Stopping Internet porn

To hear my male peers tell it, when we were young one of them might stumble across — or somehow purloin (sometimes from a father’s stash) — the rare Playboy magazine.

And that would pretty much have to last the entire neighborhood of adolescent boys about a year, until the next one came along. That’s all they got until maybe they saw a pornographic movie in their fraternity basement.

And along the way it was pretty clear they were doing something secret, unusual, out of the norm. Not okay.

They probably weren’t thinking their girlfriends or future wives ought to be held to that standard.

Flash forward a few decades.

I have four young kids, a boy and three girls in that order, and I am sickened by what radio talk show host Laura Ingraham rightly calls, “the pornification of the culture.” Every time I drive on the highways outside Chicago and see the huge billboards advertising “gentleman’s clubs” and sex “hot lines” with the requisite angry looking, barely dressed women, I shudder.

As I’ve been forced to tell my kids, “no ‘gentleman’ goes to such places.”

I was on-line the other night, checking out the Boston Red Sox website looking for baseball statistics (seriously.) And what flashes up at me on the top of the page?

Despite my internet filters, someone or something was able to break onto the Sox page, and I was shown naked rear ends telling me what was “available” to me in my town — which it correctly identified.

(Forget it, fellas. You won’t necessarily be able to find the same ad. Of course, you’ll find similar ones all over the internet. Sigh.)

This stuff is ubiquitous. It has destroyed marriages, and degraded women and what should be the beauty of marital sex.

But my biggest concern is that it’s tragically attacked the innocence of children, both overtly and covertly.

Please don’t tell me that as a parent, I can “control” what my kids see. No, I can’t.

From the paved highway to the Internet superhighway, which makes it easy for children to access or come across on-line pornography, it’s absolutely everywhere. By at least one estimate, Internet porn is viewed most by kids aged 12-17.

What to do? The fate of Internet gambling may provide a clue.

On-line gambling is illegal in the U.S, but that’s hard to enforce.

So senator Jon Kyl of Arizona authored legislation last year to give the Federal Treasury the power to regulate U.S. banks (read: credit card companies) preventing them from allowing their cards to be used for internet gambling. The rules have not yet been finalized and already “good citizen” major banks are voluntarily refusing to process such transactions.

But people familiar with the banking industry told me there seems to be little pressure for banks to be truly vigilant about refusing transactions for Internet websites that make it easy or relatively easy for kids to view on-line porn — which is, well, most pornographic websites.

And don’t forget the purveyors who shoot the stuff in on “pop-ups” which can’t always be blocked, as in my Red Sox experience. (True hardcore child pornography, which is of course illegal, is often circulated for “free.”)

But Washington probably won’t be as successful in attempting to regulate even just child access to porn, because of fears of charges of “censorship.”

That leaves it up to us.

The very same national banks which tell us they want to build our homes, help us provide for our families, and feature all the smiling kids in their ads are one key mechanism by which a destructive Internet porn industry, which targets kids in so many ways, can flourish.

What would it take to get Bank of America, or Chase, or Wachovia, to publicly declare that they will honor and help protect families by beginning or greatly intensifying their efforts to deny transactions for internet porn sites which in any way use kids, or which make it possible for kids to view pornography?

No, this won’t end on-line pornography, which exploits kids. But if we want to know who the family friendly financial institutions really are, we need to start following the money.

(Betsy Hart is the author of the forthcoming “It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids — and What to Do About It.” E-mail her at letterstohart(at)