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September 27, 2003
Column #1,152

Obscenity Laws Unenforced

     President Bush, in his UN address on Iraq this week, took a particularly courageous stand on what he called a "humanitarian crisis spreading, yet hidden from view."

     "Each year, an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold or forced across the world's borders. Among them are hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as five, who fall victim to the sex trade."

     "There's a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of it."

     Thanks to the leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals, which enlisted other religious leaders, a law was passed to fight sexual trafficking. Former Rep. John Miller was appointed to oversee this effort in the State Department, and is effective.

     By contrast, virtually nothing is being done to enforce America's laws against obscenity, that harm tens of millions of Americans. The Justice Department has no John Miller in charge.

     According to the Internet filtering company N2H2 (206 522-6997), the number of pornographic web pages now tops 260 million, and is growing at an unprecedented rate.  N2H2 identified "only" 14 million pages in 1998.  So there's been an 1,800 percent increase in five years. Just in July, another 28 million were added - double the total of five years ago.

     The Kaiser Family Foundation published a study documenting that 70 percent of teens on line have accidentally come across pornography. Minors stumbled into sites where unscrupulous pornographers deliberately registered names with typos to drive kids to sites with hard core obscenity. Example of a "typosquatted" website:  

     The Justice Department prosecuted one such case. But it has ignored the large distributors of obscenity, the companies adding millions of porn sites monthly.

     What's the harm of pornography?

     Dr. Victor Cline, an expert who helped persuade the 1986 Attorney General's Commission on Pornography of its harm notes the word "pornography" comes from two Greek words, "porno" and "graphia" meaning "depictions of the activities of whores."

     Having treated 350 sex addicts and sex offenders, Cline outlines four stages of harm:

1. Addiction: "Porn consumers get hooked. They keep coming back for more." The material seemed to provide a powerful sexual stimulant, followed by masturbation. Once addicted, they could not throw off their dependence on the material by themselves, "despite many negative consequences such as divorce, loss of family and problems with the law."

2. Escalation: "With passage of time, the addicted person required rougher, more explicit, more deviant, and ‘kinky' kinds of sexual material to get their sexual turn-ons," like a drug addict.

3. Desensitization: Material which was originally perceived "as shocking, taboo-breaking, illegal, repulsive or immoral, in time came to be seen as acceptable and commonplace."

4. Acting Out Sexually: Finally, is an increasing tendency "to act out sexually the behaviors viewed in the pornography," including compulsive promiscuity, group sex, voyeurism, frequenting massage parlors, having sex with minor children, rape, inflicting pain during sex.

     Obviously, not everyone goes through all stages. But be warned. Dr. James Dobson interviewed Ted Bundy before his execution for killing possibly 31 young women. Bundy said, "You are going to kill me, and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography, and you are doing nothing about them."  

     The more common result of porn addiction is "the disturbance of the fragile bonds of intimate family and marital relationships," Cline asserts. The wife of an addicted pastor says, "How can I compete with hundreds of anonymous others who are now in our bed, in his head?", which provided a link to Cline's overview, reports that 81 percent of Americans want vigorous enforcement of federal laws. "Most Americans do not want their Internet-connected nation and homes drowning in a floodtide of illegal hardcore pornography," said Robert W. Peters, MIM's president. Yet enforcement has absent for a decade.

     He notes that two federal obscenity laws were amended in 1996 to prohibit interactive computer service's transmittal of obscene material. Peters and Pat Trueman, former director of federal obscenity enforcement, wrote a letter to Bush signed by 150 leaders urging him to issue a Presidential Proclamation during Pornography Awareness Week of 10/26-11/1 calling for vigorous enforcement.

     Meanwhile, protect everyone in your own home. Ask your e-mail service to install "parental controls" blocking porn spam from most of those 260 million sites. To do so, I had to call my provider to walk me through the steps.

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