Getting paid to watch porn

Posted by Tom Shellbag

The author works in computer forensics for the UK police, checking PCs for suspect images. It's not as much fun as it sounds...

"The boss is coming - quick, put some porn on!" It was at this point that I started to wonder about the career I'd chosen.

As I'm sure most people in the computer forensics business know, a disproportionate number of cases involve indecent images. Because of this, we tend to spend a lot of time cataloguing and categorising the images found on suspects' computers.

While at first this may sound interesting in a slightly creepy way (as a non-forensics friend of mine put it: "You're getting paid to snoop around in other people's computers – man, you're living the dream!"), it gets very old very quickly. You develop an eye that can zoom over a few hundred innocent images at a time and hone in on the bad ones and while this is an essential skill to learn, all the hash databases in the world still can't take away the requirement for someone to actually look at all of these images, in order to sort out the ones that constitute a criminal offence.

altWhen I started in forensics a few years ago, you'd expect an exhibit in an images job to contain a lot of generic mucky pictures in addition to the criminal ones - some of the suspects seem to have got into child abuse images after exhausting all of the lawful porn out there.

Over the years though, the bar seems to have been raised - or lowered, maybe - in terms of what that muck actually is. These days, looking on a suspect's computer is like going to a party organised by the man from Goatse in collaboration with the two girls with one cup, in a plumbing supplies depot. Next to a zoo. Above a sewage plant.

I'm not going to labor this point but when I'm categorising images (which is not, incidentally, a job for a forensic analyst), barely a day goes by that I don't see something that introduces me to a new facet of depravity. I'm constantly reminded of Roy Batty's "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe..." speech from Blade Runner. And not in a good way.

What effect does this have on people in our trade? I don't think that question is considered very often. There's plenty of discussion - within offices at least - of the effects of prolonged exposure to the sadness and misery of the child images. That's an interesting topic, but not a suitable one for a semi-lighthearted piece like this.

What about the constant, blaring exposure to adult pornography of every fetish, on an industrial scale, when you don't even want it and it's taken out of any context in which a person might normally look at pornography?

Boredom

Reactions seem to differ during the day, in my experience. There's boredom (plenty of that), disgust, hilarity, medical curiosity, loathing, pity, incredulity, pretty much all of them negative responses. Yes, now and then you see something funny but for each laugh there are tens of thousands of depictions of people being used and abused, usually for someone else's financial gain.

I don't consider myself to be particularly naive in these matters, but when you look at this material on an industrial scale, you get a good view of the industry at work. The ante is always being upped, there's competition and the way to beat it is to constantly show something newer, something bigger, filthier, nastier.

To resort to quotes again: "I am a colossal pervert. No form of sexual depravity is too low for me. Animal, vegetable, or mineral, I'll do anything to anything." (Blackadder). 

And you know what? I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of the way every male, from the fine upstanding pillar of the community to the lowliest career-nonce, has a photo in his My Pictures folder called 'my nob.jpg'. I'm sick of the way people search Google images for stuff like 'Eskimo porn' or 'busty Polish girls on roofs'.

Specialized
I've never been a big user of porn. I'm not a prude, it's just never really floated my boat. But I'm sick of the fact that porn's got so specialized that there are sites catering for people who like putting insects on their genitalia. How the hell do you even discover a fetish like that? You started out looking at 'upskirt' shots and that wasn't enough?

So how the hell did you end up on a site catering for upskirt shots taken in churches in a particular Southern state of the US? How does anyone even conceive of these sub-genres and specializations? Do all the people running these sites have a monthly brainstorming session? Do they write down a load of nouns, adjectives and verbs on flashcards and throw them up in the air? "Hey, rabbits trepanning recalcitrant amputee accountants! I can sell that shit!"

So, the lesson for today is: stop it. Just stop. It's not nice, it reflects badly on you, your mom would be ashamed of you and it's making me feel ill.

As Jean-Paul Sartre should have said: "Hell is other people's porn."

I'll let XKCD have the last word on this: "Rule 34 of the internet: if you can imagine it, there's porn of it"

This story originally appeared on the author's blog, Happyasamonkey.