Social and Legal Dimensions of Online Pornography

Social and Legal Dimensions of Online Pornography

Yasmin Ibrahim (University of Brighton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-984-7.ch111
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The dialectics between private pleasures and public needs raise various dilemmas, especially in the domain of the erotic and aesthetics. These are relative and abstract terms that can vary from individual to individual. However, in the public spaces of the Internet, the need for community standards of decency, acceptability, and taste often drag many of the debates about the Internet into a legal space, despite its description as a virtual sphere and the libertarian endeavours to keep it free from government and organizational control. While the Internet is a global resource it is often ruled through the laws of its physical embeddedness, and the global nature of the Internet also means that it is consumed and assessed through the differing cultural practices and norms that prevail in various parts of the world. The Internet as a communication and information platform is then subject to varying codes of ethical and moral conduct by different communities whether online or off-line. While the realm of the erotic is often equated with individual pleasure and psyche, the proliferation of pornography on a public platform raises social, moral, and legal concerns for communities, states, and governments. One significant element in the development of the Internet as a market place has been the availability of explicit sexual material, and these electronic networks continue to feed the pornography boom and facilitate new methods for consumers to interact with sexual content as “porn” (Spencer, 1999). These networks highlight the “privatising” potential of technology, especially in relation to sexual matters, while illuminating new forms of formal and informal exchanges (Jacobs, 2004, p.72; Spencer, 1999). The Internet, from being a rather unregulated enterprise a few years ago, has recently become the focus of multiple ethical concerns and debates and in some cases, it has amounted to moral panic (Bkardjieva & Feenerg, 2000; Cavanagh, 1999).

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