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Jewish World Review July 6, 1999 /22 Tamuz 5759

Don Feder

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Econophone

How the 'Net ruined a marriage

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
HERE'S A CAUTIONARY TALE of how the Internet destroyed a marriage.

America's electronic playground has been described as "virtual Viagra of the adult industry." In 1998, profits from cyber-porn topped $1 billion, up 30 percent from the year before.

One adult website, "Clublove," has over 115,000 subscribers who pay $24.95 a month for its sultry services. Donna Rice Hughes, author of "Kids Online: Protecting Your Children in Cyberspace," says there are 72,000 explicit pornographic sites on the Internet.

Don't imagine it's all good dirty fun.

Which bring me to my story. The daughter of a friend is in divorce court, having seen her marriage of two years deleted by this electronic version of the other woman.

Kate thought she'd met the man of her dreams in 1997. John was "wonderful, funny, bright and accomplished," Kate relates. They married, had a son named Jack and moved to Burlington, Vt., where John operates his own business.

Last summer, things began to unravel. "He seemed distracted and cold. He'd deliberately start arguments. He was emotionally abusive. Eventually, he spent less and less time at home. He would make separate plans from me on weekends." One day in December, Kate paid a surprise visit to his office with the baby, thinking they could have lunch together. "When I walked in, he practically jumped off his computer. That made me suspicious."

Another time, when John was out, Kate checked his net log, which lists the web sites a user has contacted. "I saw all of these porno sites. There was one called 'Adult Friend Finder' that was listed over 100 times."

When she visited that site, Kate found an ad she was sure was from John. It mentioned his age, occupation and city.

"He was advertising for one-on-one sex with men and women, group sex, exhibitionism and voyeurism, water sports ..." her voice trailed off.

When she confronted John with her discovery, he first denied it, then said it was none of her business. Kate: "He said that's what the Internet is for. I thought it was for ordering from L.L. Bean catalogues."

After sleepless nights, therapy and more abuse (physical as well as emotional), they finally separated and are in the process of divorcing.

Kate believes her husband made the logical progression. "He started looking at pictures of naked women, then watching people having sex. Next, he paid to download pictures and movies. He wound up in a sex chat room where you can meet people in your area for one-night stands."

Unlike anti-porn activists, I'm not convinced that pornography is an addiction. It is the perversion of a perfectly natural urge. If men didn't like to look at women in the all-together, none of us would be here.

Pornography twists it around. It depersonalizes that most intimate of acts, turning something that should be joyful into an obsession.

The Internet has taken an age-old problem and magnified it by a gigabyte. If a man wanted pornography or casual sex 20 years go, he had to take chances. If he went into a strip joint, an x-rated moviehouse or a bar for a pick up, there was always the chance someone would see him and word would get back to his family or friends. Doubtless, this acted as a deterrent.

The Internet makes it easy and practically risk-free. Log on in the privacy of your home or office. Go to your favorite sites. Download pictures and videos, many so hard core that they aren't even available in the adult section of video stores. Have cyber-sex. Advertise for liaisons.

Pornographers try to attract business by marketing their products to the unwary through stealth sites, innocent word searches and unsolicited e-mail.

Kate has company. "When I contacted a divorce lawyer, he said: 'Don't be embarrassed. You're the seventh or eighth person in past six months who's come to me with the same story."' This in a mid-sized city.

Kate married a creep. Maybe it's better that she discovered John's nature after only two years. Still, their lives are irrevocably entwined, in the person of Jack.

And yet, perhaps some are more susceptible to the allure than others. Did John go on the Internet looking for that which ultimately consumed him, or did he encounter it inadvertently? What if he'd never taken the first step down the seductive cyber road?

In its March 1998 issue, Adult Video News, a trade publication for smut merchants, bragged, "It's a great time to be an adult retailer." But not a particularly good time to be a trusting wife or a concerned parent.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate