Coming Of Age In The World Of Pay-Per-Minute Porn

Child walks hand in hand with mother with porn billboard in background.

It takes a lot to distract kids of a certain generation from Justin Bieber. Mario Tama/Getty Images North America hide caption

itoggle caption Mario Tama/Getty Images North America

It was the week my friend Mordy became a hero.

Back in the early days of cable TV, the guys in my neighborhood spent countless hours staring at the scrambled signal of what, for us at least, was the first adult channel on television. Every old friend I have can still hum the theme of a show called Electric Blue which we happily watched through the squiggly lines of the almost completely distorted broadcast. This was long before Twitter or Facebook. In an age of Pong and Space Invaders, the scrambled version of adult content was about all we could handle.

Then Mordy, a neurotic kid even by my Hebrew school standards, brought the news that would forever change the life of every dude within fifty blocks. I still don’t know where he got his information, but Mordy explained that if one simultaneously pressed down four of the buttons on a cable set-top box, the adult channel would be descrambled.

On his BMX bike, Mordy must have looked something like Paul Revere on horseback as he rode from house to house spreading word of his discovery.

The four-finger method worked for seven days. And during that unforgettable week, my neighborhood shut down. Nerf footballs sat untouched on driveway blacktops; tumbleweed rolled across empty bike paths; dust gathered on Intellivision gaming consoles, zero progress was made on bar mitzvah haftorah portions.

If that one week of unscrambled content had been replaced by today’s internet, which immerses adolescents in a pool of endless adult content and pay-per-minute porn, I’m convinced every friend I had would’ve been broken beyond repair.

But when I’m out on the street in this age of access, I see the current generation of bar mitzvah-aged kids acting with a high level of function. They’re attending school, playing sports, listening to music and yes, using the internet. Somehow, even with access to an amount of inappropriate content that would’ve sent my cohort over the edge, they still have time for Bieber.

Of course, that makes perfect sense. They came of adolescent age with access to all kinds of information (including pornography). They can function because they’ve had plenty of practice when it comes to integrating internet-connected activities with the rest of their lives.

Always on is all they know.

The guys in my old neighborhood liked what we saw. But we had very little ability to manage our relationship with this new, always-available content source.

That also describes my relationship with the realtime web. I use it, I love it, but it was foisted on me before I developed any of the tools required to keep it in its place. Today, the objects of my titillation have expanded from unscrambled porn to realtime news, tweets and web stats. But my obsession with the screen is no less powerful than it was when I first pressed those four buttons on my set-top box.

For my generation, the introduction of the realtime web was like a supercharged version of what Mordy did to his disciples. The internet came riding through our neighborhoods and within a few years, we found ourselves forehead deep in its deluge. My parents dabble in the web, but a lot of it seems too complicated. For my kids, the net will be a ubiquitous extension of themselves and their relationships. But I am part of a generation caught in the middle. We’re young enough to use the technology and old enough to be overwhelmed by it.

Every single friend I have has complained about the ways the net is taking over their lives. I’ve never heard my adolescent nephews and nieces utter the same complaint.

I’m not sure about myself, but I’m convinced that while today’s kids will text too much and suffer some social network-related growing pains, most of them will figure out how to live and thrive even as they’re being flooded by realtime data in ways we can only imagine.

Maybe I’m sugar-coating things and today’s generation will be as addicted to their screens as I’ve become. But I’m guessing the prognosis is a lot more optimistic.

Besides, this wouldn’t be a very satisfying article on porn if it didn’t have a happy ending.

Dave Pell is a San Francisco based, Web-addicted insider, investor and entrepreneur. He has been blogging for more than a decade. This post first appeared on his blog Tweetage Wasteland.

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