Globalization of prurience
First Monday

Globalization of prurience: The Internet and degradation of women and children

Abstract
Globalization of prurience: The Internet and degradation of women and children by Indhu Rajagopal with Nis Bojin

This paper explores some key questions: How does the Web facilitate the production and dissemination of pornographic materials? How, and why, does pornography that depraves and corrupts unwary children, and exploits women, go untrammeled through the Web?

Contents

Introduction
The Web that ensnares
A conceptual framework
Conclusion

 


 

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Introduction

With increasing potential for dissemination of pornographic materials, the Internet has become a powerful purveyor of prurient pictures and messages. Pornography, and free access to it through the Internet, debase the Web and dehumanize emotions. In this process, the voyeur becomes at once a prying observer and also a participant in actively degrading human beings, particularly through the commodification of women and children. First, in exploring how the Web facilitates the production and dissemination of pornography, we will analyze the Web’s unique infrastructure that facilitates pornography through the Internet: digitization, unregulated commercialization, virtual communities created by techno–social interactions, users’ anonymity, facilities for product customization and instant international production, and absence of legal constraints on the Web. Second, in order to understand how and why pornographic materials pervade the Web, we will examine the ideological underpinnings through the concept of 'commodification' as it applies to the body. In this examination, we will study the process, forms, and objectives of 'commodification' of the body, the international division of this commodification, and gender segmentation that governs it (Diagram 1).

"Given the ability to produce images as commodities more or less at will, it becomes feasible for accumulation to proceed at least in part on the basis of pure image production and marketing" (Harvey, 1990).

It is fair to say that human interest in, and propensity for, inventing, newer desires have not changed, but technology has. Advanced technologies easily cater to these desires (Lee, 2003). Pornography based on desire for carnal pleasures is the "quintessential leisure activity in which women are the objects of men’s leisure" [1]. Since pornography focuses on bodies and depicts them in various sexual acts to cater to prurient desires of consumers of such products, it is linked directly to consumption.

The multimillion dollar pornography industry commercializes, and profits from, the depiction of women and children as commodities and objects of consumption (Deem, 1999; Jeffreys, 1999; Scraton, 1999; Shaw, 1999). Blaise Cronin and Elisabeth Davenport (2001) add that "Eros and technology have combined historically to produce publicly available erotic representations." They observe that socially acquiesced life–style preferences, expressive of consumers’ desires and pleasures, are shaping the uses of new technologies in the production and marketing of pornography.

 

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The Web that ensnares

The Internet has been transformed into a market medium for small and corporate entrepreneurs seeking profit, and serves now a purpose contrary to that for which it was created by scholars and scientists, viz., to freely exchange ideas and share information. The Internet, with its ease of access to Usenet groups, has grown into an inviting "medium as a marketplace for sexual partners and pornographic goods and services of every conceivable kind" [2]. The medium itself attracts those with pernicious social predispositions, such as consumers and providers of pornography, to surface and surreptitiously seek legitimacy with little risk of capital investment but with greater effectiveness. Electronic commerce generates an immense variety of goods for the least cost as there are no physical or land–based investments or risk capital associated with it. Numerous Web–based companies are prepared to commercialize their service for the average Web–entrepreneur to get started, for instance, matrixcontent.com, focusadult.com and privatechannels.com, all of which provide the necessary stream of content required to keep a pornographic site established and running (Figures 1 and 2). As a purveyor of pornography, the Internet is uniquely attractive because it has the following infrastructural facilitators that differentiate it from other media: its digitization, commercialization, virtual communities created by techno–social interactions, users’ anonymity, customization of the products, facility for instant international production, and absence of legal restraints on its operations.

Digitization: Digitization has made it easy to produce pornographic pictures, and display them on the Web and to transfer them to the buyer. Jennifer Lee (2003) explains that, in the last decade, digitized pornographic images exploiting children and women became easy to create because the abusers do not need their own photography or photo development and Polaroid cameras. As the cost of digital photography has become affordable, hundreds of photos are being taken in the privacy of the abusers’ homes, and traded on the high–speed Internet. Much of the amateur Internet pornography scene exemplifies the ease of production and distribution of digital porn, using little more than a digital camera for still or moving photography, along with access to a willing or unwilling subject and hosted Web space or newsgroup servers (Usenet). Instead of expanding and going commercial as a legitimate profit venture, what was originally 'amateur' pornography is often presented under the camouflage label 'amateur.' Sites such as www.amateurpages.com (Figure 3), and www.wildwomen.com are ranked at the top on Google searches for the term 'amateur' that ensnares the porno–mongers. The 'amateur' genre, originating in print pornography, sells the product, making the transition from print content to digital content much easier for consumers. Further, these sites carry sinister connotations beyond the porno they carry. Abuse of children for prurient desires is a major crime that we know is widely prevalent because if there are no abusers of children, there are no child abuse images. With the evidence of such abuse and the abusers who use common search tools as Google, Mapquest and Internet phone directories, police have been able to track down child abusers [3] world–wide.

Commercialization: On the commercialization of pornography that is totally unregulated, both in the making as well as in the distribution, the Internet has far surpassed the consumer reach and product variation that other media forms are capable of. Michael Mehta and Dwaine Plaza (1997) argue that the untrammeled growth of prurient elements on the Internet is rapidly outmaneuvering critics’ attempts to regulate the Internet. They illustrate this process through a comparative analysis of those who post non–commercial and anonymous images against those vendors who post images for commercial and business purposes. For example, a significantly larger number of images on erotica–oriented Usenet newsgroups and Web sites come branded with a site name, or have a company logo watermarked on the image (Figures 4 and 5), that clearly contrasts and outnumbers the unfettered images posted by users for non–commercial purposes. Further, overt symbolism translates from print pornography, and is readily employed in commercial Internet porn images as in the case of plaid skirts and cheerleading uniforms associated with teen/youth porn (Figures 6 and 7), which are displayed to signify a particularly naïve and innocent "brand" of pornography. Although these symbols are not ubiquitous among non–commercial images, they are yet another commercial tool that has migrated from print to digital media. Although child pornography on the Internet is originally produced commercially, it can be freely produced in an inexpensive way by using new technologies that facilitate the 'consumers' on the Internet to become 'producers' themselves (Taylor, Quayle, and Holland, 2001). The Internet has, in reality, proven to be beyond the reach of nation–state barriers. It has overcome territorial boundaries, and has the potential to undermine local cultural barriers and legal regulations.

Techno–social interaction: The Internet enmeshes the social context with the medium of communication. Dennis Waskul and Mark Douglass describe this as a "technosocial phenomenon" [4] since the process creates and proliferates virtual communities instantaneously and seamlessly. The medium, i.e., computers, hardware, and software, creates and expands on–line communication world–wide, interacts with social environment, and transforms it into a virtual social sphere. In the year 2000, in contrast to file–sharing programs such as Napster which had triggered such a heated reaction from the music and movie industries, many purveyors of online and offline porn such as Vivid.com extolled file–sharing of pornography for promoting their wares, acting as a commercial benefit, as they provide snippets of their products to lure consumers who were perhaps never reached before (Wise, 2000). These unique processes of virtual communication create new social spheres and new patterns of feelings and belief. These virtual social interactions are faceless, non–oral, instantaneous, simultaneous and multiple.

Anonymity: Under the pretext of anonymity, pornographic material, and extremely sexually explicit still images, words, videos, and sounds are being publicly distributed through bulletin boards (BBS), Usenet, and Web pages [5]. It is clear that online anonymity is an oxymoron: Internet Protocol (IP) addresses provide a means to track the use of online resources and content. This means that all Web servers almost always have some sort of statistical log of IP addresses. In the right circumstances, an IP address can be traced back to the original user, as has been done frequently in the investigative process for child pornography culprits.

Web communications are meant to be publicly distributed and accessible; yet they lend themselves to be used for private interactions. Online communications do not have geographical or physical space dimensions in order that private could be separated from public spaces. Dan Gabriel (2001) argues that public spaces like libraries become porn allies where pedophiles use the Internet to talk to the children, and lure them to meet them in real space and molest them. The impact of classifying library computers as in public domain where the designing of such crimes takes place, suggests that it is necessary to clarify the unethical rules by which such games are played. The digital images of these children caught in the private webs of pornography consumers are instantly transformed into publicly distributed images on the Internet. In such situations, where does one draw the line between the private and public sphere? To what extent would the 'tap on the shoulder' policy, where library staff monitor usage of library computers, establish an ethical code of conduct for users? Only metaphorically could we refer to communications via the Web as private or public depending on expectations of the communicator and the nature of the interaction. However, defenders of privacy plead that ethical criteria and human rights must be observed in order to preserve individual dignity, self–esteem, and personal autonomy (Waskul and Douglass, 1996).

Most participants in porno–sites exercise their option to hide their social identity, or to assume a different identity in their communications. In addition to not posting any personal information or actual e–mail addresses, many paranoid individuals spell out the names of their Usenet–posted content backwards, or use a combination of letters (such as "3" substituting for the letter "E") in an effort to evade the "big brother." This helps keep their content under the radar from filters, which in turn might report this to those who trace the origins of uploaded files (although this is a more frequent practice in newsgroups revolving around pirated software, games and music). However, these identities are not strictly anonymous because anonymity is only assumed by the real persons interacting; therefore, in reality, their identities are not so well protected, and one could avoid the ethical principles of obtaining their informed consent in doing ethical research. Further, in adhering to ethical principles governing research, the researcher faces logistical difficulties in getting informed consent from participants in the multiple and simultaneous form of online interaction. Waskul and Douglass note: "Cyberspace is a literal smorgasbord of potential interaction. Participants belly–up to the buffet of a vast and widely diverse selection of forums and potential others to engage for interaction ... Required in the effort to construct guidelines of ethical on–line research is a renewed commitment to the participants – one in which our concern extends far beyond the experience of the individual, and one that places the interests of participants above and beyond the aims and goals of the researcher" [6].

In contrast, under the guise of anonymity, producers or consumers of pornography can technologically manufacture their new identities, and channel their digitized images or texts from one continent to another and back to the original place of origin, in order to confuse and deceive the authorities from locating them. They also engage in re–routing e–mail and images through 'anonymous remailers,' a process that removes the source addresses and identifies them by code numbers with the remailers’ addresses and directs them to the end producers and consumers. These anonymous messages can be received and responded with similar code tags, so that responders could remain anonymous. Margaret Healy (1996) reports that "the most popular of these 'remailers' among on–line paedophiles is located in Finland." Software remailing clients or remailers with a WWW interface can be located at sites such as http://neworder.box.sk, a site which deals with maintaining Web anonymity, and promotes techniques such as proxy usage to keep personal Web surfing anonymous.

Customization: The advent of the Internet has accentuated the breadth and depth in pornographic communications and other sexually explicit activities. Ethel Quayle and Max Taylor (2002) remark that computers assist pedophiles and pornographic industries in the production, storage, and distribution of their materials with very few barriers in plying their wares to the consumers. Moreover, communication networks through the Internet act as conduits for procuring victims for their personal pleasure and leisure activities. Since the Internet has become a publicly funded, easily accessible and free conduit for downloading or communicating pornography, at least in affluent countries where computers are accessible through public libraries, there is a greater consumption of pornography. Further, the increase in consumers due to the increasing distribution of such images on the Internet has stimulated greater production of pornography. Production of pornography itself has taken a post–industrial style, with features such as customization and options. Pornpermit.com, for example, offers an exorbitant amount of purchasable options for one to choose, and this includes pornography centered on the lust of other men’s girlfriends, European 'amateurs' or on the obsession with women’s underwear (12 categories advertised) where one can either select one site, or a variety of sites to sign up, depending on one’s tastes. Web sites such as oxcash.com offer a variety of in–house produced material that cover the gamut of pornographic tastes, allowing visitors to have their pick of a slew of categories that cover as many commercially successful forms of sexual activity as possible, ranging from the backroom exploitation of girls to the active focus on particular female sexual body parts. Just as one can customize a car or order the specifications of a digital beeper, now pornography is being created in real time, and customized for any buyer. Taylor, Quayle and Holland (2001) describe an example of how the Internet facilitates online abuse of children where digital images of a child being sexually assaulted according to the orders of the pedophile customers, were transferred in real time [7].

Instant international production: Child pornography has become an international phenomenon. Most of the available information on the Web focuses on the affluent regions which have instigated and commercialized the production, consumption, and distribution of child pornography (Healy, 1996). In 1996, a U.S. Senate report identified the American child pornography market as the most lucrative. What is labeled as casual or amateur pornography produced in many parts of the third world (Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, and South Asia), often assaulting street children, flourishes and is exported to affluent countries where production and commercial activities of these items have become legally encumbered [8]. However, the ads in these Web sites do not reveal all the contexts and images as originating from different parts of the world. Another means of distributing child pornography worldwide is through sex tourism, which uses prostitution rings. Most of the victims of this trade are children and teens living in the third world. Healy (1996) gives an example of a German national involved in a child pornography ring, who was convicted for child molestation and production of commercial pornography. This crime has extended to other parts of Asia, and more recently to eastern Europe. Here, the international scope, and the direction of the flow of child pornography, are of importance. The causal factors, such as extreme poverty and dependence of the victims on finding opportunities to earn a livelihood, have played a critical role in the international prostitution and abuse of women and children. The Internet has been used as a major facilitator of the instant international transfers of such exploitation [9].

Absence of legal constraints: The Net is legally unregulated, and has thrived so far unrestricted with all its flaws and extremist content. Judicial decisions have circumvented various challenges to the freedom of this medium by differentiating the Internet as a cyberworld with characteristics different from the real world. Gyong Kim and Anna Paddon (1999) argue that, in judging obscenity, there should be a range and a hierarchy in media from the most restrictive to the least restrictive. They suggest starting with the broadcast media as the most restrictive "because of the spectrum scarcity, captive audience, and ease of access by children," to be followed by cable television, a medium to which children are not easily exposed to obscene materials. Motion pictures in theatres, mail, and dial–a–porn medium are to be freer than the above two because it is not possible for children to have inadvertent access to these media. The next most restricted medium should be cable television. In the cable television medium, children’s inadvertent exposure to sexually explicit material is not as likely to happen as in the broadcast media. In the above four–tier hierarchy of media, Kim and Paddon suggest that the Internet should be least restricted, as pornographic materials do not pop up unsolicited, but must be deliberately sought out. Indeed, vigilante attempts are made online to catch those who download child pornography. These are in the form of child–porn ads, or other postings in erotica newsgroups that are designed to lure unwitting porn customers to download the postings that are intended to harm the porn customers’ computers because they contain malicious scripts. This method, however, is not foolproof or a reliable deterrent to traders, or administrators of more tightly regulated groups that are created solely for exchanging child pornography. Next, we turn to formulate a framework of analysis.

 

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A conceptual framework

The term 'commodification' is an appropriate metaphor to use in explaining the merchandizing of pornography as the pornographic images are disembodied from the real persons whom they represent, and merchandized as if they are inanimate objects. Commodification means commercializing relationships previously not encompassed by market relations or by exchange transactions. The term came into currency in 1977, and it was central to understanding how capitalism advances (Marxist Internet Archive, 2003). Commercialization of work, goods, and social relations is a process that ensures the dominance of capital in producing and exchanging commodities for profit. "The bourgeoisie ... has resolved personal worth into exchange value ... it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation ... [it has] torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere money relation." (Marx and Engels, 1848). If we treat information as a proprietary good, we commodify information, and create ownership and control regimes. In such a commercial milieu, information becomes unaffordable to the workers and to poorer people. When pornography is commercialized as infotainment, it is bought and sold in the entertainment market on the Internet, proprietarily commoditized for its consumers.

Commodification of the body

Drawing on Glendal Robinson’s (2002) analysis that identifies the combination of cultural imperialism and consumerism spreading through out the world, one can suggest that merchants and corporations pursue marketable goods, and this includes 'bodies' of women and children, for pornography. Pornstars themselves and their representative companies, emerge as popular brand names that become ubiquitous in pornography–related search engines results. The variations in sexual intercourse and exploitation become the names of universal products, which the Web sites use as devices to advertise and categorize their products to appeal to consumers’ tastes, for instance, 'Vivid girls' in Vivid.com. The frequent advertisers’ use of the seemingly hot commodity, Aria Giovanni (Figures 8 and 9; image banner for adultterra.com and gofreehost.com) promotes her marketability not only by sex appeal, but also by her name recognition. Her popularity at the porn site Freeones.com has her ranked among top–10 in pornstars searched. Name recognition and popularity of this kind can sell goods.

Corporate capitalist trends in the market inevitably lead to 'commodity fetishism,' by turning class antagonism into a desire for commodities and accumulation. To satisfy these never–ending desires and limitless urge for accumulation, consumerism gives a boost to the world market where businesses engage in the production and sale of goods, and even people and bodies for profit. Thus the Internet becomes dominated by corporate capitalist enterprises, gets transposed into a conduit and a social shaper of such desires and commodities, and ends up as an extension of the conglomerate media empires (Mosco, 2000).

The word 'commodification' in the context of pornography means creation, production, designing, mass manufacturing of a commodity for commercial sale or exchange in the market. These items are not "fictitious commodities" in Karl Polanyi’s terms [10], the body or its labor that may have commercial value as workers and their means of production. In this paper, we will be referring to commodification in terms of commercialization and the marketability of the consumers’ desire for the "body," in digital form. The process of commercialization is deliberate, and meant exclusively for money transactions or other commercial exchange. For instance, http://www.deluxepass.com charges approximately U.S. $30 monthly for subscription to nearly three gigabytes of content, and charges for similar sites range from $19.99 to $39.99 monthly. Pornstars like Jenna Jameson’s income from these sources is reported to be $15 million a year. She also has her own site that charges $35 monthly. Entertainment Tonight interviews with other Vivid.com pornstars show that another star, Sunrise Adams, makes a purported $250,000 per year. These stars are deemed icons in the porn–industry, and have a commercial value based on their sex–appeal, recognizable identity, and demand for such name brands in exploiting the market. Brand appeal can be measured by the popularity ranks of Aria Giovanni or Jenna Jameson among the top 10 most frequently searched porn stars at freeones.com.

Even in virtual images of pornography, the body is mutilated, reshaped, disintegrated, re–assimilated, and sometimes even sold as discrete items expressive of what is deemed to be 'sexuality'. In the first stage in the process of commodification, the 'body' is separated from the living person, and becomes anonymous to the producer and the consumer. The process of commodification reaches the second stage when the body parts are removed or alienated, and used or modified to formulate different 'flavors' of bodies. In the final stage, the parts are assembled into forms of bodies that are mass–marketed for profit by commercial enterprises which cannot, and do not, own the individuals whose body parts or bodies they commercialize. Popularly accessible images are commercialized, and are found through Hentai, or pornographic Anime, sites where cartoons are manipulated for the purposes of satisfying the sexual desires of those who crave bodies that can perform the impossible and come equipped with erogenous zones that exceed the standards of reality in both size and detailed appearance (http://www.toon–porn.biz/anime_porn.html).

Forms of Commodifying the Body: The content of pornographic images delineates product differentiation through variations in the forms designed to meet the demands of sensuality. Although there have been many studies on content analysis of soft–core magazines and comics, Mehta and Plaza (1997) are the first to survey pornographic content accessible to the public on the Usenet newsgroups before the Internet became far more commercialized. The content analysis of Mehta and Plaza shows that there are two commodified forms prevalent on the Net: Product differentiation based on, one, various flavors of one–body–form; the other, various–body–forms. The one–body–form with various flavors of commodified porn, focuses on sexual acts orbiting around oral sex, anal sex, breasts, foot, or leg–related sexual activity, or sex with multiple partners (e.g. Boobsquad.com and realbutts.com). These typically deal with young white women. Various–body–forms include categories such as amputee nudity/sex, large breasts, obese women, pregnant, teen or youth, race and ethnic, incest, and mature women (preggoplayground.com, milfhunter.com, hardcorefreeporn.com/fat–porn/). Inputting any of the above terms in a typical search engine, along with terms such as 'porn' or 'sex,' will produce pornographic pages dealing with those specific commodified "flavors." North American pornography is essentially assumed as 'white,' unless otherwise specified. 'Asian,' 'Latino,' 'Black,' or 'Ebony' are key ethnic terms that differentiate between what is commercially normal versus what is exotic. Racialised groups are marginalized as a separate category, and this allows pornography to promote racism in as many ways as sexism is expressed in these Web pages.

Andrea Dworkin (1999) describes the distorted body as objectified and socially constructed to suit the needs of the consumers of pornography that exploits socialized female sexuality. Its value is based on appearance as the shape fitting the patriarchy and society’s dominant standards that prescribe and commodify the body. She elaborates on "pornography as the nerve centre of sexual abuse: Rape, battery, incest, prostitution. Prostitution and rape are realities for women. Essentialising the subject into object, the commodification of the body sanitizes sexual relations (love and intimacy). [In] pornography ... the body is a constantly shifting centre of power, embedded in cultural practices ... voyeurism and objectification. The pornography market is a market of sexualized inequality of women, either expressed as dominance or violence ... the corruption of female body by men." Pornography involves those who capitalize on marketing vulnerable children’s and women’s bodies, and mass manufacturing these images for profit. It extends to the selling virtual images of objectified women’s ova, even their newborns. Corporations and enterprises are marketing human 'commodities,' body parts, human organs, fetus, and genes. The market price is being standardized for such commodities regulated by demand and supply. Information is commodified, as merchandise, anything that is bought and sold.

There are three integrated steps to this process how commodified bodies are being marketed: organization, exchange, and consumption. The organizational stage persists on production of goods 'just in time,' to avoid accumulation of inventories. By merely providing online help in the distribution of porn on the Internet, Web sites meet the commercializing element on demand: Webmaster support, Web traffic resources, graphics, content, programming and adult radio, all of which can often be accessed via one portal, for instance, the Sunny Media Group (http://www.not4kidsdesigns.com). These resources essentially provide the path to the inventory, the way to negotiate the technology of the Internet and everything else one needs to 'break–in' to the Web–porn industry. New technologies gear up the rapid transaction and exchange, and the needed capital flow along with the push for rapid consumption of goods through greasing the product flow to the consumers via packaging and inventory control. The body that is marketed online depends on its lure and profitability upon the intensification of consumption patterns (Torres, n.d.).

Commodities have a short lifespan depending on how market manipulators use their advertisements to shape tastes and opinions by constructing new images (Harvey, 1990). These manipulating structures and signs themselves become commodities that can also be mass manufactured, customized, and reproduced on the Net. These signs and images are used to create the need for the product, and structure consumption choices, but have also increasingly evolved to become commodities in themselves. For example, new images of the popular pornstar Aria are created to ensnare a variety of customers. The manipulators of the images add thematic structures for catering to market demands, which are sharpened erotic images of lingerie ads–on–hormones. The signs are the different levels of exposure of the body as a commodity: Starting from classy dinner themes featuring evening gowns and velvet chairs all the way to beach, water, sun and fun themes exploring "bikinis" and bedroom scene themes with underwear and panties, highlighting the body exposure rather than the outfits worn. Each sign is applied to the model to maximize porn–appeal, and each theme is customized and applied to various pornstars and for various market demands. But much like pornstar themes (teen, anal, large breasted, Asian etc.), these structures and signs have themselves become defining commodities. For instance, 'Aria in black leather lingerie' and 'Aria in bikini' are specific themes created to turn on specific customers (Figure 10). Thus 'Aria,' i.e., the body is a brand name commodity, and the themes and the signs applied to her are also marketable commodities on their own. Another format of commodification is the creation of virtual images of pornography. O’Meara (2002) reports on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision [11] that struck down a federal law that criminalized virtual child pornography and thus protected the 'virtual' as opposed to the 'real' images of children. The potential consumers world–wide are 750 million users of the Internet, where 60 percent of Web sites are pornographic and 100,000 Web sites offer child pornography. 'Sex' is the number one search term on the Net according to those who operate the leading search engines. Further, as O’Meara notes, Internet sex is a commercial billion dollar enterprise and is accelerating in its business pace.

The Internet serves as an effective conduit for distribution, just as it does for production. In both, the mode of distribution seems quite innocuous. Commercial business cards or advertisements of pornographic images placed in the Usenet as teasers to increase the number of consumers, and anonymously posted non–commercial images are both distributed through the Usenet. These Usenet advertisements are used to attract people to real sites. They come not only in the form of watermarked teaser images, but also in the form of watermarked sample videos, providing exposure quite akin to the same exposure referred to in Vivid.com, in terms of their file–sharing potential and their ability to act as commercial advertisements for ensnaring consumers (Wise, 2000). One of the attractions is that images cannot be downloaded as easily as songs. Videos require vast amounts of memory, and hours of time for downloading even a tiny square of it. Technology is gearing up to lower these demands, but progress here will be incremental. These smudgy video clips in themselves are a great selling point for creating a market for those who will be tempted, and are waiting to be satisfied by such images. "It could be a major benefit for us," says David Schlesinger, VP for Internet marketing at Vivid Video, a leading maker of pornographic videos. "If surfers find a snippet from a movie, it might entice them into buying the whole tape. We can actually turn these shared files into mini–infomercials." This technological lag is seen as an added bonus in ads for pornography companies because they can just whet the appetite of the consumers who then will want satisfaction from the actual products. Although Vividvideo.com and Wicked Pictures.com offer ads with streaming video full–length in RealPlayer versions of its offerings on the Web, the enticed consumers are only titillated gently rather than given the full satisfaction.

Objectives of Commodifying the Body: Curiously enough, there is a circular ring to the very process of commodification. Various prurient desires are acquired, shaped, and fed through the Internet so that immediate gratification is catered to, and anticipated pleasures are induced and elicited, for further satisfaction. This is a loop of desire that renews itself with newer desires, and newer supply and newer images. Ethel Quayle and Max Taylor (2001) identify forms of commodification of the body that serve various types of consumption that they have extrapolated from convicted criminals’ use of pornography. Quayle and Taylor observe that six major discourses emerged from their interviews of criminals and their explanations on how they viewed and used this commodity: "[for] sexual arousal; as collectibles; [as a means of] facilitating social relationships; as a way of avoiding real life; as therapy; and in relation to the Internet," as a 'legitimized' downloadable product. Collecting such images accentuates the objectification of children and their abuse in the quest for new images. Therefore, it is more than the production that is used one–time, because the higher the satiation point, the greater the abuse.

As a medium hijacked by the porno market, the Internet delivers more than any other media, in expanding and intensifying the variations in goods to satisfy all levels in the prurient–desire index. Barron and Kimmel (2000) argue that the market, one individual at a time as a consumer of certain images one has accessed, may have reached a satiation level for sexual arousal. As the level of explicitness is found to be inadequate, the user would expect new pornographic images in conjunction with newly emergent software to be more violent and in other flavors, and this would lead to greater violence on children and women being imaged. Thus, it would turn out to be a vicious cycle of violence, rape, and depredation. Barron and Kimmel go on to identify the link between violence and pornography for explaining the progressively increasing levels of violence in the images carried by different media, from magazines to videos to Usenet. In their analysis, they point out that the production and consumption processes are different in each medium. Using the search function in Kazaa, the file–sharing application, demonstrates that finding pornographic search results using, for instance, the term "rape," has become increasingly easy, and almost all the results bring up porno images of young age, children, 'Lolita,' or virgins (Figure 11). Usenet commodifies their bodies as images created by hegemonic masculinity for unleashing homosocial competition:

"These Internet newsgroups are the closest things to the all–male locker room that exist in the pornographic world: A world, in a sense, entirely without women, a world in which men control absolutely all facets of the scene and in which women do not insert themselves as corporeal beings, even in the highly stylized forms offered by magazines or videos. Any adequate explanation of the increased violence and the shifting relationships of victims and victimizers, then, must take into account the distinctly, purely, and uncorruptedly homosocial element in the Internet newsgroup" (Barron and Kimmel, 2000).

Women take part in different, and perceptibly less prevalent, Internet pornography with slightly different characteristics. Eroticaforher.com and womensporno.com are examples of pornographic sites focusing on the objectification of males that have different aims: Less grotesque images and more erotic stories. Descriptions of the content for women at womensporno.com include phrases such as "images of men and couples that women will find sexy, romantic, and even wild and kinky," whereas male sites center on raunchier tag lines such as "hardcore action" and "nasty girls put out," phrases commonly found in Usenet groups. Focus on gossip, sensuality, passion, romance and confessions and images that place men in less exploitative images, appear to be the hallmark of female–oriented pornography. However, couples’ images on female porn sites are often identical to those on male sites. This may signify that although women may view men differently compared to how men view women, female pornography still reinforces the dominant male gaze on sexual relationships in pornographic imagery.

International Division of Commodification: Information is the product of human labour, and in the continuing era of industrial capitalist expansion, it has been commodified (Söderberg, 2002). Machinery and technology embody human labour, but control over, and profits derived from, them do not go to those who produce them through their labour; instead they are appropriated by those who own or control capital. In this process, workers’ skills and knowledge are transferred to machines, and as a consequence, workers are de–skilled and their knowledge is degraded. Information technology has become malleable, and deceives the consumers of the commodified information; consumers are made to believe that they have control over it, while social constructions of technology continue to keep it under capitalist control of production and the market (Braverman, 1998; Dyer–Witheford, 1999; Noble, 1998; Rifkin, 1995; Robins and Webster, 1988; Sennett, 1999; Söderberg, 2002; Stallabrass, 1995). [12] Söderberg (2002) points out that information is commodified by the very process that ensures its scarcity through copyright and patent protective laws, and leaves it in the hands of those who own and control capital.

Just as the market is internationalized, so is production. The new division of labour operates in online market similar to the factor of labour in traditional markets. Capital flows from the center countries that have huge technological and liquid capital into the periphery of poorer countries for this labour intensive activity. Both hardware and software necessary for the production of pornography on the Net are invested in the poorer countries whose marginalized populations of children and women are exploited. Here, the labour supply is docile and immensely cheap. There are no rules and regulations that act as barriers for entry into such countries. In many cases, the countries gain considerable portion of their national foreign exchange reserves from such activities. Therefore, there is a tacit approval of such business ventures despite the fact that they use the vulnerable populations in these countries. In "Worldwide Exploitation of Children," Flowers (2001) discusses how tourism fosters the international trafficking of children, child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children. Youth and children are lured, or abducted into sex–trade slavery for pimps’ profit. This has been a global exploitation with severe consequences to children, and to the bodies that are bought and sold as stocks in the market [13]. As leisure dollars are pushed into post–industrial capital in affluent countries, tourism that caters for pornography and prostitution thrives in poorer countries, as pimp suppliers meet the demand from the affluent markets (Jeffreys, 1999). Pornography even serves as a source of foreign exchange [14] for a poor country (Truong, 1990). The Internet is the most recent tool employed in this market to facilitate trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation. It serves as an effective lattice of production [15] (Cronin and Davenport, 2001; Kling, 1984) of customized pornography on demand for the consumer. Women and children are used as products for commercial purposes for a suitable price by those who explore the Internet to sell their bodies. In such cases, it is live pornography rather than images that are marketed. In the interactive medium of the Internet, women and children are instructed by the purchaser to strip and perform certain pornographic acts in the unregulated private space, for commercialized consumption (Hughes, 1996).

Another phase of commodification of pornography occurs because of the dependence of the women and children in the Third World on affluent countries. Jeffreys (1999) explains that this is an inevitable outcome of the globalization of the world economy in which nation states and local regions have been forcefully integrated into the world market. The vulnerable populations, women and children, become the underclass after losing their traditional resources such as shared land that belongs to the community. This class is highly exploited in such illicit industries as sex trade and pornography.

Techno–social Interactions: Cronin and Davenport (2001) introduce the concept of 'social shaping of technology (SST)' to show how social interests and individuals who have access to digital technology shape pornography on the Internet as an electronic product or service. These authors (2001) suggest that there are four reasons why SST framework is useful for understanding behaviors in relation to electronic pornography: Cooptation, self–expression, interaction, and legitimation. Consumers are expressing and resocializing themselves in this digital entertainment milieu. The e–commercial interaction between the producer and consumer of the product, shapes the business practices in this industry. Most importantly, the digital marketplace has allowed evidence of consumers’ avowed diversified need for consumption of this product which, the industry hopes, adds legitimacy to its product line. Producers of pornography are trying to co–opt consumers and the broader society to make their products sanitized as infotainment or sports online similar to Yahoo!’s attempt to silently add pornography to their online store in 2001 (http://www.google.ca/search?q=cache:wpPdJ2Xek3oC:cooltech.iafrica.com/technews/258392.htm+selling+games+pornography&hl=en&ie=UTF–8):, an endeavour that stopped in 2002 once advertisers got wind of the media’s discovery of this practice (http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/16088.html). However, Yahoo!’s attempt to enter such a market is surely indicative of the willingness of large companies to engage in this business as long as their attraction to advertisers is not compromised. Larry Flynt’s opening of Hustler Hollywood in 1999 is an attempt to normalize pornography as a business, and this has remained relatively unchallenged (http://www.erotik–porno–sex.org/pornogoespublic.html).

The levels of capitalization of the digital markets, products, services, and transactions are extensive and incomparable in their market potential, compared to the brick and mortar companies built over two centuries of the industrial era (Cronin and Davenport, 2001) [16]. The digital consumer market is also equally vast and flush with $40 to $80 billion. As a progeny of the much larger and well–established adult entertainment and legal sex–industry — strip clubs, escort agencies, and pornographic films and videos, digital pornographic merchandisers on the Internet are reaping increasingly huge profits. Although it is still a growing industry on the Internet, the revenues of pornography industry, both traditional and online, are reported to be in excess of $50 billion [17]. In comparison, in 1997, global revenues of Disney’s from all its branches, from movies to merchandising, amounted to only $22.5 billion. Pornography online traffic is rising, and of the total Internet market dollars of a few billions, membership subscriptions account for half the share while advertisement and merchandising bring in the other half.

For those engaged in the production of pornography, the Web presents itself as an ideal medium of distribution where the digital goods can be directly delivered, customized without any real estate cost or inventory control. The Internet allows porno producers to make and distribute specialty products (RetroRaunch: http://www.retroraunch.com/main.html) and create a viable market niche for their business. Branding is not necessary in the digital economy online because most often innovative approaches to marketing to predisposed consumers of porn online, can be persuaded inexpensively. Sometimes brand name producers (e.g., Internet Entertainment Group) may also engage in porn distribution in the guise of lifestyle products. The more debased this business becomes, the greater is the interest of the entertainment companies to legitimize it as adult entertainment. Porn businesses, e.g., United Adult Sites, an adult entertainment trade association in the U.S. are involved in presenting themselves as transparent, legal, and responsible. They do not allow child porn or acts of bestiality in their sites in order to upgrade themselves in the eyes of the public. When we analyze the consumption of pornography, we find that the consumer has many advantages via the Web, a result of its digital and virtual processing, in the form of anonymity, easy separation from, control over, and objectification of, the victim. Experiencing the goods is another feature that the Web facilitates as a result of technology that allows previewing samples, selecting goods, and longing for the experience of consuming the goods. Men aged 30 to 45, with greater levels of disposable incomes, are the demographically dominant consumers in this industry. Pornography on the Web involves the market for producing, distributing, and exchanging materials and services that contain, and deliver, pictures and images of bodies to evoke sexuality. It is a multi–billion dollar industry, and is rapidly growing with global contributions on the Internet (Cronin and Davenport, 2001) [18].

The processes of commodification of online goods are similar to those of traditional goods in the market. Market analysis for launching Internet products is far simpler, and more rapid, than that in relation to off–line traditional enterprises. Risks are few and capitalization is minimal to start with, because production costs for a start–up company on the Internet are relatively low compared to the requirements for establishing land–based businesses. As noted earlier in this paper, online support for start–ups is nearly as accessible as online support for any other Web venture. Portals such as hosts4porn.com provide further information links for domain name registration and sponsorships accompanied by full–fledged guides and FAQs to help even the most inexperienced of new entrants. Cronin and Davenport (2001) report that small business start–ups online are mostly by independent amateurs who manufacture and deliver their own or others’ home–based products and services. Cronin and Davenport note that about 70 percent of all pornography sites and goods are amateur ventures. Factors that facilitate the rapid rate of entry into the online production of pornography are: the products’ entry into the market at low cost, pornography being feasible for local production with minimum resources, products of these types being shaped more by experimentation than by experience, and access to the market for a product that is sensitive for distribution being far easier than in the brick–and–mortar market.

Another process of commodification occurs when successful entrepreneurs on the Internet add more new products, perhaps even those totally different from the product they started with [19]. Thus, what we are more likely to see is corporate virtual enterprises with entertainment, sports, or other lifestyle products taking over the production and merchandising of pornography as a separate line of products in their virtual businesses. Cronin and Davenport (2001) envisage this because Playboy and Internet Entertainment Group, as distributors of pornographic goods, may push their brand as a strategy for building their virtual conglomerates through mergers and acquisitions, as they are already into lifestyle products and services [20]. However, public opinion may limit their ability to market porn–goods. For instance, Yahoo! abandoned its attempt to get into the porn market, and went beyond its call to destroy all porn–related sites on its servers in response to the outrage from its family–oriented customers.

However, porn entrepreneurs who started providing one type of pornography on the Web, are moving into other types of porn or forms of media for its dissemination. For instance, Freeones.com originally carried links to pictures, and then gradually moved into their own picture galleries. Their next step was to continue to diversify their gallery offerings categorized by type of model and name of pornstars, by type of pornography grouped by Asian Amateurs, wet–t–shirt, legs, and barely legal etc. Then, they advanced into the next phase of offering video content with items such as 'video of the week.'

Commodification process in the pornography business will not be complete without benefits from fundamentally better business operations. Adherence to business practices such as legitimacy of the product, corporate self–regulation, audit of books and business practices, professional management and accountability, and campaigning against abuse of children, e.g., Adult Sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP), is likely to become part of the regular business codes for online companies. These codes are already standard for many companies, for instance, openyourlegs.com, busty2.com and prytv.com, all of which sport the ASACP logo (Figure 12). They hope that such codes of conduct will retrieve them from the abyss of illegitimacy, and elevate them to greater social acceptability as a regular business.

On the consumption side, it is difficult to report or even estimate the number of consumers who access pornographic sites. Often, such Web sites lure customers with sample images which are supposed to produce membership subscriptions for them. There is no method of counting how many in a period of time have accessed different such sites, although some report 30 million (Cronin and Davenport, 2001) unique hits a day. The built–in strategy of commodification is how to convert those who sample the advertisements to become paying customers.

Commodification is accelerated by the following characteristics of the Internet and the technologies associated: Easy and inconspicuous consumption (Cronin and Davenport, 2001); delivery at home in the privacy of one’s computer screen; absence of institutional sanctions requiring people to abide by the law or the customs of the community; anonymity although false and temporary, in pleasure–seeking. Cronin and Davenport note:

"For good or ill, remotely accessed, interactive sex shows are a pornographic phenomenon (with significant new revenue streams) made possible by the Web. They are a striking illustration of the eroticization of advanced Internet Communication Technologies (ICT), and of how the Internet is set to extend and redefine core (legal) aspects of a long–established business, part of what Wolf (1999, p. 7) presumably implied by the phrase 'the entertainmentization of the economy.' The Internet promises to do more than increase the size and geographic diversity of the customer base; it both commodifies, and renders highly visible, a set of consumption practices that, until now, have been largely covert in character and, more often than not, conveniently backgrounded in mainstream consumer narratives. But this may change as a result of the progressive corporatization and feminization (both supply side and demand side) of the pornography business."

Online stores, for instance, Vivid DVD, sell digital interactive and award–winning pornography that lets you control the on–screen action, mood and angles by using your DVD remote control. Although Vivid DVD provides streaming videos of their movies for purchase, the DVD interactive titles are not accessible for viewing, by using the Web site (http://www.eroticvideos.com/the–store/titles/vivid–dvd/virtualdevon.html). But there are also sites that attempt to make fictitious sexual encounters appear under the control of the site visitor, such as http://www.sexadventure.ca which uses a "choose your own adventure" style of plot determination for the furthering of storylines along with images that range from three dimensional depictions to real photos.

Gender Segmentation: It is important to note that in the process of commodification and internationalization, most images consumed are those of women and girls rather than men and boys. Based on recent Usenet group posting numbers, the most populated groups are indeed those geared towards male desires, reinforcing the notion that most pornographic images distributed and consumed are about women and girls. Figures 13, 14, 15 and 16 identify the number of posts for downloading in each category, and they confirm that there are far more images of girls and women available than those of boys and men. One easily notices that consumers accessing pornography are mostly male, and thus it is easy to examine to what extent the process dehumanizes women and girls. However, this is small consolation for those who argue that pornography is unquestionably a violation of human and civil rights of an individual, and therefore it does not matter whether it is male or female who is the consumer; it is the victim who matters [21].

In the above analysis we have attempted to show, and present evidence on, the Web on why and how the Internet has intensified the process commodification in general, and differentiated the products of the body for consumption. The interrelationships between the ideological underpinnings of commodification and the web of techno–social facilitators that the Internet generates, have begun to legitimize pornography in an economy that is 'entertainmentized' [22] and fetishized (see Diagram 1). The interactions among the various ideological factors directly impacts on, and are shaped by, technological facilitators that are interlinked, and make possible for the distribution of pornography as an infotainment commodity.

 

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Conclusion

In this paper, we have focused on the characteristics of the Internet and the framework that explains how and why pornography is freely plying this medium. We argue that our enquiry should be focused more on the economics of commodification rather than on the medium, although the medium is indispensable for fostering this market. Vulgar instinct and sadistic demands vis–à–vis human interest remains a topic to be explored for understanding how pornography is, or is not, an acceptable form of commodifying the body in the market, regardless of the medium on which it is served. The Internet is, to this day, a freer medium that remains uncontrolled except for a few fringe encumbrances. Issues that we hope to explore further because they are critical to understand the perspectives discussed in this paper, are: What are the legislative and judicial responses to obscenity? Are the current laws of obscenity effective in checking the dissemination of pornographic materials through the Web? How feasible is it to regulate or filter the Internet in order to preserve the freedom and security of the children? Is it possible to define the norms for decency in communication through the Internet, while defending the freedom of speech and expression of individuals? End of article

 

About the Authors

Indhu Rajagopal is an Associate Professor, Division of Social Science, York University, Toronto, Canada.

Nis Bojin is a Research Student, Division of Social Science, York University, Toronto, Canada.

 

Notes

1. Shaw, 1999, p. 209.

2. Cronin and Davenport, 2001, p. 33.

3. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in Britain in last ten months as part of Operation Ore, nationwide hunt for users of child pornography. The list of abusers includes police officers, judges and politicians, teachers and social workers. Most recently, Pete Townshend, guitarist of the "Who," was arrested on allegations of ordering child pornography (Lyall, 2003).

4. Waskul and Douglass, 1996, p. 129.

5. The computer system known as computer bulletin boards (CBB) offers users, facilities for uploading and downloading files; it also provides space for electronic discussions. Users of these spaces (CBB) generally exchange and share similar interests, write and exchange business information, and view electronic catalogues for buying goods. Distinct from CBB, users sponsor a network of communications called Usenet. Anyone can initiate such a network which may evolve into an informally organized online discussion group on issues of import to the group that forms around a hub. These are called newsgroups encompassing various themes and topics. Newsgroups allow members to communicate in real time, and engage in immediate responses to each other. Individuals, educational institutions, private or public businesses, corporations, and others establish newsgroups, and exchange formal or informal information through a series of hubs in the Usenet. Any communication, whether text or other binary data, are forwarded to and received either directly or indirectly by, individuals or groups that browse the issues that are being discussed.

6. Waskul and Douglass, 1999, pp. 135, 138.

7. In 1996, members of the Orchid Club, a self–labeled group of paedophiles in the United States were arrested. This group commandeered innocent children, and customized the pornographic images to suit their vulgarities. Using a digital camera, the members were transmitting real–time images of children being sexually assaulted and customizing the porno–act to the club members’ specific demands to suit their pleasure. The Orchid club members’ locations were the United States, Europe and Australia (Taylor, Quayle, and Holland, 2001).

8. For example, one Web site claims:

"Our site is in full compliance with United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 110, Section 2256 ... In the time honored tradition and within the laws of the United States of America and most states and municipalities, the visual depiction and appreciation of the female form, including the pubescent female form, has been, and is, legal. SunnyLolitas supports the laws of the United States of America, and gladly and willingly conforms to these laws ... In supporting the laws of the United States of America, SunnyLolitas vehemently opposes what is commonly referred to as 'child pornography' and legally defined by United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 110, Section 2256 as images containing 'sexually explicit conduct' ... SunnyLolitas, in accordance with the Constitution, believes that the right to view and appreciate nude images of minors in an artistic and aesthetic manner is guaranteed. The validity of this is confirmed by the numerous artistic photography books of nude minors openly available for sale throughout the United States. SunnyLolitas is simply offering you the same opportunity to view aesthetically pleasing images as the major bookstores do, just at a lower cost ... As with all art, the question of the work’s artistic value is left solely to the viewer, and as such, SunnyLolitas does not expect all viewers to like, or even approve of, nude images of minors. SunnyLolitas asks only that all viewers, whatever their personal feelings, view the images as art and respect the rights granted by the Constitution of the United States of America."

Boysfilms.com has posted messages identical to those above. On its Web site, nudistsparadise.com notes:

"There may be some concern regarding some of the images on The Nudists Paradise. We will address them now. First of all, it is important to note that there is absolutely NO FORM OF PORNOGRAPHY here! Nudity does NOT constitute pornography as defined by US Laws.The next obvious question is 'what is pornography?' You can find the complete definition of pornography and the laws surrounding child pornography at: United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 110, Section 2256. We strongly suggest you read them, if you are not familiar with it. Perhaps, the biggest concern will be regarding the pictures of minors in the nude. Some may feel this certainly must be illegal, but it's not so as long as the pictures are in non suggestive ways, posed innocently. Again, please refer to the link above regarding the Laws as defined by the USA. In short, The Nudists Paradise is attempting to portray the life and times of actual Nudist camps, parks, and beaches throughout its history. Therefore, we include pictures of everyone, the whole family. You will NOT find images that can be viewed as suggestive, erotic, or immoral on any of our pages! The Nudists Paradise strongly opposes any form of child pornography! We thank you for your concern, and support." Also, the Ukrainian/Russian Web sites do not seem to have any age restriction on showing the nude images of children, for instance, Lovely Nymphets at billcards.com says "there is no age limit on our work ... this site is totally legal."

9. A porno–ring "The Wonderland Club" was broken up in 1998. (http://www.techtv.com/cybercrime/features/story/0,23008,2134442,00.html) (http://www.techtv.com/cybercrime/viceonline/story/0,23008,3321640,00.html) Other popular rings have gone underground except for their users, and they too would be disassembled if they surface. Some "child erotica" sites remain online mainly perhaps because of lack of details that are forbidden by child pornography laws in the developed world where the rate of consumption is high. Examples of the sites are: sunnylolitas.com; premiumlolitas.net; lolitasnature.com; eternalnymphets.net; nudelolitaworld.com; virgins–fun.com; lolitasnymphets.com; lolitas–joy.com; tiny–virgins.com; little–virgins.com; nudists–paradise.com; latin–lolita.com; pure–lolita.com; asia–virgins.com; lolita–paradise.com; littleboyz.com; boysfilms.com; charmingboys.com; onboys.com; boys–love.com.

10. For an expansion of Polanyi’s economics, please see Jordan Bishop at http://artsandscience.concordia.ca/polanyi/comment/market_theory-reality.html. Also see: Hlseyin Vzel’s (1997) analysis: "Karl Polanyi’s social theory ... underlies his critique of the market economy ... this theory is founded on an understanding of a human being as the unity of individuality and sociality and as a moral being characterized by freedom. However, the market system, which is organized on the basis of the three fictitious commodities, namely labor, land, and money, generates a dehumanization process within which these characteristics are negated. This dehumanization results from the commodification of life itself and signifies the separation of human beings from their natural surroundings, from each other and even from their own capacities and powers." (http://www.eh.net/lists/archives/ahet/jul-1998/0000.php).

11. Kelly Patricia O’Meara (2002) has excerpted the following from the decision: "In a nutshell, the majority rejected the arguments of the government in support of the law, writing that, 'The contention that the CPPA is necessary because pedophiles may use virtual child pornography to seduce children runs afoul of the principle that speech with the rights of adults to hear may not be silenced in an attempt to shield children from it.' The opinion further states: 'The argument that virtual child pornography whets pedophiles’ appetites and encourages them to engage in illegal conduct is unavailing because the mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it ... absent some showing of a direct connection between the speech and imminent illegal conduct.' It continues, 'Finally, the First Amendment is turned upside down by the [government’s] argument that, because it is difficult to distinguish between images made using real children and those produced by computer imaging, both kinds of images must be prohibited.' Nonsense, said the majority, which opined authentic child pornography still is criminal and still can be prosecuted, while 'virtual' or computer–generated images, are protected by the First Amendment."

12. The discussion here follows Johan Söderberg’s (2002) analysis of Marxists’ views on information.

13. Barry: "In Melbourne, for example, since the legalization of brothel prostitution in the mid–1980s, big business has moved into the sex industry. The largest Melbourne brothel, The Daily Planet, has been quoted on the Stock Exchange. Also in Melbourne, as part of the new big business prostitution, a new brothel was opened to serve the new large scale casino, called The Boardroom, to indicate its respectable and corporate status and to appeal to corporate man, [and] the brothel provides male, female and trans–sexual 'service providers'."

14. Sheila Jeffreys quotes Ryan Bishop and Lillian Robinson, in "Sex Tourism in Thailand": "A $4 billion per year tourist industry is the linchpin of the modernization process called the 'Thai Economic Miracle'."

15. Cronin and Davenport borrow the phrase "lattice of production" from Kling (1984) who describes it as a production network out of which interconnected technologies arise: Cronin and Davenport (2001) exemplify it as follows: "Behind this intangible end product lies a production lattice that includes a number of familiar, physical processes. Core creative activities are filmmaking and photo shoots, which can be labor and capital equipment intensive, though decreasingly so with rapid advances in digital technology ... In the case of high–quality goods, the associated production costs can be significant. This is true, too, of live interactive performances delivered via the Web. Once the end product is digitized, however, the porno moves into the business of distributing, selling, and licensing intangible, or soft, goods. Pornographic videos can be used to deliver on–demand streaming video segments over the Web, feed into pay–per–view cable TV systems, or provide an array of static images for use on the Internet and in printed publications. Over time, the contents of the pornographer’s image databank can be spun, spliced, and resold many times and in many ways in both digital and physical markets, and this brings a complex of stakeholder interests and rights issues into play. The plasticity of the digital asset base, in fact, begets a multi–product revenue stream, the additional postproduction and distribution costs for which may be marginal."

16. Cronin and Davenport indicate that Amazon.com, Yahoo!, Priceline, e–Bay, and other IPOs have taken capitalization to astronomical heights far greater than 'old' physical enterprises such as Sotheby’s or Barnes and Noble, have.

17. The legal sex/pornography industry: estimated global sales ($bil).  

Market segment
Sales ($bil)
Adult videos
20.0
Sex clubs
5.0
Magazines
7.5
Phone sex
4.5
Escort services
11.5
Cable/satellite/Pay–per–view TV
2.5
CD–ROM/DVD
1.5
Internet (sales/memberships) Novelties
1.0
Other
1.5
Total
$55.0
 

18. Discussion here follows Cronin and Davenport’s analysis.

19. Cronin and Davenport note that successful e–commerce pioneers like Amazon.com have attempted to diversify by using their brand Web name, and started to sell electronics and toys, and also to do auctioneering. Although these business activities have little in common with books, they are now integrated under the name brand of Amazon.com, with its online efficiencies of moving products and customer orientation.

20. Cronin and Davenport illustrate this trend by citing activities and plans of Private Media Group (PMG), which is the first, diversified adult entertainment company that trades on the Nasdaq as www.prvt.com. Aiming to be the leading conglomerate through acquisitions and mergers, the company wants to produce and deliver feature goods for adults. It uses cutting edge technologies to differentiate its product lines, and delivers it also through TV Home Shopping.

21. MacKinnon, 1995, p. 59.

22. Wolf, 1999, p. 7.

 

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Editorial history

Paper received 9 June 2003; accepted 6 October 2003.


Copyright ©2004, First Monday

Copyright ©2004, Indhu Rajagopal and Nis Bojin

Globalization of prurience: The Internet and degradation of women and children by Indhu Rajagopal with Nis Bojin
First Monday, Volume 9, Number 1 - 5 January 2004
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1114/1034





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