Your homemade porn is safe

The media's abuzz about a salacious study that says most amateur porn unwittingly lands online. It's just not true

Topics: Sex, Love and Sex, Teenagers, Sex Scandal, parent,

Your homemade porn is safe (Credit: iStockphoto/joecicak)

Now here’s a headline that will make many hearts stop: “Study: Vast Majority Of Homemade Porn, Private Photos End Up Online.” CBS alarmingly reports today that “The vast majority of homemade pornography and private images on personal computers ends up on public websites called ‘parasites.’” To which I exclaimed a string of expletives that I won’t repeat here.

But, dude. It’s just not true.

Contrary to the headlines, the study in question looked specifically at teenagers’ self-made sexual content that was posted online. Researchers from Britain’s Internet Watch Foundation found that 88 percent of the “self-generated, sexually explicit online images and videos of young people” encountered by researchers “had been taken from their original location and uploaded onto other websites,” which are referred to as “parasite websites.” That’s very different from saying that 88 percent of private, self-made porn unwittingly ends up online. As IWF notes in a press release, “a parasite website is defined as a website created for the purpose of displaying sexual content … which have apparently been taken/harvested from the website to which they were originally uploaded” — typically a social networking or webcam site.

Ah yes, cam sites. On Saturday, I wrote about the creepy world of “cappers,” where Internet tricksters secretly record young women on live webcam chats and make a “game” of getting them to flash their breasts — or more. Whether it’s a screen grab from a seemingly private chat that is then posted to a “jailbait” message board, or a sexy Facebook shot lifted by a porn website, once it’s out there, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to contain. That’s true whether it’s cappers, “creepshots” on Reddit or — as CBS’ fear-mongering invokes — amateur adult porn that non-consensually ends up online. Such is the nature of fighting the viral spread of anything online.

I can’t help thinking that the seemingly willful misinterpretation of this study’s findings reflects our supreme discomfort with the idea of teens self-producing sexual content. We can comprehend the idea of minors being abused by “monsters,” but less so the possibility of teens being sexual actors who are nonetheless capable of being exploited. We’re much more comfortable with the puritanical schadenfreude of watching other adults punished for their private sexual exploits — whether it’s a celebrity or the Zumba instructor next door.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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