Why Porn Could Save Britain's Libraries

Porn, it has many uses. But instead of ruining your afternoon, upholstery and hotel bill, it could be set to swoop in and save our nation's libraries from relentless public sector cutbacks. If we let it.
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Porn, it has many uses. But instead of ruining your afternoon, upholstery and hotel bill, it could be set to swoop in and save our nation's libraries from relentless public sector cutbacks. If we let it.

Recently, the Twitterverse was up in arms about the revelation that Apple had cunningly included a tracking device in its iPhones, enabling Steve Jobs and his volcano-dwelling army of faceless foot soldiers to monitor our every move. It didn't take too long for the voices who protested too much to reveal the true nature of their anxiety - an online database of people's movements would make it much harder for philanderers to keep their extracurricular activities under lock and keyword.

In a document published within days of the story breaking, the technology giant attempted to squash the rumours, once and for all, stating "Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so." Instead, the data in question is used to manage a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and network towers "to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested".

So there you go. Big Brother is not watching you, and he doesn't care if you're working your way through the office interns in a Comfort Inn off the North Circular. But before you throw caution, and any 'Do Not Disturb' signs, to the wind, bear in mind that some of your other indulgences are being closely observed.

A new book called A Billion Wicked Thoughts attempts to piece together a comprehensive understanding of modern human sexuality. Using data provided by a number of search engines, including Google, Yahoo! and AOL, authors Ogi Agas and Sai Gaddam have written their definitive guide based on the proclivities of one-handed mouse clickers. If you've ever entered 'glass coffee table' into Bing, I'd like to thank you for your contribution to this monumental body of work.

Although 'youth' is cited as the most popular search term when it comes to online onanism, it's interesting to note that MILFS and older women also score fairly highly. Giving new meaning to the term 'Silver Surfers', the "significant erotic interest in sixty- and seventy-year-olds" suggests that either Wayne Rooney has finally figured out how to use a laptop, or Helen Mirren's been talking dirty on BBC Breakfast again. Whatever the reason, you can bet that Katie Waissel's grandma is upping her hourly-rate.

One woman complained that she'd seen an elderly man watching footage of a threesome - he'd thoughtfully tried to block onlookers' views of the screen, "but I could still hear the voices" she said. Perhaps she thought the dialogue needed work.

Interestingly, transsexuals also boast a particular allure for porn-seekers, possibly because they adhere to the old adage, 'something for everyone'. Quoted in a book review on Jezebel.com, one eager fan of T-girl porn explains "I like her soft looks, sexy body. Very nice long legs. And then there's that added bonus... I can't really explain why it affects me." It's not hard to understand - everyone likes a bonus, especially when it comes more than once at the end of the year.

Aside from the worrying degree to which our internet habits reveal our innermost thoughts, the book seems to offer a valuable insight into the shuftying sands of human sexuality. Not that everyone's in agreement with the authors' assertions. Evolutionary psychologist Donald Symons cautioned the New York Post that the survey doesn't prove that people are aroused by the sexual content they uncover when they go surfing: "Ogi is convinced that when people are searching for things, it's primarily for sexual arousal. I'm not so sure about that. If there was a porn star with three breasts - I bet there would be a zillion hits. Would that be a sign men were suddenly aroused by that? I think not." Someone get the doctor a copy of Total Recall, stat.

Symons may not be a fan, but the majority of reviewers have given the book two tumescent thumbs up. It's been described as exhaustive (rather than exhausting), gripping and sometimes disturbing. Much like the online content it describes. But if there's anything we can learn, beyond the fact that many straight men enjoy sites such as PinkyDick, Little-Cock, and My Tiny Dick, it's that we really need to start deleting our browser history. Some things are simply better left unread.

However, if you're concerned that your internetular wanderings might give the game away, you could always try piggybacking someone else's bandwidth when you need an extra hit of grot. For instance, most local libraries offer low-cost online access if you really need to catch up on the latest-breaking bukkake news. In your face, Google spies.

The thing is, it's easy to forget that in this 3G-enabled world, many people still don't even have dial-up. They also don't spend their time worrying that they're not getting the full download speed from their fiber-optic broadband. When they need to set up a direct debit, order Christmas presents or spend a relaxing hour watching footage of kittens falling asleep, they can head along to their book museum and enjoy all the wonders of Windows 98.

"If there was a porn star with three breasts - I bet there would be a zillion hits. Would that be a sign men were suddenly aroused by that? I think not." Someone get the doctor a copy of Total Recall, stat.

Although this solution makes it harder for anyone to trace your online activities, keep in mind that not all content is conducive to an open plan environment. For instance, it's tough to take matters into your own hands when you're three feet away from the woman who works in the dry cleaners, who's just trying to pay her gas bill. Don't be judging - a recent study found that 25 per cent of all internet searches were for pornographic material.

If you're confident enough to go trawling for adult material in a public space, you might want to cross the Atlantic and get yourself a library card in Brooklyn. Because according to the protections of the First Amendment, New Yorkers are perfectly free to check out the latest grumble compilations in the city's public libraries.

A report in last week's New York Post explains "Under US law, all libraries that take federal funding only must install filters on publicly used computers to block content containing illegal obscenity and child pornography, and New York City officials say they comply to the letter."

Unsurprisingly, the self-appointed moral guardians aren't too happy about this, with Catholic League President Bill Donohue telling journalists "It's not like a Playboy centrefold anymore -- it's far worse." Likewise, some library-goers were turned off by the idea of people being able to access porn in public. One woman complained that she'd seen an elderly man watching footage of a threesome - he'd thoughtfully tried to block onlookers' views of the screen, "but I could still hear the voices" she said. Perhaps she thought the dialogue needed work.

With government cutbacks threatening the future of our own library resources, local authorities would do well to take a leaf out of Brooklyn's book and promote this under-utilised service. And as long as users remember to keep the noise down when they take something out, where's the harm?

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