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A generation gap in understanding porn of today

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 21 2010 11:00 a.m. MDT

West Valley City firefighters Bridger William, left, and Scott Hall put out hot spots on the ruins of Val Johnson's home in Herriman on Monday.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

This is the second article in a series on pornography and its impact on women.


It is hard to talk about pornography without being pornographic.

That's why when Jill C. Manning, a marriage and family therapist based in Colorado, talks about the seedy industry she refers to, of all things, Pong.

Released in 1972, Pong was a first generation video game based on the sport of table tennis. Players moved two lines up and down on a black and white video screen to intersect a dot (representing the ball) that moved from one side of the screen to the other.

People today who remember Pong probably have no desire to play it.

Why? Unlike Pong, the first video game to achieve widespread popularity in both the arcade and home markets, today's video games contain real-life imagery, sound and graphics.

Players can personalize the games for their moods and desires. They are not limited to competitors in the same room sharing the same screen but can, through the Internet, challenge opponents in different countries.

And so it is with pornography, said Manning.

Although pornography is nothing new, the proximity of the sex industry to the public is new, said Manning, who testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 2005 on the harms of pornography and is author of the book, "What's the Big Deal about Pornography: A Guide for the Internet Generation."

In essence, she said, comparing many adults' mind-set about pornography to today's reality is similar to comparing Pong to video games of today. "There is a huge generation gap in understanding what today's generation are exposed to and have access to," she said. "The darkest stuff of yesteryear can be easily accessible to a child through a computer."

Many people who grew up in a pre-Internet era still have the mind-set of the '60s, '70s and '80s when it comes to pornography, she said. "They don't have a reference point for the dangers and risks we are talking about."

Internet pornography, for example, is not a still image seen on the page of a magazine. Instead, with the click of the mouse, people have the free access to a "seemingly infinite array of sexually explicit images," she said.

Pornography today is far more violent than ever before. It is also more consumer driven than in the past. With the touch of a button, any sexual fantasy, however deviant or cruel, can be obtained rapidly over the Internet, she said.

The reality, she added, is sad: Computer rooms of today have become extensions of peep show stalls of the past. "The centerfold is coming to life and is talking to you in real time," said Manning.

And people everywhere are beginning to see the impact.

People today who remember Pong probably have no desire to play it.

Why? Unlike Pong, the first video game to achieve widespread popularity in both the arcade and home markets, today's video games contain real-life imagery, sound and graphics.

Players can personalize the games for their moods and desires. They are not limited to competitors in the same room sharing the same screen but can, through the Internet, challenge opponents in different countries.

And so it is with pornography, said Manning.

Although pornography is nothing new, the proximity of the sex industry to the public is new, said Manning, who testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 2005 on the harms of pornography and is author of the book, "What's the Big Deal about Pornography: A Guide for the Internet Generation."

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