Thursday, June 26, 2008

To Catch a Predator Settles and Finishes

Though refusing to disclose the amount, NBC has settled a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who committed suicide when confronted with cameras for “To Catch a Predator.” Mr. Conradt, an ADA from Texas, had allegedly engaged in sexually explicit online chats with someone he believed was underage, but actually was and adult volunteer for Perverted Justice, a group dedicated to entrapping potential child sexual predators. The group was a paid consultant for NBC in the “Predator” series.

According to the New York Times, the volunteer masquerading as a child arranged to meet with Conradt as part of "Predator" sting facilitated by a local police department. Quoting the times, "Conradt did not show up at the bait house, so the local police, encouraged by NBC (according to the lawsuit), decided to arrest him at his home. As the police and camera crews entered the home, Mr. Conradt shot himself in the head."

According to the sister, Patricia Conradt, a police officer at the scene of the shooting said “That’ll make good TV.” The LA Times reports that the Texas DA's office "declined to pursue the more than 20 cases related to the “Predator” sting operation related to this case, citing problems with the evidence gathered."

There is no talk of continuing the series at this point.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Back to that dirty bedroom

I have a Facebook account, and I have a cre8Buzz account, and neither of these make me feel as dirty as my MySpace account does. I don’t know why – they are all essentially copies of one another. Dr. Kris sent me a fantastic Venture Beat article about Why Facebook is now the number one social network in the world, and why this matters that absolutely validates my feelings.

Eric Eldon is able to sum my feelings up in half a sentence "MySpace is more of a place for people to live out their fantasy lives online ..." while Facebook is more a site where you're required to share "factual information" because otherwise, your friends from across the hallway Freshman year are going to call you out. Eldon writes about the lack of networks creating opportunity for you to create a whole new you unlinke the networking connections created through Facebook.

Reading through the comments on Eldon's article made me think about words, too. How long ago did "friend" become an actual verb? Do you think that usage will ever be integrated into the dictionary? If you wanna friend The Virtual Mystery Tour's dirty MySpace profile* head over here and add us!

While Eldon's article then goes into specific numbers of hits, global growth and advertising dollars, the rest of the article doesn't do much for me; however, it's so very nice to hear yet another blogger vent about how dirty MySpace can really be.

*Dear Perverts who found The Virtual Mystery Tour's blog but were actually searching for a "dirty MySpace profile,"
I apologize. We actually have a very clean MySpace profile.
Trying not to laugh at your Google-fu,
Zemanta Pixie

Monday, June 23, 2008

Everyone in the Pool!

Not actually related to sexuality, but I found this simultaneously hilarious and unsettling. According to the Sydney Herald (which, yes, is from Australia), teens in the UK are using social networking sites along with Google Maps to locate pools in the area that would be perfect to crash. Want a pool party? Seems as though not having a pool is no longer an obstacle to this dream. According to The Herald, people are coming home from work only to see beer cans littering their poolside, and some have even caught the youth in the act of catching some rays in their yard.

See the ValleyWag for an excellent illustration of how this might look.

While I see this as very clever on the young person's part, this really gets to the idea that none of us are really private anymore thanks to the internet. Even if you don't go online often -- or really, even if you have never even been on the WWW, that doesn't mean your information isn't readily available at the click of a button. Another reason to ego surf to see what people can learn about you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Slimming; get drunk on super absorbency**

Safe for Down There
fingers (clean & short nails)
electric toothbrushes*

Not Safe for Down There
Sharpie markers
safety pins
a French baguette
vodka soaked tampons

You may have just read that second list and laughed, but that last non-safe for down there isn't as ridiculous as it seems. Thanks to a few personal blogs that I read, I learned about a new fad; slimming. From what I can surmise (thank you YouTube), slimming is the vaginal or anal insertion of a vodka-soaked tampon in order to get drunk. ShamelesslySassy's blog post first caught my eye, and then I read about Slacker-Moms-R-Us' personal experience learning of this new trend on a school field trip.

I am not surprised that teens are looking for new ways to hide drinking from their parents. This has been happening for generations. I am, however, surprised to think that teens are willing to endure the burning that a vodka-infused tampon must elicit. I'm highly interested in learning more about the actual physical dangers that putting a tampon soaked in vodka can have on a woman's vagina/vaginal opening and/or the anus. It can't be good.

Parents, if you notice that your daughter is suddenly going through more tampons than normal, or that your son is very willing to hang out in the feminine product aisle, you might want to start asking some pretty personal questions.

*safest with a condom
*Thank you Mommy Is Moody for the fabulous title
Zemanta Pixie

Monday, June 16, 2008

More on online safety

One of my high school graduation gifts was a brand new computer. I didn’t have to share it with anyone, and I could download as much music as I wanted to – without using all Dad’s memory. However, with that new computer came new responsibilities; keeping myself safe while online (and not filling the hard drive with music before I even moved away to college). My parents were pretty oblivious to the dangers of being online, and were quite surprised when they realized that I could easily spend a few hours chatting (using ICQ … that dates me) with people I had never met in person.

Do you know a graduate who got a laptop? Do you know how to help them be safe online? Here are some tips for keeping both youth and adults safe while using the internet:
• Get a free email account; Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo all have easily created emails
• Select a gender-neutral username and email; anything overly feminine or sexual may attract unwanted attention
• If you’re using an IM client (Gmail, Yahoo, AIM), block or ignore unwanted users who may be talking to you
• Don’t let others draw you into online conflict; ignoring harassment, rather than defending yourself may not seem like the best thing to do, but by responding, you’re letting that harasser know that they’ve touched a nerve.
• Only “say” online what you would actually say to someone’s face; words travel quickly and you need to be able to stand behind your words.
• Don’t share personal information: your full name, your address, your phone number, any credit card information or even identifying details about yourself. I know this is hard (I even have a hard time doing it here), but it’s worth it in the end!
• When opening emails, use caution – attachments can be dangerous – only open them from those you know.
• Remember that if you’re uncomfortable in a chat room (forum/message board/etc), you can leave.
• A specific tip for parents: watch what your children are doing. If they’re home alone a lot, and you’re worried about their internet use, you can password protect things to prevent their over-surfing. Watch the history with regards to their internet use, and remind them that you’re checking in on them.

The internet doesn’t have to be a scary place; it can be made incredibly safe, if you’re willing to put forth the effort!

On a completely different note: Happy National Ice Tea Month, Turkey Lover’s Months, Fresh Fruit & Vegetables Month, Papaya Month, Dairy Month all along with Internet Safety Month!
Zemanta Pixie

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Utah -- Land of Ignorance

The CDC just released its School Health Profiles, which outline the rates different states teach various health issues, including topics concerning HIV, STD, and pregnancy prevention. Alarming to me is the fact that less than one-fourth of schools across the country (out of the 36 states surveyed) teach youth how to use a condom. But Utah takes the cake -- only ONE PERCENT of schools teach condom usage there. Ugh. Virginia also has an embarrassingly low rate of 7.7%.

Kudos to New York where over half (59%) of school teach their students how to use condoms.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Are you in an online relationship? A research opportunity

This is an announcement I am passing along. This research is being conducted by a good friend of mine who can be trusted. She is a therapist who understands the need for confidentiality. She teaches a class on Sex and the Internet, and takes this issue very seriously (but has fun with it).

---Pasted Text Below---

I am conducting a study for my doctoral dissertation at Widener University, looking at characteristics of individuals who are involved in online romantic relationships with people they have never met face-to-face. I will be comparing people for whom these relationships are their primary romantic involvement, with people for whom these relationships are an addition to an off-line committed relationship.
If you have been or if you know of anyone who is involved in one of these online relationships (or has been involved in one), would you be so kind as to pass along this link to my study survey?
This is a completely anonymous survey, and no data can be traced to any particular individual.
I appreciate any help you can give me in acquiring participants for this research!

Yolanda Turner
Assistant Professor, Psychology
Eastern University
St. Davids, Pa., 19087

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The dangers of MySpace

Last weekend, I traveled four hours in a mom-van to Wildhorse Canyon, to participate in a young adult church retreat. Over lunch on Saturday, the table of eight talked about what we were doing in school (most of the 320 people that went were students), and what we eventually wanted to do. Since I am in school, am an intern (Hi Dr. Kris!) and am working part-time, I had a lot to say. As I mentioned that I work with how the internet is affecting teens’ sexuality, faces around the table began to turn inside out. As a member of one of the many left-leaning Christian churches in our gorgeous Pacific Northwest city, I was surprised by the reaction of a girl directly across the table from me.

Breathlessly, she almost shouted “the church doesn’t approve of the use of MySpace … by anyone!” and I couldn’t help but laugh. I played devil’s advocate (while at church camp! Oh no!) and asked her to show me in the Bible where that was mentioned “we are a Bible-based church, aren’t we?” I didn’t really mean to embarrass her, but I did, and she didn’t say too much to me the rest of lunch. Oops! Not the way to get conversations going, Sarah.

Another girl eventually started talking to me (while no one was watching … she couldn’t be associated with one of those* girls) about why she believed MySpace was dangerous. “You have a profile on there, and then perverts can find you and stalk you!” I was a little more tactful in explaining to her that you can have a private account; set up controls, keep strangers out (know my last name? only then can we be friends) and that you don’t have to branch out from your main circle of friends if you don’t want to. I think I know 95% of my friends list from in-person relationships.

I was able to talk to another guy at the table about how MySpace is creating positive opportunities for non-profit outreaches. He didn’t realize the positivity that could come from responsible MySpace use, and I felt really great being able to explain this stuff to these kids**. I offered not only the Virtual Mystery Tour’s MySpace address to them, but also my personal address as starting points if any of them ever got over their fear of "all the perverts". And we’ll see if they ever make eye contact with me at church again.

Really though, I was surprised to see such a different reaction to MySpace from people somewhat near my age group. Rather than experimenting with the internet, these 18- and 19-year-old students were acting like my mom; afraid that a misspelled word in Google would yield such wild pornography she'd never be the same. It makes me wonder whether the media is being “effective” in their campaign to scare the younger generation away from the internet. Time will tell. Until then I’ll be searching Leviticus for “If thine daughter maketh a MySpace account, sell her to the Canaanites.”

*aka – one who not only has a personal MySpace account, but also accesses another for school credit
**I later found out my table was mostly college Freshmen … almost a decade younger than me.

The Child Pornography Coverage Gets Smarter

This AP article has been making the rounds in all the major papers. It's about the same old, same old. Young persons taking nekked pics of themselves and then getting into trouble for it. Major trouble, that is. As in "charged with a felony for child pornography distribution" trouble. I've talked about this before, but I think it is one of the most important issues related to teen sexuality online for a number of reasons. One, it embodies the whole idea that teens are seeking approval and needing attention/to feel special. Two, it shows that teens trust each other (I honestly don't think they believe their pics are going to be plastered over the internet when they send one provocative photo to their (hopeful) sweetie). Three, this phenomenon shows that although youth are acting in similar ways as they always have (see One and Two), technology does make things different and the consequences are more serious as a result. Technology makes things not only move faster but also causes the consequences to be more widespread and permanent.

This is where I think this particular article, unlike many of the others I have read, starts to get smarter. Excerpts:
"It's often so spur of the moment that they're not thinking about where those images might end up"
"I think they just do it to impress their boyfriends. When he breaks up, he 'vents,' in his words, by posting them. He apparently didn't think there was anything wrong with it. He didn't know it was illegal."

These are comments coming from law enforcement. Before, quotes from this perspective were more along the lines of "how can they be so stupid," and "what they are doing is illegal." Now, of course my POV on these folk was only derived from previous quotes, but in these I hear a better understanding of not only the issue, but also how we might hope to tackle it. It's going to be a long time before we manage to incorporate technology into our sex education programs (heck, our programs are barely surviving as it is), but the cry for it is getting louder.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Glimmer of Intelligence

I have had a lot of contact with the media in my life. I tend to research about timely and "sexy" topics, and that draws the attention of journalists. And, as you all know, I love to talk and philosophize about things that I really care about. So, put me on a phone with a media person who is trained to let someone blather away until they say something stupid or incriminating and you have a really bad combination from my POV...

But I have to say that for the first time I actually have been quoted somewhere and don't sound like a complete moron. Of course, the writer spelled my name wrong, so Googling this will be hard in the future, but hey. I am making strides. I can actually sound articulate sometimes! See?

This is an issue that I really struggle with intellectually and emotionally. No, I don't think it is a good idea for 12-year-olds to go around seducing older guys (or v.v., for that matter). Especially 28-year-old older guys. Blech. But when we seek to blame someone or something, where to point fingers? I am reluctant to blame parents here. I tend to blame the media, which really is a reflection of our society and cultural values. So, I guess I just blame America.

For as long as I can remember (which would be when I was that age) I have known the longing to have someone find me attractive. I also, when I was a bit older than this (summer after 7th grade), was courted by a college student and felt that I was the sexiest girl in the world because of it. I know how this 12-year-old felt on some level: validated, pretty, loved, desired. But my college boy and I did not have sex. We went out to diiner, kissed, and flirted and stared a lot, but that is as far as it went physically. So, I don't know how this 12 year old felt when she sought to have sex -- and did -- with a man more than twice her age. But I can imagine.

How do we get young persons to realize that the older guys who respond to them are sort of losers? It's a question that plagues me, educators, and parents everywhere. Problem is, I still don't see Seth as a lame-ass for being with me way back then. And I don't see me as damaged in any way by being with him (for three summers, I may add. It was a silly little romance that actually lasted for a bit). Maybe that is part of my problem. I can't find a solution until I realize that what happened to me is the very thing that as an adult I want to prevent, but as part of my memories is one of the best times of my life.