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Is The Tide Turning Against Porn?


A few weeks ago the PTC posted an "applaud" for Apple CEO Steve Jobs' position on pornography and it's availability within applications running on iPhone devices.


"We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone," said Jobs in an email to a customer, adding that those who want porn can buy a competing Android phone from Google on which "you can download nothing but porn."


The bluntness of Jobs' remarks caught me by surprise. I watched with some cynicism a few months back when Apple cleared their app store of most of the applications that allowed pornographic media to be displayed on iPhone and iTouch devices. Admittedly I thought the action might be temporary as it coincided closely with the release of the iPad, which is being hailed as the next device to revolutionize education. No one wants the future electronic replacement for school textbooks to be associated with porn.


But a few days ago a second revealing remark from Mr. Jobs was sent to yet another writer -- tech blogger Ryan Tate. Tate was miffed at an ad he saw late one evening for Apple's new iPad that heralded the device as "revolutionary." Shooting off an email to Job's rather well-known public email address (sjobs@apple.com), the blogger asked the CEO how the iPad was related to a revolution. "Revolutions are about freedom," stated Tate.


Surprisingly, shortly after midnight, Tate received an answer from the Apple CEO. The response included a couple of quips supporting Apple's perceived technical advantage over its competitors. But then Jobs also added that Apple's devices provide "Freedom from porn." When Tate shot back that he "didn't want 'freedom from porn'", Jobs advised him that, "[you] might care more about porn when you have kids."


For those of us who have had it with the "porn everywhere, anytime" saturated society in which we live, hearing the CEO of a major communications and technology company make a statement like this is nothing short of groundbreaking. Remember, Jobs also sits on Disney's board (which includes ABC Television).


After reading these remarks, I wondered what the reaction might be. May 21, 2010, Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial covering the issue. Thankfully Felten was supportive of Jobs, saying:


"My, how the definition of imposing one's morality has changed over the years. Once it meant enforcing criminal sanctions on smut-peddlers. Now, a businessman who prefers to opt out of the trade is accused of impinging on everyone else's free speech."


Felten isn't quite convinced that morality is Jobs' main motivation for "unfriending the world of porn." Instead he wonders if the "arbiters of modern cool have finally cooled to the sweaty cultural ascendance of 'adult entertainment.' Could it be that the tide has begun to turn against pornography ... just as a matter of taste and style?"


Looking at the porn situation from another perspective, British newspaper The Guardian says the adult entertainment industry is simply reached its pinnacle. Says journalist Douglas Haddow, "In order for porn to move into the 21st Century, the productions should be made to appeal to a wider audience and be able to hold a viewer's attention longer than say, two and a half minutes." He continues to say the female market has been ignored and that the porn industry is the only medium where racial and gender stereotypes are openly tolerated.


Even more telling, the porn industry appears to be hurting for cash and has turned to YouTube with a public service announcement that pleads for people to quit downloading porn for free. "Eventually, if no one is willing to pay for the movies we make, they won't exist," implores one of the many female porn stars in the clip.


I'm not about to believe porn will go the way of top hats and zoot suits anytime soon, but this may be the beginning of a cultural revolution. Frankly, I couldn't care what reasons may be contributing to the possibility of porn fading from the everywhere prominence it now enjoys. For those of us who believe the pornography industry is damaging marriages and families and destroying the lives of many individuals who consume and participate in it, any decline is welcome.


Perhaps the most important thing we can learn from this is how one very influential person can begin a paradigm shift. By making these recent statements, Steve Jobs has led an editorial columnist at a major publication to think about issues of free speech differently. Just imagine if others were to do likewise.


Rod Gustafson


Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.

Parenting and the Media by Rod Gustafson

The Parents Television Council - www.parentstv.org

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