Pornography has gone mainstream. The word pornography once evoked images of "dirty old men" in trench coats, and the "adult" industry was frequently associated with mobsters and dark back rooms. Adult entertainment companies are now traded on Wall Street, and through their cable subsidiaries, major US corporations (like AT&T and Time-Warner) have become some of the largest distributors of pornography in history. The stigma surrounding pornography and elicit sexuality has largely evaporated in many circles. For example, the movie Midnight Cowboy, which was released in 1969, initially garnered an X rating for its honest portrayal of a male hustler and the dark side of human sexuality. Twenty-five years later, Hollywood turned hardcore pornographer Larry Flynt into a likable poster-boy for constitutional rights.
Aside from being more accepted, pornography has also become more accessible. Indulging in porn often used to require traveling to seedy stores in questionable parts of town. Now one can view sexual movies anonymously and in the comfort of one's own home with the touch of a TV remote control. Adult bookstores and "gentlemen's clubs" (and I use the term "gentlemen" loosely) are now ubiquitous parts of the urban landscape. Indeed, the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that adult bookstores in America now outnumber McDonald's restaurants by a ratio of three to one. And if that weren't enough, the Internet came along and became the sex addict's super-drug, the gateway to any and every fantasy, no matter how bizarre or deviant.
Finally, and perhaps most tragically, many (not just voices within the porn industry) would have you believe that "adult entertainment" isn't a problem for teenagers because it's being consumed exclusively by adults. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Several studies have confirmed that the overwhelming majority of people are first exposed to pornography while they are children or teenagers.
In numerous cities, blocked out adult cable channels are scrambled so poorly that they leave little to the imagination. To make matters worse, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that cable companies have the free speech right to broadcast adult programs at all hours of the day. The scrambling is irrelevant anyway if a teen's parents or friends have access to adult channels on their televisions. Discarded pornography likewise frequently ends up in the hands of teenagers. Of course if teens were unable to view it these ways, they could at any time find an unprotected computer and breeze past the warning pages on adult Internet sites. And they do.
Frighteningly, like adults, the experiences of teenagers who indulge in pornography are becoming normalized, meaning that society and their peers no longer always see pornography as deviant or even undesirable. Even many adolescent females are beginning to see pornography as another routine part of human sexuality.
While pornography advocates might chalk it all up to greater freedom of expression and sexual liberation, the wounds left on our young people can be severe and long-lasting. Many like Robert begin indulging in pornography out of curiosity or for excitement, never suspecting that it'll lead down a dark road of addiction and pathology