Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti: E-book porn: How far have we come–and where are we going?

Sadi Ranson-PolizzottiNote: We've just posted an MP3 of the essay below from Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti--TeleRead's e-book reviewer. A highly disturbing experiment: go to virtually any search engine and type in "e-books pornography," and you'll get a plethora of results offering "Child Pornography" downloadable to Microsoft Reader with "direct links to downloading and free samples." I toured "porn" sites recently. Some pages offered simply "debates" about the use of pornography (here in context as an e-book phenomenon). Other sites offered more information on said debates. (Who knew the e-book community had been debating this matter? Should we have known?) Another site listed an offering about "the reality behind the 'often hysterical media coverage of child pornography available via the Internet.'" But then there were those downloadable samples that one just could not get away from. It all contrived to make me feel like just hysterical Puritan who has no sense of fun and who pines away her days wishing and hoping that grown men will start wanting women of normal age. I don't ask for much; let's say over 16, at the high end of the scale.

Or how about women equal or a few years younger than their own age? I ask for too much. I cannot fight the tide of Internet porn; moreover, such porn would not exist were there no market for it.

It is a nice dream to think that child porn will cease to exist and that children as young as three and four will be spared sexual abuse or have sex forced upon them. But there I go just getting hysterical (as one site had a book labeled “The Hysteria Over Child Pornography” about things like that because they are the things that count and when something counts you do your level best, even if it is write these true and trite words.

Other sites offered books on contemporary and sexual mores, such clever and sarcastic titles as “The Devil’s Dictionary” (though it didn’t rank as porn, the name came up attached to a book about porn used both to “titillate and educate”).

For varied reasons, the Internet has given rise to all manner of porn and books about porn. It’s a thorny subject and controversial and in this case, ever-changing. For now, we can buy porn from traditional publishers (some larger trade houses it seems which surprised me), so then how long before e-books follow in the footprints and create real downloadable pornography of all kinds and not simply books about porn. You can already download pornographic films of significant length, so it’s just a matter of switching mediums.

The Offerings

Without subscribing to or visiting pornography sites (prior to this article, then), I was receiving one or two pornographic e-mails a day in my junk folder (enough to make the innocent blush and feel the shame of guilt when there should be none), and certainly, I had done nothing to help foster its arrival. No. It simply arrived one day. I wonder, will such things be simply sent, WiFi, to my Tungsten E without my consent? Will they jam up my inbox, littering up my literature with porn because to me pornography is not literature; and don’t get into Henry Miller, because we all know the difference (and yes, even Anais Nin is different and you know it too). You want so much to make the line between what is porn and what is not porn so blurry, to confuse–when really, as Judge Black said, and so simply, “I know it when I see it.

Or are you now going to give me your freedom of expression speech–which, if you were, don’t bother? I’ve heard it before and remain unconvinced. A real agnostic. An essential sinner to your cause. A tried and true disbeliever. Not a fighter for “the cause’ as it were

What I Saw

I watched as this girl (or very young woman, to say the most) was seduced first by the female of the couple who tells her how it is “okay to feel these things” (talk about making your skin crawl). The older woman teaches the young girl, etc, and before long the man too is involved. You get the idea.

Look: if you have a thing about cheerleaders and want your girlfriend to dress up as one and you playact every Saturday afternoon, then more power to you and have a good life. God bless. But when it comes to this sort of acting, that whether it is consensual or not, appears not to be. Why does something have to appear to be nonconsensual sex with a minor for us as as collective whole to get off? What is so sexy about that, if anything, and what am I missing, apart from a few bucks from my bank account (for this article)?

Through the Ages

Yes, porn has been around forever, that much is true and even old porn is sort of cute in a way, with the grown women, and that is an important distinction. More, porn was not foisted on us the way it is today. Today, one hardly has a choice. Have a DSL or Cable connection? It is inevitably that one day you will receive porn. My question remains, how long before that happens with our hand-held devices? How long before advertisements are sent WiFi (the technology exists already and is used on cellular devices that have an Internet connection).

To Sum Up

Most of the “downloadable porn” links had information about pornography, not pornography itself. The links were misleading in some ways, making it seem as though the sites actually offered porn, but for the most part, what I found were books that were cultural studies of pornography and sociological studies, studies of the industry and so on. I found some counter-culture type books that seemed to want us to question our aversion to pornography–the sort of defense thesis books, but otherwise–most of the books seemed legitimate.

Still, as e-books have followed p-books in many ways and are Internet-based, one worries and wonders and can only ask the question, “How much longer now?”

Or are we better than that?

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Moderator’s note: Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti is a former publicity director and editor for David R. Godine, Publisher, and has worked at Conde Nast Publications, The Atlantic Monthly and others. She has been widely published and now writes regularly for several publications including the famous Cleveland Blogcritics, Geek2Geek, Boston Globe Arts Section, and she has also written for Publisher’s Weekly, Independent Publisher and others. Visit her Web site.

Enjoy Sadi’s podcasts regularly by pasting the TeleRead audio feed into your podware. And remember, she welcomes feedback.

2 Comments on Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti: E-book porn: How far have we come–and where are we going?

  1. A search on Google reveals that there is actually an eBook whose title is simply “Child Pornography”, and I suspect that this is the volume that you are getting offered downloads and free samples of, rather than actual child pornography.

    As far as porn spam is concerned, if your email address appears on the Internet anywhere in an unobfuscated format (i.e., without using tricks like “someone AT somewhere DOT com” or ROT13 in Javascript) then it will eventually get picked up by one of the myriad email harvesters.

    With regard to eBooks, I doubt the porn companies are interested. Their efforts at the moment are very much focused on multimedia delivery methods such as video-on-demand and the upcoming high-definition optical disc formats, as can be seen from the various news items on the Adult Video News website http://www.avn.com (site contains ad banners which link to porn sites).

  2. HI Dan:

    The books i was referring to, and i can pull out pieces of the text if you like, were pieces such as you said, and one “The Hysteria Over Child Porography.” People have the right to publish what they want – but i think getting “hysterical” as they put it (see, now i would just say upset or disgusted) is quite normal.. No one here is even suggesting that at present you can download porn, only raising the issue of how far off is it in the future if other publishers (and good publishers) are offering porn in print? More, companies have now been enabled to send WiFi advertisements to your cellphone. If you haven’t seen a porn link yet, it seems likely to me that it’s just that… “yet” … that any cellphone with Internet access is going to have the same amount of porn as the Internet at home. According to at least one site, Asiansinmedia.org, child pornography rates on the internet have increased.

    I, for one, don’t want this delivered to my handheld and a lot of porn is disguised as a ‘click-thru’ advertisement for something else; you click and voila! you have a plethora of porn.

    It’s interesting to hear where the adult industry has their sights et at the momet, as you note at the end of your comment, but I don’t think it will be forever that e-books are clean, much the same way p-books (and i should know) remained clean for years and then voila! you had pornography in print everywhere.

    This piece was more about pornography and where it could easily land us – not saying that you can download porn now (not from an e-book company that i could find), but i did find books that defended or condoned it (from various points of view). Sorry if i was not clear enough. I hope i’ve clarified better here what i was getting it and my concerns for the future or ANY pubishing endeavor which , like it or not, seems to wind up publishing smut at some point or other.

    Cheers and be well,

    sadi r-p

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