Feeds

Academics challenge moral consensus on sex and the net

Censorship does more harm than good

The essential guide to IT transformation

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.