Pornography problems at work harm companies, coworkers

Published: Thursday, Aug. 30 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

"These actions are not only unprofessional, they reflect time taken away from designated duties, are in clear violation of federal and DoD and regulations, consume network resources, and can compromise the security of the network though the introduction of malware or malicious code," James wrote in the July memo obtained by Bloomberg.

Adult sites are often loaded with malware and viruses and can open up businesses to costly bugs or hackers. But when government agents with security clearances view pornography on unsecure sites, the stakes are exponentially higher, with a potential for national security breaches.

Regarding the most recent pornography usage, the federal agency responded that their monitoring system had worked as planned and no missile defense networks had been compromised.

Utah's Intermountain Healthcare system — one of the biggest employers in the state — is also concerned about network breaches, sexual harassment lawsuits and even the legal investigation of an employee who strays into illegal pornographic activity. However, it also realizes the value of being proactively protective, and in addition to its two-tier monitoring and filtering system for their employee's computers and smartphones, has stepped up to preemptively monitor employees who have expressed concerns about their Internet use.

"The patients in our hospital expect a certain level of conduct," said Karl West, assistant vice president of information systems and chief information security officer for Intermountain Healthcare. "We have an image and a reputation. There is an expectation for physicians and nurses who are working in rooms with patients, in private settings. There are high expectations that we'll meet and exceed the expectations in this area. From our perspective, I don't see it as a cost; I see it as a reputational issue and providing clinical excellence in all that we're trying to do."

Damage to women

The human brain has two processing patterns — one for people and one for objects. Both are viewed similarly when shown upright, but when pictures of people are turned upside down, they're far more difficult than objects to recognize.

Relying on this understanding of the brain, academics in Nebraska and Belgium showed 78 college students pictures of men and women in their underwear and swimsuits, and found that more were able to correctly identify pictures of women, not men, when they were shown upside down, supporting their hypothesis that on a "basic cognitive level, sexualized men were perceived as persons, whereas sexualized women were perceived as objects," the authors wrote in the study published in the journal Psychological Science in April. "Our findings showed no differences related to participant gender, which suggests that cultural beliefs that women are sex objects are shared by both men and women at a basic cognitive level."

This toxic view is being fueled by the prevalence of pornography, said University of Pennsylvania's Layden, and it has penetrated every strata of society, presenting unique and troubling implications for the workplace.

If a male is using pornography at the office and is sexually aroused, it will affect his behavior, ranging from subtle staring to inappropriate touches, she said.

Even without knowing they're doing it, those male supervisors may hire or promote women who are more sexually appealing over those who are less so, promoting an unspoken requirement of physical beauty or sexual availability, which makes women feel a need to improve their physical features to boost their career, said Layden, who is also the director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program and the director of the Social Action Committee for Women's Psychological Health.

In her work as a psychotherapist, Layden said the erroneous statement she hears most often from perpetrators of sexual violence is that "women exist only to arouse me."

"That belief is a core belief that fuels sexual violence," she said. "It's fueled by all this pornography that is completely pervasive and inundating on the Internet. It is damaging at every level. Every level of business is damaged by this message and by the use of that material on the job."

Personal boundaries

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