Internet Pornography

Pornography remains one of the most accessed topics on the Internet. Not only is it easily accessed, but affordable, and provides the user with anonymity. That is, unless they are apprehended for downloading objectionable material, such as images depicting children or animals.

While most Internet pornography users view images depicting adults, the line is sometimes blurred and occasionally crossed. While many sites report that “models” are aged 18 and over, there is clearly a market for young woman models with some sites using catch-phrases like “barely legal” to heighten users’ interests. There is evidence to suggest that as some users become satiated by such images of young models, they may “drift” towards younger models, including children.

Most people are aware that viewing objectionable material is illegal. The danger is that some people may become drawn into this world and find it difficult to leave. They may begin to convince themselves that the images are not harmful to anyone, rationalised by observing images of children who are smiling and appear to be actively participating in sexual activities. Further, the amount of images available and the relative ease of access may legitimise and normalise the activity.

It has been postulated that some users are prone to boredom and that online sexual stimulation provides a temporary relief of that boredom, thus perpetuating a cycle. Further, the ongoing need for further material has the potential of becoming addictive. Some users resort to extensive collecting and cataloging of material, engaging in communications with others online so as to access more material, and trading of images. If they perceive that particular needs in their lives are being met through such activities, then their actions may infringe on other parts of their lives (especially their relationships).

Others may feel lonely and inadequate and use child pornography as a maladaptive strategy to avoid their perceived likelihood of failure in adult relations. Then again, others may resort to this behaviour in an effort to alleviate negative emotions and make themselves feel better.

Of concern is when arousal and accompanied masturbation to such images occurs. It is possible that these fantasies become preferred and are reinforced, and leads to sexual deviancy.
Perhaps surprisingly, the most common age of identified offenders was 17 years of age (based on NZ Department of Internal Affairs data from 2004). Teenage students by nature tend to be sexually curious and it is therefore not surprising that this group had accessed a range of pornography (including that depicting adults). However, the very young age of some of the victims in images accessed raises concern. These young offenders are being exposed to some deviant images at a time in their lives when they are very susceptible and easily influenced to the messages conveyed therein (that is, advocating the abuse of others for one’s own pleasure). This becomes compounded when images accessed display violence.

While the research is still in its infancy and there are no clear indications to suggest that viewing child pornography will necessary lead to committing a hands-on sexual offence, there is always the potential. Ongoing viewing of such material implies a desire for contact. Some users do make this transgression.

Individuals who are actively seeking out child pornography (or other objectionable material) are encouraged to seek professional help. Parents may wish to educate their teens of the pitfalls of engaging in this activity. Lastly, anyone who ever considers accessing objectionable material should take heed as they may be apprehend through the most unanticipated means. “Curiosity” is no defence. Being apprehended and convicted carries significant consequences.


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