They don’t call them the Jac Labs for nothing. Filipa de Oliveira and Rodain Joubert get the down and dirty on pornography.
It’s past midnight and you’re about to fall asleep. Wait. Hang on. You suddenly realise that you have an assignment due for the next morning at nine o’clock. You jump out of bed and start thinking about who has a computer for you to use. To your dismay, all your friends who own computers are asleep and now you have to go for an infamous late night session at the Jacaranda Labs. A few minutes later, you’ve entered the labs and find out that the printer isn’t working properly. You refuse to give up and approach the one other person in the labs, hoping that you can receive some assistance.
Being in a daze because it’s late and in a flurry because you’re stressed, you don’t realise that his computer screen is turned away from the others and he is hunched over it. Only once it’s too late, you’ve realised that (a) you’ve made an ass of yourself and (b) lo and behold, he’s making generous use of his internet quota for the purposes of viewing porn.
Before the advent of the Internet, pornography was only really accessible via “dirty” magazines like Playboy and Penthouse or through video rentals, usually from specialised adult stores. Nowadays, with the accessibility that the Internet provides, pornography is available right at your fingertips (no pun intended) whenever it is desired. With the vast improvements in cellphone technology, it is even available in the palm of your hand (again, no pun intended). A vast majority of internet and cellphone sites offer pornography for free and this makes it accessible to anyone.
Being on campus does not exclude the typical student from the porn boom. Access to it is available from campus labs and the privacy of your own room, if you’re connected to the network. It’s distributed via cellphones, Internet downloads and file sharing networks. While some students simply download and watch the material, others serve as distributors and keep a large supply of it to make available to their peers. One such student, Fabio*, boasts a proud collection and views his role as distributor as a meaningful service to the student population. “It’s like a sense of duty,” he said. “So many people download it and I don’t think there is anything wrong with the porn going through campus. If people want to see it, it’s there. If not, they can ignore it.”
Pornography, despite some of its bad connotations, is viewed by some as being both healthy and enjoyable. It provides individuals with sexual gratification, ideas for enhancing their love lives or just as a source of cheesy amusement. Jessica McCarthy, a second year BJourn student, agrees that porn can be positive. “I think that porn can be very healthy and fun. I do think, however, that it can create false expectations in people regarding what they think sex should be like” she said.
Professor Dave Edwards of the Rhodes Psychology Department also acknowledges that there can be positive aspects of porn. “People might get ideas to steam up their love lives from Internet pornography,” he said. However, Edwards cautions that pornography has a wide range of effects, some of which are negative. “It becomes psychologically damaging when people actually become addicted to it” he said. Overseas research performed by Dr Mary Anne Layden of the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania shows that pornography addiction is comparable to cocaine addiction. The study revealed that regular, non-addict subjects exhibited the same brain activity when viewing pornography as cocaine addicts did when viewing pictures of people taking drugs. Layden believes that pornography addiction is in fact more difficult to treat than regular addictions, describing it as “a permanently implanted addictive substance” in the mind. This is in contrast to, for example, cocaine, which an addict in recovery will ideally have no access to.
Tied in with the negative aspects of pornography is the issue of the sexual violence, particularly against women, that it allegedly incites. Dr. Diana Russel, a well-reputed American expert on sexual violence against women, believes that porn endorses abusive sexual desires or behaviours in individuals. In her book, Against Pornography: The Evidence of Harm, Russel explains that the banality of porn sends a message to women everywhere and effectively demeans them. Most pornography depicts women in submissive roles and they are often treated in a derogatory manner by their male counterparts. It’s widely believed, by most scholars who feel that pornography is negative, that it perpetuates sexual violence, especially among young girls. Ted Bundy, a serial killer from Florida, described just hours before he was executed how pornography primed him for his brutal actions.
While some women find it demeaning, others feel that it can be quite liberating and a testimony to women experiencing and exploring their sexuality. Other women just find it fun to watch. Shea Karssing, a second year BA student, says this about porn: “Storyline porn is great – prize-winning, in fact. It’s a great procrastination device and it’s even good for some laughs.”
Pornography has moved from being a taboo subject to one that is widely spoken of and watched. The increase of mass media has made porn available to anyone and so has changed how people react to it and their views on experiencing sex and coming to terms with their sexuality. While it has shown that it can have a negative impact on individuals, if taken from a light perspective it can be something that is both fun and fulfilling to either an individual or a couple. So, next time you’re in the Jac Labs and you see that dodgy character in the corner, don’t be so surprised – porn is on the rise. No pun intended.
If you feel that you may have a problem with pornography addiction, the Psychological Clinic, affiliated to the Psychology Department, is available to help.
* Not his real name