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21 September 2010

Proposal to ban porn

A mother found her 5-year-old son trying to insert a bath toy into his little sister's anus. When asked what he was doing, the he replied that he had seen it on the internet.

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A mother found her 5-year-old son trying to insert a bath toy into his little sister's anus. When asked what he was doing, the 5-year-old replied that he had seen it on the internet.

This was one of the horror stories that came to light at a recent symposium entitled "The effects of children's exposure to pornography and the impact on society" held in Cape Town. In the spotlight at this discussion was a new bill that will ban all pornography from the internet and cellphones if it were implemented.

The bill will plug 90% of the corrosive pornographic content that causes untold damage to society, especially adolescents and young children, Chris Bateman wrote in the South African Medical Journal, reporting on the symposium.

"The proposed law has provoked vigorous debate around the conflicting rights of human dignity, privacy and freedom of expression. If the bill proceeds as currently drafted, the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) intends challenging it in court," wrote Bateman.

Supported by government, religious, community and non-governmental organisations, the bill proposes using existing local legal definitions of pornography to make any internet or mobile phone provider who distributes or allows distribution of pornography guilty of an offence and liable for jail terms and/or heavy fines.

Worldwide there are an estimated 4.2 million porn web pages (12% of all web pages) with 28,258 users accessing them every second. Clive Human, who is with a community-based organisation helping porn addicts, told the symposium "disturbing stories of porn addicts wrecking their marriages, committing suicide and even abusing their own children as their addiction progressed. He said that in most cases the adults he counselled were exposed to sexually explicit material or sexualised in one way or another as children, and this has shaped their attitudes towards women and sex," Bateman reported.

Human reported that he had seen an "increased aggressiveness in boys while it was becoming 'standard practice' for children to use pornography to coerce one another into promiscuous sexual behaviour. Boys struggled to relate to girls in a non-sexual way while girls who viewed porn experienced 'a devastating effect on their relationships, body image and self-respect'."

Sex addiction difficult to treat

Addiction to pornography is more difficult to treat than other drug addictions, veteran psychiatrist, Emeritus Professor Tuviah Zabow told the symposium. This is because pornography addiction released brain chemicals that cannot be detoxified. The addiction released endogenous chemicals which, unlike exogenous chemicals, can not be detoxified.

"The graphic, attention-grabbing and visually immediate qualities of porn made it more convincing to children than indirect, verbal or written parent/teacher messages," Fiona Tanzer told the symposium. "Porn was a bad source of sexual education because the information was distorted and inaccurate, with children unable to realise that it was a bizarre and irresponsible fantasy. By the time they did, the damage had been internalised.

"Viewing sexual acts stimulated pathways for arousal (adrenaline) and reward (dopamine) and programmed long-lasting neurological changes in the brain. The immature brain was still being programmed for sexual behaviour, orientation, arousal and attraction stimuli, making pre-teens and teens particularly vulnerable to pornographic distortion of development and to porn addiction."

Bill driven by conservatism?

However, Professor Rachel Jewkes, director of the Medical Research Council's Gender and Health Research Unit said that the science presented made no attempt to distinguish between different types of porn and different circumstances in childhood. She believes the bill is being driven more by conservative ideology than by rigorous scientific research, Bateman reported.

- Wilma Stassen, Health24, September 2010

Source: South African Medical Journal. Vol. 100, No.9

Read more:
Porn and sex addiction: an expert's view

 
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