Interwebology: Private parts made public
Sex is everywhere. It's in TV shows, movies, advertisements, magazines. Every media source that can make itself in some way sexy seems to aspire to do so, because research tells them that we like it. That must mean it's great, right?
The largest source of sex is almost certainly the Internet. YouTube is home to countless versions of fan-made videos for the song The Internet Is For Porn, and for those select few who might argue the point, there is now even a study conducted in Montreal that shows that 90 per cent of heterosexual men who consume pornography do so online.
In fact, that same study actually failed to answer its initially intended questions regarding pornographic habits because it was unable to find a control group of heterosexual men who didn't consume pornography.
The Internet also provides people the opportunity to explore fetishes beyond the few scattered DVDs you may find in adult video stores. Everything from the creative use of baking supplies to people dressed in low-budget pterodactyl costumes can find a home for itself online, and begin to welcome visitors.
Of course, there are concerns over those whose interests go beyond the realm of obscurity and into moral and legal questionability. Recently, child pornography has been thrown back into the spotlight as Internet service providers have come under pressure to take some responsibility for the content to which they provide access.
Traditionally, ISPs have provided information when asked by authorities investigating specific situations. The proposed legislation being put forward by the Conservative government would require them to report all known instances, regardless of whether or not the information is actively requested.
The Internet is being turned against sex offenders in other ways, too. A registry in New York has recently been released to social media sites including MySpace and Facebook, who have since shut down 3,500 accounts of high-level offenders, those who victimized minors, and those who used the Internet to commit their offenses.
Other states have legislated bans on social media for offenders, though not without controversy. Some states use the term sex offender in a wide range of situations, including public urination, streaking, and mooning.
In some states, it is also possible to be registered as a sex offender for failing to prevent the otherwise consensual sexual activities of one's own teenage children. While the legal age of consent in most states ranges between 16 and 18 years old, provisions are also in place for consensual activity for children as young as 12 years old providing the age gap is small between partners. Similarly, the legal age in Canada is 16, or as young as 12 if their partner is less than two years older.
However, as minors are more effectively protected from adult offenders, there also seems to be an increase in the sexual exploitation of teenagers by their own peers.
A recent survey, jointly conducted by MTV and Knowledge Networks for the Associated Press polled over 1,200 youths in an age group ranging from 14 to 24. Nearly a fifth had received nude pictures or videos from friends where the sender was the subject. Additionally, eight per cent had been sent pictures of someone other than the sender, with 14 per cent doubting that permission had been given by the subject.
Recently, mobile phone manufacturer LG turned to James Lipton, host of Inside the Actors Studio, to mount a campaign discouraging “sexting.” The “Give It a Ponder” PSAs remind audiences that anything you send out can be sent out again. Borrowed phones, vengeful ex partners, or simply over-sharing friends can turn what was meant to be a private moment into public humiliation.
Within the past year, there have been two suicides by hanging related to this unfortunate occurrence, one by an 18-year-old Cincinnati woman, and another by a girl in Tampa Bay who was only 13 years old.
While the number of teenagers engaging in physical sexual activities is declining (from 56 per cent to 48 per cent in boys and 50 per cent to 45 per cent in girls from 1993 to 2003), more than 90 per cent of abstinent teens have based their decision to abstain on fears over pregnancy and STIs. However, you can't get chlamydia from a cell phone, and almost three quarters of teens own one.
The 1980s and 1990s focused on increasing awareness among teens of sexual safety, with researchers believing knowledge would be their strongest weapon. However, there are more dangers involved in sexual activity than needing a round of antibiotics, and whereas medical records are confidential, digital pictures can and do go viral.
Knowledge is still needed, but now on a different subject. Social responsibility can be just as important as physical responsibility, and in the age of Facebook, rumours spread in seconds, not weeks. We've taught our youths the proper use of a condom. Now we need to teach them the proper use of a camera.