SEX TRADE AND THE GLOBAL INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE

Introduction

The sex trade and the Internet were made for one another; the sex industry created the very technologies that have made the Internet into the powerful system it is today, while the online environment has provided voyeurs and sex entrepreneurs the ability to connect in an anonymous environment.

When I began this research, I had hoped to find information on the ways in which the global information infrastructure (GII) is empowering women to be able to perform sex work from the safety of their rooms, but I found reports of pedophilia and sex trafficking to be much more abundant. The abuse and exploitation of women and children is not a new topic, but the GII has made it easier to transmit information quickly and anonymously, allowing for one of the largest markets to flourish: The global sex industry. Because information is easily accessible, demand for more graphic materials has begun to surface; the people who were once in the closet over their sexual desires now have the comfort and validation of an online community that can dictate what materials and sex acts are available. This “consumer” community creates a demand for “goods” (sex work performed by women and children), which drives the exploitation, abuse and often forced prostitution of  women and children who are often living in poor, third-world nations.

I wanted to find up-to-date information, as the Internet is in constant flux, but it has been difficult to find materials that were published in the last couple years. I believe this is due to the fact that pornography has become so normalized that there has been fewer academic writings on the subject of late. As such, some of the materials in this bibliography are up to eight years old, which can be out of date in the world of the Internet; therefore, each material listed here was selected not on its timeliness, but on its contribution to the discussion of the Global Information Infrastructure.

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Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (1998). Misuse of the Internet for the Purpose of Sexual

Exploitation. Retrieved June 13, 2008 from http://action.web.ca/home/catw/ readingroom.shtml?x=16286&AA_EX_Session=b558d6987372a2709f174c8045ae2448

Authority of Author

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) is a NGO that “works internationally to combat sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially prostitution and trafficking in women and children, in particular girls.” The organization works as consultants for the United Nations Economic and Social Council and organizes campaigns focused on creating lasting change.

Relevance

This document is statement to the United Nations Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery in Geneva, which makes recommendations for working against trafficking and sexual exploitation on the Internet. The group notes that “prostitution, sex tours, bride trafficking, pornography, live sex shows, and rape videos for sexual entertainment” are promoted and often carried out. Even though many men out themselves as guilty of sex crimes, there is no accountability on the Internet and men can narrate their exploits without repercussions.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

Sexual exploitation, including trafficking, sexual slavery and abuse, is promoted and carried out utilizing the Internet’s global reach, absence of borders and lack of accountability.

Coverage

The CATW takes a stance on the trafficking of women from a global perspective. This work was submitted in 1998, and although the issues are still relevant, the level of trafficking and sexual exploitation have increased as the technology has advanced.

Point of View Bias

CATW is a global feminist organization, and as such they are focused on the exploitation of women and children, not on any positive attributes that may come from the GII, such as the ability to communicate quickly and efficiently with other organizations to implement change. The viewpoints regarding human rights issues addressed here are accepted worldwide, and CATW is not just taking a western viewpoint.

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Dauser, T. & N. Schader (Writers). (2007, May 4). Internetspiele tummelplatz für kinderpornografie [television broadcast]. In Report mainz. Mainz, Germany: SWR. Google transcript translation retrieved June 17, 2008 from http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.swr.de%2Freport%2F-%2Fid%3D233454%2Fnid%3D233454%2Fdid%3D2060062%2F1h0wega%2Findex.html&langpair=de|

Authority of Author

Report Mainz is a German news source. Presenter Fritz Frey is a well-known commentator of reports on current affairs and global issues.

Relevance

Second-Life is the largest online virtual world and has gained worldwide popularity. This German report discusses the criminal investigations of child pornography in the virtual world.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

Pornographic communities are continuing to branch out using new technology and software that is developing. Second-Life, as a virtual simulation of the real world, is moving forward as deviants use the system to their advantage; although it is a virtual environment, explicit scenes can be created such as adult avatars having sex with child-like avatars as well as posted digital images, which could lead the way to “simulated” rape and sexual exploitation in virtual worlds. This demonstrates the ways in which software can be manipulated to share images and simulations of sex.

Coverage

Written and shown in Germany recently (2007), this news report was also distributed in English due to dedicated bloggers and translators as well as the global implications of the story.

Point of View Bias

As a television news source, Report Mainz, like any other news media, capitalizes on the dramatic to draw in an audience. Though they interview various professionals who are stakeholders in this story, they may have chosen to interview individuals who did not present a balanced viewpoint, but rather created more sensationalism.

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Egan, T. (2000, October 23). Wall Street meets pornography [Electronic version]. The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2008 from http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/23/technology/23PORN.html?ex=1213761600&en=873d0689017beedb&ei=5070

Authority of Author

The New York Times is a trusted news source and the author, Timothy Egan, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and regular contributor to the paper.

Relevance

Some of the largest, most influential corporations in America are making huge revenues from the sale and distribution of pornography. Mainstream companies (many whom have ties to charitable and religious organizations) are now in the market of hardcore pornography, though they do not have to claim the stigma attached to the adult film industry.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

Pornography used to be seen as a taboo, but now it is a major international market. Corporations that have nothing to do with the sex industry are financially benefiting by using satellite technology to mass distribute pornography, while adult websites are traded like stocks.  The sex industry has grown exponentially due to Pay-per-view and the Internet’s ability to instantly connect consumers with the product.

Coverage

As corporate ownership is not static, this article is somewhat outdated; written in 2000, it discusses General Motor’s subsidiary DirecTV, which sells more adult films than Larry Flynt of the Hustler empire; as of 2008, GM no longer owns DirecTV. Because Egan focuses primarily on American corporations, he leaves out much of the discussion on corporations based in other countries such as Europe and Southeast Asia.

Point of View Bias

Egan does an excellent job of appearing neutral on the subject, interviewing people from many different stakeholder groups such as the sex industry, corporations and groups dedicated to eliminating adult films.

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Funnell, J. (2006, August 5). How porn conquered the world. [Television broadcast]. UK: Illuminations Media.

Authority of Author

Jim Funnell is a documentary filmmaker best known for his documentary Three Kings at War, about the grandchildren of Queen Victoria and their relations leading up to the first World War. Illuminations is a independent London-based documentary production company who creates films for the alternative British television station, Channel 4.

Relevance

With a global profit of around 45 billion dollars (2 billion for Internet porn alone), the porn industry has risen to gigantic proportions. Those who did not anticipate the effects of the Internet were lost in the rush towards pornography’s online presence. Because the web allows for virtual interaction, pornography has moved away from plot-driven Art House-style cinema and towards formulaic graphic and explicit sex. In Japan, pornography has even transcended these new “traditional” online formats, taking form in sexually explicit video games.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

The porn industry has been instrumental in creating technologies for the Internet, including developing banners and pop-up ads as well as orchestrating the use of credit cards on the Internet. The Internet is a democratic system in which anyone can publish material: If people have the ability to manipulate the technology, they can become entrepreneurs. In this sense, much of the material being made and distributed on the Internet is now coming from the performers’ perspectives (mostly women) rather than sleazy porn executives.

Coverage

This documentary takes a historical look at the rise of pornography in western society. Utilizing archival black and white porn and interviewing past and present architects of pornography, this film was originally shown on the UK’s Channel 4, which is known for showcasing filmmakers who work outside the corporate mainstream television system.

Point of View Bias

As a British filmmaker catering to a mostly English-speaking audience, Funnell does not interview people who work outside of North America and western Europe. This can be limiting, as people working in non-industrialized countries may have a dramatically different perspective about the rise and effects of pornography on the world’s poorer nations.

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Hughes, D.M. (2000). “Welcome to the rape camp”: Sexual exploitation and the internet in Cambodia. Journal of sexual aggression, 6 (1/2), 1-23.

Authority of Author

Dr. Donna Hughes is a professor and leading researcher from the University of Rhode Island. She has written dozens of articles and books about the trafficking of women and children, and is frequently consulted by NGOs and governmental organizations regarding the sexual exploitation of women and children.

Relevance

The digital age has naturalized the trafficking of women for purposes of sexual exploitation and allows worldwide sex markets to flourish.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

This article demonstrates how the Internet’s global market can provide not only live sex shows, but the ability to interact; through this medium, racist and misogynistic men are now able to “virtually” torture women by submitting their sexual and abusive desires then watch them play out live via the Internet.

Coverage

This article focuses primarily on Cambodian and Vietnamese women in Cambodia from 1998-2000. Though the sex work takes place in Cambodia, the men whose opinions were mined for this article lived worldwide.

Point of View Bias

As a women’s and children’s rights advocate, Hughes’ work focuses on the trafficking (or “indentured prostitution”) aspect of global sex work, not looking into women in industrialized countries who have found Internet sex work to be empowering.

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Jenkins, P. (2001). Beyond tolerance: Child pornography on the internet. New York: New York University Press.

Authority of Author

As a professor of Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, Philip Jenkins is a former professor of Criminal Justice who has written numerous books looking at history, religion and sociology of groups. Focusing primarily on global Christianity, Jenkins is not an expert on child abuse issues, the GII or pornography, though his focus on modern society, cults and religious movements can be connected to his research of the deviant child pornography community.

Relevance

Although child pornography is still viewed by the majority of adults as being representative of the world’s darkest horrors, the Internet has “caused this deviant subculture to become highly organized and go global” (inside dust jacket). Jenkins uses his analyses to understand society’s distorted view of child pornography and confront many of the existing deviancy theories, as well as arguing a case for creating Internet regulations.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

Jenkins sheds light on the scale of child pornography on the Internet, showing that there is not a huge and powerful child pornography industry, but instead a smaller community that is able to spread their information and materials worldwide via the Internet. After authorities drove child pornographers away from AOL, child pornography traffickers were forced to create their own networks and domains to share information; because they are now off the mainstream, these systems are much more difficult to monitor. The global sex tour industry has allowed men to take pictures of their conquests and upload the photographs, increasing the amount of materials distributed.

Coverage

Although Jenkins focuses on the countries in which the distribution of child pornography is most proficient, especially Scandinavia, Germany and the United States, he shows that the child pornography community is a global one; most boards are based in Japan, while a majority of the users are from the United States and Europe (English and German are the most-spoken languages on these boards, though even sites and discussions in non-European languages can be found). He does not discuss the exploited children at length, rather focusing on the voyeurs and perpetrators; this is a much welcome stray from the conventional mode of studying the victims rather than the perpetrators.

Point of View Bias

As an advocate for Internet regulations, Jenkins lays out in his introduction that he hopes his work will help change the way we police the Internet. Jenkins does an excellent job of showing the morality of people involved in child pornography communities; even though they are faceless deviants, Jenkins shows how people can justify their obviously taboo behaviors. Although he calls for policing that would ultimately lock up these purveyors of child pornography, he does not seem to display moral superiority or antagonistic views of the perpetrators.

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Kirk, M. (Producer and Director). (2002, February 7). Frontline: American porn [Television broadcast]. Retrieved June 17, 2008 from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/porn/view/

Authority of Author

Frontline is a nationally syndicated show documenting news and current affairs on the Public Broadcasting Station. After airing, two people featured in this news story were formally charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on charges of obscenity.

Relevance

This news report documents the American pornography industry’s rise to worldwide Internet domination in recent years. The industry was in decline under the first Bush Administration, but the onslaught of digital technologies combined with laizze-faire policies by the Clinton Administration allowed the industry to rise to undocumented success, reaching not just a national audience, but an international one as well. Porn companies have now broken through to the mainstream and have partnered with some of the biggest corporations in the country. Digital technologies have allowed women such as Danni Ashe (of the website Danni’s Hard Drive) to empower themselves by creating their own businesses from the safety of their own homes or studios.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

In the earlier stages of the Internet, Yahoo acted as a catalog and repository for online pornography, which helped to legitimize it. Hotels and corporations distributing porn via satellite television also aided in legitimizing digital sex, and there are now over 200,000 commercial pornography sites. Digital technologies have made sex work much safer for women who have the knowledge and technology to create their own online sex shows; virtual lap dances can be produced in someone’s bedroom and streamed worldwide, allowing women to make a lot of money.

Coverage

This news report focuses on creators and distributors of porn in the United States. Published in 2002, some of the statistics are most likely outdated.

Point of View Bias

For this film, Frontline interviewed both industry insiders and those who prosecuted them. The people interviewed who work in the industry varied from people like Danni Ashe, the self-described “geek with big breasts”, was portrayed as an intelligent entrepreneur to Robert Zikari and Janet Romano who were reminiscent of the sleazy days of pornography before the Internet (the two were later indicted on obscenity charges). Though the individuals were presented in different lights (or shades of morality), Frontline’s overall voice was condemning of the industry.

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Nair, S. (n.d.) Child sex tourism. Retrieved June 13, 2008 from U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section Web site: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/sextour.html

Authority of Author

The CEOS is a branch of the Department of Justice which is “focused on waging an aggressive battle to protect children from individuals who use computers or the United States mails to sexually abuse and exploit them.” CEOS is an international leader in this field, contributing to policy-building and trainings outside of the U.S.

Relevance

Poverty has created a market where the sexual abuse of children is a cheap commodity. This CEOS report addresses the phenomenon of sex tourism and sex trafficking, which often results in the sexual slavery of women and children, and succinctly discusses the main stakeholders in the global sex trade.

Contribution to our Understanding of the GII

This document showcases the Internet’s use as a marketing tool which promotes the abuse of children through child sex tourism. In the global market, the Internet allows people to publish testimonials detailing their sexual exploits in sectors where governments of poverty-stricken countries turn a blind eye to the illegality of one of the countries’ major economic resources.

Coverage

As a governmental web site, the information is updated on a regular basis and focuses on the global impact.

Point of View/Bias

Because the CEOS is an organization of the United States government, they are primarily focused on the well-being of American children; they work on a global scale, though, due to the lack of borders in child pornography and trafficking.

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Rimer, J. (2007, September 24-27). Literature review: Responding to child & youth victims of sexual exploitation on the internet. Paper presented at the Responding to Child and Youth Victims of Sexual Exploitation on the Internet Training Seminar in Ontario, Canada. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from http://www.boostforkids.org/pdf/RCE-Literature-Review.pdf

Authority of Author

Rimer is a research assistant with Boost Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention, an organization working to eradicate child abuse. Although this is his first report, it is quite substantial, using up-to-date references and resources, including 19 pages of works cited and works of influence on the author’s research.

Relevance

This 127-page document covers nearly every aspect of the exchange of information regarding the sexual exploitation of children and teens over the Internet. As the amount of materials being distributed has increased, so has the demand for more graphic materials. Youths are being exploited through pornography, luring and sexual trafficking, but there is also a burgeoning trend of children creating their own live sex shows (via webcam) for profit.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

According to Rimer, “The internet has contributed significantly to increased accessibility, production, and trade of child pornography” (p. 12). Prior to the Internet, finding child pornography was a risky endeavor; the Internet has speed up the exchange of this type of illegal information due to its relative anonymity, as well as the fact that it takes such a short amount of time to send materials. Technologies are being used to safely transfer information, such as newsgroups, chat rooms, email, websites that organize sex tours and promote pimps, brothels and child pornography, p2p systems, instant messaging (IM), cell phones (for both taking and sending photos), encryption, IP Telephony (such as webcams) and steganography. While technologies are speeding up the information transfer process, they are also being utilized to catch predators. The UK-centered “Childbase System” searches old and new photographs to instantly identify kids and predators.

Coverage

Rimer’s in-depth study is current and global in scale, utilizing influential scholars on the subject, including Donna Hughes (whose work can also be found in this bibliography).

Point of View Bias

As a work designed to complement a Boost Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention training seminar, Rimer’s literature review definitely comes with an agenda: To inform people and to end the sexual exploitation of children. Rimer uses a plethora of varying resources, mostly from criminal justice, psychology and social work journals, though he also uses general news sources such as The New York Times and The Toronto Star.

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Sassen, S. (2002). Global cities and survival circuits. In N. Ehrenreich and A.R. Hochschild (Eds.), Global Woman: Nannies, maids, and sex workers in the new economy (pp. 254-274). New York:    Metropolitan Books.

Authority of Author

Saskia Sassen is a well-known sociologist and economist who writes on human migration and globalization. She is a professor of sociology at Columbia University and a guest sociology professor at the London School of Economics. She has authored books such as “Globalization and Its Discontents” and “The Global City”.

Relevance

This article discusses the ways in which globalization works to benefit the transfer of global capital and information, while those arenas that are bound to a physical location suffer. In her analysis, Sassen shows how women’s migration are intricately linked to globalization and the global sex trade.

Contribution to Our Understanding of the GII

The IMF and the World Bank often recommend tourism to poor countries as a strategy for development and as way to produce revenue; sex work is seen as a part of the entertainment industry, so structural adjustment policies are helping to drive the global sex industry. The transnationalism of tourism and the sex industry are bolstering one another, expanding the sex market to global proportions. Sassen makes some really excellent connections between globalization and women’s rights, namely that the essence of globalization privileges information over the workers who actually create the information.

Coverage

This work is global in scope and provides a framework for discussing globalization’s effects on women; even though the piece was written in 2002 and is over six years old, the theories Sassen lays down can still be applicable to today’s global information infrastructure.

Point of View Bias

As a sociologist and economist, Sassen has a great level of expertise in this area. This piece seems to convey opposition to IMF policies, but Sassen’s expertise gives her the clout to speak with authority.

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