Virtual Red Light District

[Note to search engine visitors: This post is by far the most visited on my blog thanks to hundreds of people searching for “red light district” and similar phrases. I’m very curious to know what you folks are looking for. Porn? An article on Amersterdam’s red light district? Something else? Please take a moment and leave a comment to let me know what you’d hoped to find. Thanks for your consideration. 🙂 – Management]

Red Light District in AmsterdamWords cannot adequately express how absolutely flabbergasted by this I am. That's never stopped me from trying, though, so here goes.

Bush administration objects to .xxx domains
"The Bush administration is objecting to the creation of a .xxx domain, saying it has concerns about a virtual red-light district reserved exclusively for Internet pornography."

"Michael Gallagher, assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, has asked for a hold to be placed on the contract to run the new top-level domain until the .xxx suffix can receive further scrutiny. The domain was scheduled to receive final approval Tuesday."

"'The Department of Commerce has received nearly 6,000 letters and e-mails from individuals expressing concern about the impact of pornography on families and children,' Gallagher said in a letter that was made public on Monday."


"After ICANN's vote to approve .xxx, conservative groups in the United States called on their supporters to ask the Commerce Department to block the new suffix. The Family Research Council, for instance, warned that 'pornographers will be given even more opportunities to flood our homes, libraries and society with pornography through the .xxx domain.'"


"ICANN's vote this year represents an abrupt turnabout from the group's earlier stance. In November 2000, the ICANN staff objected to the .xxx domain and rejected ICM Registry's first application.&quot

&quot At the time, politicians lambasted ICANN's move. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., demanded to know why ICANN didn't approve .xxx 'as a means of protecting our kids from the awful, awful filth, which is sometimes widespread on the Internet.' Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told (click for PDF) a federal commission that .xxx was necessary to force adult Webmasters to 'abide by the same standard as the proprietor of an X-rated movie theater.'&quot

&quotA government report from a few years ago hints that the Bush administration could choose unilaterally to block .xxx from being added to the Internet's master database of domains. The report notes that the Commerce Department has 'reserved final policy control over the authoritative root server.'&quot

Huh?! What could these people possibly be opposed to? Let's find out.

"Pornographers will be given even more opportunities to flood our homes, libraries and society with pornography through the .XXX domain. The Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet's nonprofit body with authority for development, has indicated that it will establish an .XXX domain for porn Web sites. To some this may initially seem like a good idea but it is one that has been considered and rejected as ineffectual for years. This will NOT require pornographers who are on the .com domain to relocate to the .XXX domain."

There are actually multiple fallacious arguments presented here. First of all, just because an idea has been debated and previously regarded by a particular majority at particular times as "ineffectual", does not mean it would be so in practice. Secondly, a policy can not be called ineffectual if it has never been put into practice. Thirdly, the argument that pornographers would not be forced to move their web sites is a red herring. Certainly one could argue that requiring the use of .xxx would increase the utility of the domain, but simply the fact that established sites would not have to move does not address how new sites, which would presumably be required to use .xxx, would be affected.

The use of such a "red light district" domain would make filtering pop-ups, redirections, and spam significantly easier. The problem wouldn't magically go away, mostly due to unscrupulous site owners ignoring laws, but at least compliant sites could be easily blocked. IP- or domain-based filtering is currently extremely problematic because sites can move so easily and quickly, but blocking an entire top-level domain is trivially simple.

"Some naively suggest that passing a new law to force pornographers to move to .XXX will solve the problem but that will not work either. Law means nothing to hardcore pornographers. There already is a law prohibiting them from selling hardcore porn on the Internet-anywhere on the Internet- yet they have been doing if [sic] for years."

We're being asked to swallow a lot of "facts" without proof or reference. No evidence is given or cited for the proposition that forcing pornographers to use .xxx would not work. Asserting that law meaning nothing to hardcore pornographers is meaningless. I could just as easily say that law means nothing to murderers or corporate CEOs. We still have laws to deal with their misbehavior. As for pre-existing law, what's it called and where can I find it? How does it define hardcore pornography? What aspects are illegal? What punishments are prescribed? Don't tell me people are scofflaws without explaining what law's they're skirting.

"Attorney General Gonzales is launching a major effort to prosecute the porn industry. He intends to smash these criminal enterprises on the Internet and elsewhere with a new obscenity strike force. This is the only way to handle hardcore pornographers."

The far right's strategy for dealing with pornography reminds me of their abortion policies. To them it has to be banned and God help you if you want to make some intermediate progress to at least curb it. Sometimes I wonder if they avoid incremental measures for fear of losing so-called "values voters". I mean if problems are mostly under control, they can't hook people with alarmist hyperbole.

"The .XXX domain will increase not decrease porn on the Internet."

And you can prove that how?! Perhaps this earlier FRC press release is clearer.

"The new domain would do more harm than good. The '.com' domain has been a cash cow for the porn industry and pornographers will not give it up and remove themselves to the '.xxx' domain. Instead, they will populate the '.xxx' domain and perhaps double the number of porn sites available on the Web."

Pornography, like any other commodity, is subject to market forces. If there's demand, there'll be supply. This means there are two flaws to FRC's assertion: the root problem to be solved is really demand and if there's was already enough demand to open twice as many sites, they'd be open already as .com sites. A more likely scenario is that either .com or .xxx domains would be set up to redirect visitors to the other. There wouldn't really be twice as many sites, just possible another way to find each site.

"The '.xxx' domain also cloaks the porn industry with legitimacy. The industry will have a place at the table in developing and maintaining their new property."

Do real red light districts legitimize prostitution? Anyhow, they already have a place at the table and they're making a lot of money from it. I would see .xxx as more of a ghetto than a sign of legitimacy. It'd be kind of like Mos Eisley Cantina – a "wretched hive of scum and villainy".

"Creating a virtual red light district may also discourage law enforcement from bringing obscenity cases on the notion that the problem is solved."

So now we're resorting to speculative psychology? What evidence do we have that such a thing would happen? What legal precedent do we have? How many obscenity laws are enforceable on the internet, anyhow? Any?

To me, pornography is a First Amendment issue. No matter how much I'd love to see that filth banned, I would never persue such a dream because porn is protected expression. However, there are a number of reasonable limitations on free speech and expression and I think some should be added to those that deal with porn. Establishing a .xxx domain could be a good start in that direction.

For more information about fighting internet porn, check out

If you're a Catholic who struggles with addiction to pornography, be sure to check out the Catholic Support Group for Sexual Addiction Recovery.

This entry was posted in communication and media, essays, editorials, fisks, and rants, government, law, and politics and tagged , , , , , , , on by .

About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

18 thoughts on “Virtual Red Light District

  1. howard

    Very good points.

    I would think the classification for web filtration would be a sizable plus all to itself, despite the presence of those who’d seek to deceive web surfers — there are still probably millions of sites that have no problem with the classification that could easily be blocked for those who choose to block them.

    Does a solution really have to solve every problem to be a viable solution? Can’t progress be a good thing?

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  4. robin

    I googled ‘red-light district’ needing an image for an article i’m writing on stereotypes. Amsterdam has a stereotype image of prostitution and drugs. I didnt really want to actually show a woman. yr foto looks stereotypical because it looks like every window in every house is a red light/prostitute locaal. can i use it? can u send me a reproducible jpg? i wd credit yr site of course…..thanks

  5. Randall

    I was looking for a SFW image for my sermon. Preaching on “Red Light Gospel” and wanted to have an iconic image so people could get a real understand of the topic

  6. Steve

    RE: How I found this page.
    I googled ‘red light’ while looking for pictures of a red traffic light. Was not thinking about the ‘district’ but that’s what the results seem to favor.

  7. Curious

    Having just been to Amsterdam and the RLD, I wanted to find images to show people back home what it’s like. Although you really need to “see it to believe it”, I wanted to try.

  8. Annie

    I am a set designer for puppet theaters and am currently working on a play about a young woman being sold to an older man by her mother. I was looking for visual inspiration and the red lignt district is a strong image.

  9. Leah

    This may seem weird but this subject really intrests me 😀 I dont no why(no smart comments please :D)id love to go other there and like curious wrote “see it to believe it!!!!”

  10. nestor morales

    The pictures were nice. Every window in that building being all red is a fiancees, wife, girlfriend, and newcomer chicks nightmare. If a man is weak don’t look at the window because they are calling you, and he will not resist.

  11. Elizabeth

    in response to your question of why i’m looking for photos of the red light district: i’m doing an oral presentation on the effect that legalization of prostitution has on sex slavery, and needed a picture for my power point.
    i hope i’ve satisfied your interest. 🙂

  12. drake

    I saw a blurb regarding Amsterdam’s ‘flashy’ red light district and I wonderered what they meant. Your picture of an entire row of buildings with brightly lit red windows explained it perfectly.
    I agree with your take on the xxx domains, which (sadly) seems to be a moot point now.
    People are nutty, especially about sex.

  13. DS

    I’m preparing a class about the cultural association of colour and searched for ‘red light district’. I was particularly looking for an image that had a male prostitute advertising himself as well as a female one, and one that was suitable for an undergraduate audience. For this slide I also have a red Valentine’s bouquet, Dahli’s Mae West Lips sofa. The point is the association of red with the sensual – it’s one of about a dozen slides on ‘red’.

    Your comments are interesting, but I think a lot of people (especially in Europe) are ambivalent about pornography and don’t see it as a problem. There are plenty who do object of course with language like ‘vile’ and ‘filth’, and they get a lot of air-time. They also talk to each other and reinforce each others views and don’t listen to those that don’t see a problem.

    I think you’re quite right about the xxx domain and reputable producers would be delighted to move their product; I saw an interview with a porn producer a few months ago and she said the biggest problem her company faces is targeting advertising to a specialist market in such an open space.

    It’s a shame when a few people that are offended by things others do, make the situation worse for everyone, including themselves…

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