eventually becoming sexually active. Those two activities are the bulk of the "predator" problem online. It isn't fueled by dirty old men raping children but by horny teens seeking release.

As long as we define child to include adolescents, as long as nature floods them with hormones making them obsessive about sex, and as long as technology exists which they can use to satisfy their sexual desires, this will remain the case. Whatever problems exist due to adolescents having adult-like sexual desires are not solved when we criminalize teen sexuality. Turning teens into criminals won’t change reality. Teens will continues to do what teens have always done -- seek out opportunities to have orgasms. Making them criminals for doing so will NOT stop teen sexuality. And I can’t believe that any sane person, anyone who actually cares about young people, would think that turning them into “sex offenders” is going to be a help to anyone.

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