Feeds

Academics challenge moral consensus on sex and the net

Censorship does more harm than good

New hybrid storage solutions

A moral panic around childhood sexualisation and the dangers of the internet is closing down important channels of debate and making the internet a more dangerous place for adults and young people alike.

That was the consensus view taken by Onscenity, an international network launched this week, which draws together experts to respond to the new visibility or 'onscenity' of sex in commerce, culture and everyday life.

In the very first full session of this network, academics and researchers heard presentations from four opinion leaders in this field.

Susanna Paasonen spoke of how the fragmentation of pornography caused problems for the authorities, who had problems nowadays determining what was sexual and what was not. She observed: "If you can imagine a fetish, there probably exists a group out there that is in to it – and if there isn’t, there soon will be." As example she cited "the ultimate snow bondage and shivering website" - she is from Finland after all.

David Buckingham, Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, London University, and Director of the Centre for the Study of Children, Youth and Media, complained about the current media panic over the "sexualisation" of childhood. While some issues went away with the last government, David Cameron also appears to believe this is a problem.

The real problem, though, is that no one knows what "sexualisation" is: it is a convenient label used to position the child as always the victim, and then to pile every problem imaginable on top, including paedophilia, body image, sex trafficking and self-esteem. Once that particular juggernaut gets rolling, it is almost impossible to have a sensible debate about what's really going on.

Too many so-called experts – most famously, Dr Linda Papadopoulos - were speaking well outside their field of expertise. Eating disorders get ascribed to "sexualisation", despite the fact that most dietary experts would question that conclusion. Worse is the way in which this debate is almost always framed in moralising terms, and a key question must be what political motive lies behind such framing.

Equally of concern was the way in which "healthy sexuality" is so often equated to "non-commercial" – as though sex alone can be an activity free from all commercial influence.

Buckingham’s contribution was echoed closely by Professor Catharine Lumby, Director of the Journalism and Media Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. She warned that a key driver to debate in this area is a parental view that "it must be possible to stop information getting out". The current panic in Australia has its roots in a report – Corporate Paedophilia – which set the ball rolling in terms of claiming that children were being "sexualised".

However, the report lacked all scholarship, being based on an inadequate sample, and contained no definition of sexualisation – or even what was meant by "child". It was dominated by vox pop submissions from the Christian right, feminists and high-profile social commentators.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.