.xxx – coming to the internet near you

First, a bit of history. ICANN is the organization responsible for doling out top level domains for the internet worldwide. They are the group that decides who gets so called TLDs like .com, .net, .org and more. In fact, there are TLDs not only across global horizontals like .biz, .gov, and .info, but also vertically aligned by country. Canada is .ca and a few years ago the tiny island nation of Tuvalu made headlines by selling their TLD for 10 million dollars. Somebody really, really, really wanted to own the rights to everything .tv, I guess. In 2005, the idea of making a domain just for pornography surfaced. There were tons of arguments presented by both sides, but the most compelling presented to ICANN was a resounding “no” recommendation by the Bush administration. In fact, most of the board members cited this in voting not to allow the .xxx domain at that time. Yesterday, March 18th, however, the board voted to approve the .xxx designation for use.

For perspective, note that in anticipation of this ruling, almost 250,000 domains have already been pre-reserved for companies already occupying the .com version. In other words, the company that owns sex.com reserved sex.xxx a long time ago in anticipation of being able to use it someday. The ICANN vote was pretty one-sided. Nine board members voted yes, three voted no, and four did not  vote. Several board members noted that the current US administration did not present a strong argument regarding the merits of the .xxx domain, which had previously carried great weight with the board.

In an interesting twist, the pornography industry and the anti-pornography industry both recommended voting “no” to ICANN. The anti- group for obvious reasons, the pro- group because they didn’t want to have to pay additional yearly fees for property they already own on the internet. I found this fascinating. Most businesses would be excited to acquire additional real estate on which to sell their wares. But the porn industry basically said that they didn’t want to pay the estimated $60 per year for the .xxx version of their existing sites. The only conclusion I can draw is that they are happy with the amount of traffic they already have. And frankly, they’re right to be happy. With more than 425,000,000 pages of porn already up, supply is well in hand. Plus, most filtering companies will make it very easy to block the purposeful search of any .xxx domain.

I think the greatest tragedy of this vote is not the effect of another 250,000 or 5,000,0000 or 425,000,000 pages of porn. The greatest tragedy this vote reveals is the level of legitimacy that pornography has gained in our world today. Our elected administration did not find it troublesome to afford the same level of credibility to pornography as to education. And now .xxx sits alongside .edu.

So should you be worried about .xxx? The answer is…it depends. If you were already concerned about the state of pornography in the world, then yes, you should continue to be concerned. The business of pornography has long driven technological advancement. While there were many factors that led to VHS winning the battle over Betamax, the fact that Sony refused to license Betamax to the pornography industry was an important one. It only took a couple months after Microsoft released the new Kinect gaming system for the first virtual sex game to hit. In my opinion, the real reason for concern isn’t that the new .xxx domain will make it easier for people to find porn. The real concern is that we’ve reached a level of saturation, availability and widespread acceptance of pornography never before seen in recorded history.

The average age of first exposure to pornography for boys is now 11 years old. Almost 95% of the time, it is through accidental contact during an unrelated internet search. When they are trying to find it on purpose, as more than 55% of teen boys do on at least a monthly basis, the vast majority use their iPod touch or a similar personal, unfiltered, internet device. More than 25% of all mobile device searches are for porn. Youth pastors report that porn is the number one thing holding their high school boys back. In a 2010 survey by Covenant Eyes of 3000 college dormitory residence assistants (RA’s) and similar positions, the percentage of men struggling with online porn was almost always between 90% and 100%. And one out of every two married, Christian, men struggle with looking at porn on a daily basis.*

The real truth is that we should all be concerned about the state of pornography in the world. The next evolution of how porn will show up at your door is important and we should be aware and ready to fight. But more importantly, maybe the real question for each of us is – What can I do right now to start equipping myself or my husband or my son to understand this issue and begin a life changing journey toward real freedom. Because one thing is certain. It’s time for a real conversation about a difficult topic. Start here. Start today.

*Statistical citations available, click here to submit a request.