Pornography and the Internet: Its Impact on Cuban Society
12 / febrero / 2020
HAVANA TIMES – Pornography and erotic representations date back to the oldest times of humanity. Since the Paleolithic era, primitive tribes had already established a totemic cult centered towards procreation, the womb and the phallic cult.
Based on these ancient cults, it is assumed that paleolithic figures of Venus, such as the Willendorf Venus, evoked human admiration for the genitals, motherhood, fertility and eroticism, through breasts and buttocks of exaggerated proportions – with a possible intention to represent pornography.
In Indian culture, especially within philosophies such as that of the Tantra, it was understood that sex was a part of human divinity and at times represented a path towards spiritual enlightenment. The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana (400-200 BC) is the epitome of sexuality in Ancient India.
The classical societies of Ancient Greece and the Ancient Roman Empire adopted human sexuality as the basis of artistic expression. The representation of sexual scenes was common in these civilizations; one example being the details in the frescoes of the suburban baths of Pompeii, where scenes with sexually explicit acts are appreciated – including the representations of group sex, homosexual and oral sex.
The modern concept of pornography is defined by the massive commercialization of erotic material, thus abandoning its artistic character and increasing its distribution via mass production, thereby gaining a greater presence dating from the sexual revolution during the 1970s to the present day.
Since the advent of the Internet, pornographic consumption has skyrocketed to astonishing levels. Pornhub, the largest free porn website on the network, received more than 42 billion visits during the year 2019, which is equivalent to the impressive 115 million visits a day. Within the statistics of the site, it was revealed that amateur videos top the list of user preferences and that 32% of people who access the website are women – increasing by 3% compared to the previous year.
Does more internet mean more porn in Cuba?
In Cuba, the increase in Internet access has meant a parallel increase in the consumption of pornography. It still remains far from topping the list of countries with the highest data traffic within the statistics of the Pornhub platform.
However, reports from the site itself, reveal that the increase in Cuba’s participation in the web during the last 5 years has been overwhelming; appearing as one of the leaders in internet surfing growth from cell phones – according to data from 2016. The increase in mobile traffic to Pornhub amongst Cuban users was 310%.
The explanation of this phenomenon became evident since the implementation and increase of Wi-Fi points in the country as of 2013, the reduction in navigation rates in 2015 and the enablement of access through mobile data in December 2018. Therefore, the consumption of pornography in Cuba is under new conditions caused by increased internet access.
To undertake this article, 20 young Cubans were surveyed – aged between 20 and 35 years. 15% confessed to consume online pornography, arguing that the facilities had arisen in the face of greater internet access within recent years. 55% admitted having downloaded pornographic videos from websites such as Bingoporno, Miporno and of course – Pornhub.
What motivates a Cuban to use the Internet to consume porn (at its still relatively expensive price) when the distribution by USBs still works effectively? The possibility of choosing content within greater diversity – was one of the responses of the respondents.
Telegram and its XXX channels
When the cost of Internet browsing is as high as it is in our country, any tool that promises to speed up the process and optimize our search is a treasure. Telegram, the application developed by the Dúrov brothers – launched in 2013, provides the user with a huge amount of multimedia content in the most automatic way possible.
In 2015, the application incorporated the “channels” service. Through this option it is possible to send all types of files on a massive scale; allowing users to subscribe in an open and unlimited way. These channels can be found on the web via a URL – being able to access the entire history of sent messages.
Hundreds of institutions and individuals currently use this route to disseminate their contents, and of course the proliferation of XXX channels was notoriously fruitful.
At the end of the year 2019 there were hundreds of Telegram channels where pornographic content was shared. By subscribing to one of these channels – The Bots – the virtual assistants of Telegram, a board of options is shown with the most diverse sexual content.
In this way, the user can select the variety of his or her preference, and the bot redirects him or her to the videos of that category. This process saves the user considerable navigation time trying to find and select the specific content that they are looking for.
Some of these sites are very active; publishing dozens of daily videos and with several thousand subscribers. There are also channels specializing in home or amateur videos; the category that tops the list of preferences, according to Pornhub statistics.
Of the young people surveyed, 25% admitted to subscribing to an XXX channel on Telegram.
Is pornography morally acceptable?
What is understood as pornography is conditioned by the subjectivities of each person with respect to sex. But the conception is – almost always, of a video or photograph showing sexual intercourse or an explicit sexual act. This explicitness is what the user, spectator, consumer – expects. What the industry has created as an expectation, and what differentiates a pornographic material from an erotic one.
The human being is, in general, highly sensitive to visual stimuli, the inclination to observe sexual scenes is an innate characteristic. The areas of the brain that are activated when watching pornography are the same that are stimulated during sexual intercourse, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter mainly associated with the anticipation of reward that also acts in the programming of memories and of information in the brain.
This means that when the body wants, for example, food or sex, the brain remembers what it must do to get the same pleasure as on previous occasions. This, combined with the accessibility and anonymity provided by the consumption of porn, makes us extremely sensitive subjects to its hyper stimulant effects.
There are conflicting opinions about the morality of pornography; a sector of society condemns it for its commercial nature and because it can trigger an addictive and therefore harmful vice for the individual.
However, a current train of thought considers it an art form, in order to show the beauty of human sexuality. Some defend this precept by arguing that it is a form of freedom, and that it is fundamental to the evolution of a society free from prejudices and taboos.
All of the 20 young people surveyed, confessed to having accessed pornography, 55% of them being women, thus demonstrating that females, who historically represent a smaller percentage, are also consumers of this industry. However, there are few those who dare to admit it – as they remain subjugated to the social prejudices of yesteryear.
The survey also revealed that 70% had made homemade pornographic videos with their partners, 50% had maintained telephone sex, via instant messaging or video calls, and another 35% admitted that they would like to try this practice. The opinions in general of the young people with whom I had the opportunity to spend time with, were of support and acceptance to the porn industry – 95% of them said that they considered it morally acceptable.
However, all agreed on the danger of excess. The scenes that can be seen in porn, as with addictive substances, are hyper stimulant triggers that produce an unnatural secretion of high levels of dopamine, which can deteriorate the reward system of dopamine and render it useless in the face of a natural pleasure source.
Psychiatrist Norman Doidge explains it this way:
“Pornography satisfies each of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change. When pornographers boast that they are going one step further by introducing new and stronger themes, they forget that they must do so because their clients are developing a tolerance to the usual content.”
The data collected by Pornhub reveals that conventional sex is less and less interesting for consumers, who replace it with themes such as incest or violence. The perpetuation of sexual violence is especially worrisome, as it could directly influence the statistics of violent episodes in real life.
What is the position of the Cuban state in the face of the increase in porn consumption in our country?
The current Law no. 62 of the Criminal Code of Cuba (Art. 303, subsection C), penalizes with a penalty of deprivation of liberty ranging from three months to one year, or a fine of 100 to 300 installments to he who “produces or circulates publications, prints, film tapes or tape, recordings, photographs or other objects that are obscene, with a tendency to pervert and degrade customs. ”
What are those objects? What is considered obscene? What can pervert and degrade customs? Which customs? As much as the State tries to keep Cubans outside of the “obscenities” considered improper in the socialist system, the ports of entry always mocked them. If not, how did Playboy magazines and graphic-erotic novels enter the country? And the “original” movies on VHS, with their covers illustrated in colors?
The USB distribution – copying content on external discs – revolutionized the modalities of audiovisual consumption in Cuba. Thus, resulting in the first channel for the “virilization” of content on the Island. Porn, was not left out.
So how could the government control the consumption of porn over the Internet? What mechanisms does one adopt in restricting access to pornographic content for children and adolescents?
Although many have insisted on showing a “neat” image of Cuba in that sense, the consumption of pornography among adolescents is a reality, even within educational centers. In the surveys carried out, 65% confessed to having consumed pornography before the age of 15, and 15% of them admitted to having started watching porn merely out of curiosity.
The most alarming of these figures is that if we take into account that we are talking about the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s, when the access and distribution of pornography was negligible compared to the current levels, it can be speculated that the percentages are much higher in children and adolescents today.
There is, at least not legally or publicly registered, any mechanism for the Cuban telecommunications company – ETECSA, to regulate the consumption of pornography – especially the consumption among minors.
These mechanisms could be aimed at identifying the mobile devices of children and adolescents to restrict access to this type of material, create alert generation systems before the attempt to access these devices, by sending notifications to parents, encouraging the use of parental control tools.
These actions could be considered duties of the company with respect to consumption via the Internet. The rest would be the responsibility of families and school institutions, although controlling all distribution channels among minors is practically impossible, especially when there are very popular alternative channels in Cuba, such as Zapya, a mobile application for wireless file sharing, or the USB copy.
The scenario demands to modernize the regulations. It is absurd that the production and distribution of pornographic material is penalized or that its exhibition in theaters is censored and its entry intended to be controlled from abroad, when the Internet remains an open and increasingly popular channel in Cuba, as in the rest of the world, for all those activities.
It’s necessary to admit that the consumption of pornography in Cuba is a fact; open your eyes to the reality of what has been going on for decades and that it is gaining more strength in the face of the internet’s rise and access in our country.
Instead of masking the truths and trying to avoid the tarnishing of this false image of ‘the preservers of good manners and morality’, it is imperative to adapt regulations and laws so that they themselves may adapt to the times we are living in, and thus work so that the explosion of multimedia does not foment crime or especially affect children and adolescents – the most vulnerable to all these changes.
This text was originally published by the Zona Binaria blog and its author is Jessica Jones. It is fully republished in elToque with the intention of offering varied content and ideas and from different perspectives to our audiences. What is reproduced here is not necessarily the editorial position of our media.