вторник, 10 июня 2008 г.

The University Has No Clothes

When a mentally deluded stripper accused three Duke University lacrosse players of a brutal gang rape at a March 2006 off-campus team party during spring break, dozens of activist Duke professors were not content merely to give great credence to the rape charge, even as evidence of its probable fraudulence poured into the public record. They also treated the lacrosse players as pariahs for having hired strippers at all. So, too, did Duke President Richard Brodhead, Board Chairman Robert Steel, other campus administrators, many in the media, and others.

Never mind that hiring strippers violated no law or university rule. Never mind that nobody had made a fuss about the 20-plus stripper parties that other Duke athletic teams, fraternities, and sororities held that year. Brodhead and other officials and professors continued to express horror long after the supposedly "privileged" lacrosse players had abjectly apologized. To underscore its horror, the university adopted a new rule: "Strippers may not be invited or paid to perform at events sponsored by individual students, residential living groups, or cohesive units."

So, some might be surprised to learn that on this year's Super Bowl Sunday, Duke University played host to a group of strippers, prostitutes, phone-sex operators, and others in a "Sex Workers Art Show" to display their "creativity and genius." The university spent $3,500 from student fees and various programs to pay the performers and cover expenses.

One account of the February 3 show in the on-campus Reynolds Theater-from which I have redacted the more repulsive particulars-was posted on the Internet by Jay Schalin, of the conservative-leaning John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

"The performers did not just take their clothes off-and the actual nudity part of the show was rather tame. But mere nudity could hardly compare with a show that began with the Art Show's founder and director, Annie Oakley, imploring the audience to stand up and shout 'I take it up the butt!' …

"A transvestite, naked except for some strategically placed tape, with the words 'F____ Bush' painted on his chest, kneeled on all fours and lit a sparkler protruding out of his rectum with 'America the Beautiful' playing …

"A stripper, in the guise of a U.S. flag-draped Lady Justice, … yanked a string of dollar bills out of her posterior as the sound system played Dolly Parton's version of 'God Bless the U.S.A.' She ended her act by saluting and holding up her middle finger to the crowd. The announcer referred to the performance as her 'Infamous Patriot Act.' Her most private area was kept covered by a small American flag …

"A dominatrix donned a large 'strap-on' male sex organ, and pretended to masturbate while the crowd was urged to shout 'faster, faster,' in Chinese."

The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper, reported that the show "riveted a crowd of students and community members," with "rowdy cheers and awkward silences."

This event was sponsored by a student group called Healthy Devils, with co-sponsors including Duke's Women's Center, the Program for the Study of Sexualities, the Student Health Center, Students for Choice, the Campus Council, and Sexual Assault Support Services. The show has toured or will tour other campuses including Harvard University, the College of William & Mary, the University of Michigan, Wesleyan University, and the University of California (Davis).

Duke Provost Peter Lange, responding to my emailed questions, explained that the sponsors had followed normal procedures to get university funds and facilities. Duke "routinely hosts shows and speakers that some people find controversial or even objectionable," he wrote, as part of its "strong commitment to free speech and academic freedom." He added that the university takes no position on the views expressed.

Fair enough. But how can the Duke administration reconcile its solicitude for the right of some groups to pay strippers to perform with its disdain for lacrosse players who did the same?

"There is an obvious difference," Lange responded, "between strippers performing at a private party and a group of artists touring university campuses across the country to present a show with political discussion, musical theater, and displays of sexuality."

So people who take off their clothes and dance for money while others watch are not mere strippers, but rather "artists," if they go on tour, call it "musical theater," and toss in scatological and vulgar political effusions?

Another way of looking at it, Schalin's article suggests, is that "inviting strippers to perform does not appear to be a problem as long as the intent is not to titillate men, but to shock a mixed audience with vulgarity and disparage mainstream American values."

Kenneth Larrey, a senior who founded Duke Students for an Ethical Duke to promote fair treatment of students by the university that had so savaged its own lacrosse players, skipped the Super Bowl to document the university's hypocrisy. The show was, he says, "far, far more grotesque than we could have imagined."

To be sure, Annie Oakley did voice one coherent political message: Women are driven into the "sex industry" because the "only other option is working a minimum-wage job or less." But this theme was undercut by one performer's admission that she had left a regular job to make more money for "my extravagant partying lifestyle" and by others who described choosing sex work after college.

While the show portrayed "sex workers" as both artistic "geniuses" and victims of society, males who pay strippers to perform had better have politically correct motives. The Sex Workers Art Show passed the political correctness test because, in the words of its website, it not only "entertains, arouses, and amazes" but also offers "scathing and insightful commentary on notions of class, race, gender, labor, and sexuality."

As if the nation's campuses were not sufficiently steeped in such stuff already.

The lacrosse players, on the other hand, had no pretensions beyond titillation and male bonding. For this they were likened to slave masters of the Old South by many a professor and columnist. Professor Mark Anthony Neal, for one-a practitioner of what he calls " 'gangster' scholarship" and "intellectual thuggery"-accused the players of "hoping to consume something that they felt a black woman uniquely possessed." Never mind that the booking agency had told the players that one stripper would be white and one would be Hispanic.

Brodhead told the Durham Chamber of Commerce on April 20, 2006, "If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn't do it, whatever they did is bad enough." (Emphasis added.)

This was a dagger aimed straight at the hearts of sophomores Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, who had been arrested on rape charges two days before. In his eagerness to trash two young men in their time of direst peril for having attended a stripper party organized by their captains, Brodhead ignored the strong, by-then-public evidence that both were entirely innocent of rape.

Such smears have so far cost Duke well over $10 million to settle a threatened lawsuit by the three wrongly accused players. (The third was indicted after Brodhead's "bad enough" gibe.) Three other players have filed a lawsuit and 30-some others are threatening to sue.

But no Duke administrator or professor has been disciplined in any way. Indeed, the only one fired at Duke as a result of the bogus rape charge was Mike Pressler, the university's lacrosse coach for 16 years and the 2005 NCAA Coach of the Year. Brodhead fired him in April 2006 while misleadingly suggesting that his players were a bunch of racists. This at a time when rogue District Attorney Mike Nifong, who has since been disbarred, was winning an election by spreading similar smears to Durham voters and potential jurors.

Less than a month later, a faculty committee that Brodhead appointed to investigate the coach's leadership and the players' characters found that Pressler had been blameless. It also found that the players-although far too prone to the alcohol abuse, noisy parties, and related petty misconduct that are endemic on campus-were otherwise an admirable group of student-athletes with no history of racist talk or behavior.

Despite all of this, Steel-who is also an undersecretary of the Treasury-and Duke's board have strongly supported Brodhead's handling of the lacrosse case. In December 2007 a board committee voiced what its chair, and board vice chair, Daniel Blue, called "overwhelming support for the leadership that the president is providing."

Brodhead and the board understand how the p.c. game is played. If only the lacrosse players had understood that, they could have lined up university funding to hire a better class of strippers: college-educated white people spouting vacuous political bromides and sporting dollar bills and sparklers in the right places.


I never set out to sell myself on the streets. In fact, I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in the Cincinnati suburbs. I went to Catholic school and participated in sports, was a Girl Scout, and sang in the church choir until eighth grade. But during my freshman year in high school, one of my girlfriends came over with a bottle of wine, and we got drunk. Alcohol made me feel social and funny when before I felt out of place and awkward. I started showing up to school drunk and got kicked out. I ran away from home and partied with older kids who had their own apartments--and access to lots of drugs and alcohol.

When I was 16, a guy at a party offered me $200 to have sex with him. I knew it was wrong, but so was everything else I was doing, So I did it. At another party, I met a man who said he could make me a singer, so I moved to Las Vegas to sing at nightclubs. As far as I knew, that was the place where singers became famous. I really wanted to hit the big time, and It was thrilling to Imagine that I actually could. But I wasn't earning enough money as a singer to support myself, and I remembered how easy it was to make fast cash by having sex. I Justified getting Into prostitution by telling myself that there was nothing wrong with doing It now since I knew I was going to be somebody someday.

Soon. I was on a downward spiral, doing acid, cocaine, and heroin, and having unprotected sex. I partied more than I sang, and blew all my earnings getting high. I went back to Cincinnati at age 20, determined to clean up. But I began living the same pattern of drugs, alcohol, and prostitution. I got involved with the wrong people and even went to Jag for receiving stolen property. While I was in prison. I gave birth to a boy, whose father was a nameless, faceless client. My parents came and picked up my son, and during the next three-and-a-half years behind bars, all I could think about was my child and changing my ways. How did I end up here?

When I got out of jail, I boarded a bus and imagined holding my son in my arms. Then another thought came to mind: I hadn't had a drink in three years. I'd just stop and have one drink before returning home. But with that one drink, I spiraled back into my destructive lifestyle. Three years later, I gave birth to my daughter--fathered by another anonymous client. After my parents took her away, I lost my will to change, or even to live. I wanted so desperately to be a good mother, but my drug addiction had taken over my mind and my life.

By this time, I was 33, homeless, and strung out on crack. Then one night, I was getting high in an abandoned building, and as I took a hit of crack the room seemed to light up, as If someone had flashed a camera. I saw what I had become, and I was disgusted. My hair was greased to my head, and I'd been wearing the same clothing for three weeks, In front of me, women were turning tricks; men were fighting over crack pipes. I dropped to my knees and asked God to help me. Then I walked to a nearby recovery center and never looked back.

Since then, I've received my GED and a certificate In addiction studies from the University of Cincinnati, and I'm working toward my bachelor's degree in the same field. I've even been able to make amends with my grown children, though our relationship remains distant. Now, I work at a Cincinnati-based program called Off the Streets, which helps women get clean. Since we opened last year, 50 women have been helped, some of whom I know from my days on the streets. They say to me, "If you could do it, then I can do It, too." it's very humbling, but hearing their stories brings back memories of a life that I wish I could forget.

Sex in the afternoon

Kay is simply tired of thinking or, alternately, trying not to think about this man. "Sex blotted out logic. And thank god. What a relief. How did people do without it? They grew ill, they went mad" Nancy Wigston

What do we write about when we write about sex? Porn aside, this common yet mysterious area of human activity has proven a minefield for many an author. Sex is just plain difficult to get right.

Undaunted, American novelist Susan Minot (Monkeys, Evening) tries something original in her new novella, Rapture. The arc of the narrative centres on a particular sexual activity in progress, and the thoughts of the two 30-something lovers in New York as this act takes place forms the substance of her book.

By any standard, it's an arresting beginning. Good writers rarely venture into this terrain, although Erica Jong did a hilarious take on a female version some years past. Minot does not exclude comedy.

The beneficiary of the act, Benjamin, is startled by his sensual windfall; after all, he and the giver, Kay, have had a rocky relationship ever since an intensely romantic beginning while they were filming Benjamin's indie film in Mexico. Smitten by Kay, Benjamin never quite managed to shed himself of his longtime fiancée, Vanessa, her handy trust fund and her beneficial connections. Still, his present candour engages our sympathies.

"He had no idea what had gotten her there ... He certainly wasn't going to ask her about it ... If he'd learned only a few things in their long association - and he considered over three years to be pretty long - one of them was that when Kay did tell him what was going on in her mind, the report was usually not very good."

That word "association" is a tip-off to Ben's state of mind and degree of commitment to a woman who once obsessed him. Over an old-times-sake lunch, she'd suddenly beamed at him. "'What are you smiling at?' he said, a little frightened. 'It's good to see you,' she said. She looked genuinely happy. He did not understand women."

This is funny stuff, the kind if thing you want to read out loud to your partner. It's early on in the story, yet it's as far as we get in understanding Ben, who utterly seems to lack depth, and judging by his situation, doesn't need any. Maybe he will become a lonely and sad old guy somewhere down the road, like "the 50-year-old geezers chatting up the permed women in tight skirts at the end of the bar at Mary Lou's at 3 a.m" he has seen in his travels. But right now, no.

Then what is Kay up to? How to explain her "rapture?" It's been a whole year. Of the two, Kay seems the more complicated, standing for herself in her complexity, whereas Ben, however unfairly, seems your average male. At least she has more thoughts on the subject at hand.

Part of her pleasure comes from her slave-like posture; she is attracted to Benjamin's waywardness; she thinks of an Oscar Wilde quote - how the advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray. (Ben, on the other hand, as he free associates later on, conjures a scene from an old Ed Wood movie.)

Among assorted post-coital feelings, Kay remembers: "satiated, drowsy, full; she might want to weep uncontrollably, she might want to laugh, she might feel at peace with the world ... or want to crawl off under the nearest rock and die." And as for her choice of partner this "sweet afternoon," she is simply tired of thinking or, alternately, trying not to think about this man. "Sex ... blotted out logic. And thank god. What a relief. How did people do without it? They grew ill, they went mad, that's what happened."

There's surprisingly little physical detail in Minot's narrative, yet that seems right enough, and may be where other, lesser writers go wrong. Occasionally she zeroes in on what's happening, body-wise, making the event seem more true. But far more common are the meditations that occur in the male and female brains, and that's true too.

Minot does exhibit a fondness for military metaphors. "He lay back like the ambushed dead" is her opening line. A few pages on, Kay "saw herself and him as two soldiers, survivors on a battlefield, too exhausted even to moan, united by the fact they'd both gone through the barrage and both were miraculously still breathing."

But is this the sex or the warfare of their relationship? Hard to tell. Minot takes an insightful, intelligent, humorous look at the tangled mess of modern love. Funny and original, she can even evoke sympathy for spent bodily fluids, their taste "numb ... forlorn, as if aware somehow of having been delivered to a warm wet place, but not the right one."

Minot's readers may find themselves feeling similarly displaced, longing to look elsewhere, overcome by a sudden urge to rent a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie.

Kilmer plays porn superstar John Holmes

Val Kilmer isn't claiming he's never watched a porn movie. He's just saying he's never seen a porn movie featuring John Holmes, the legendary actor he plays in "Wonderland," a dark look at a drug addict's spiral out of control and into some extremely bloody business.

"I guess that was a little before my time,'' says Kilmer, soaking up some poolside sun at a midtown hotel. Aside from the actor and the reporter, there's only one other couple taking advantage of the pool-perfect weather during last month's Toronto International Film Festival, and as the conversation continues, they move closer and closer until they are eavesdropping. Whether it is because they have recognized the man behind the sunglasses as the onetime Batman or for his portrayal of another '70s-era hedonist, Jim Morrison, in "The Doors" or because the words ``sex,'' ``porn,'' ``cocaine,'' ``weed'' and ``murder'' are being thrown around casually and loudly is up for debate.

"I watched that documentary about Holmes'' (``Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes''), says Kilmer, "and I read a lot of the news stories about the Wonderland killings, but I didn't feel the need to watch any of his movies. I'm not really that big a fan of bad acting. Bad actors, sure, but not bad acting. I respect the craft too much to see it being attempted by someone who's just there because nature smiled on him in some weird way."

The weird way was below the waist, where Holmes was blessed, or cursed, depending on your perspective, with a freakishly large body part, which made him stand out in the days when filmed pornography was making its way out of private viewing booths and onto actual movie screens. A prologue to "Wonderland" claims Holmes was porn's first real star, which isn't true; the late Linda Lovelace or Marilyn Chambers could probably claim that dubious title.

Yet Holmes, who died of AIDS-related illness in 1988, with his ridiculous perm and dig-me mustache came to represent the wah-wah, bang-bang cheesiness of the '70s to such an extent that his rise to infamy was fictionally immortalized in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights," in which Mark Wahlberg played a character clearly based on the bad boy.

"I was the actor (director James) Cox wanted for the role, but I turned it down," says Kilmer of ``Wonderland.'' "The idea of playing a porn star didn't appeal to me in the slightest. But then a lot of people I really trusted-Michael Mann, Bobby De Niro, Dominick Dunne and Robert Evans-looked at the script and said I should reconsider. So I took a second look, and talked to James, and I got what he was trying to do."

"Wonderland" begins after Holmes' career is essentially over; in the pre-Viagra era, his cocaine addiction had left him unable to do what had made him famous. He has, according to Kilmer, turned himself ``into a different kind of hustler, one of those guys who can rip you off and do you wrong and still charm his way back into your good graces.'' This means he is still able to maintain the affection of his teenage girlfriend, played by "Blue Crush" star Kate Bosworth; his estranged, straight-arrow wife, played by Lisa Kudrow; and even the mid-level drug dealers played by Josh Lucas, Tom Blake Nelson and Dylan McDermott, who keep Holmes around as a kind of conversation piece patsy.

They plot to use the strung-out Holmes to help them rip off immigrant Los Angeles club owner and crime figure Eddie Nash, then considered one of the scariest, most ruthless men in Los Angeles. Their scheme would culminate in a quadruple-murder payback that the newspapers reported as the most brutal since the Manson murders. Holmes' involvement in the murders has never been resolved, and director Cox has chosen to let viewers draw their own conclusions while presenting multiple, gruesome scenarios.

"Whatever I believe really happened that night is irrelevant," says Kilmer, 43. "The only people who really know are dead. The movie just serves up the facts and some informed speculation, and lets the audience decide. But it's not really a murder mystery; it's a story of a master hustler, a guy who was very smart and calculating, who would do just about anything to get what he wanted."

"He was one of those guys who was able to believe his own lies, he was so convincing…. People I talked to who hung with him said he could be charming, you know? I thought that could really be interesting to play."

That may be because while Kilmer has been called lots of things, charming is not usually one of them. Joel Schumacher, who directed Kilmer in 1995's "Batman Forever," says that experience persuaded him to institute a life-is-too-short rule, to prevent him from ever again working with some he could not personally abide. Martin Bregman, the veteran producer of 1993's "The Real McCoy," says that Kilmer was the most unlikable actor he ever worked with in three decades of filmmaking.

But directors like Oliver Stone and Michael Mann, on the short list of directors who have rehired him, say that Kilmer's passion and self-confidence get easily mistaken for arrogance and ego.

"He believes he knows what will make every scene better," says Stone, who cast Kilmer as Phillip II, Alexander the Great's father, in his upcoming biography of Alexander. "Sometimes he's right, sometimes he's wrong, but he's worth listening to."

"He's just a brilliant actor," says Robert Evans, who produced "The Saint," in which Kilmer played the suave, honorable thief first played by Roger Moore in a syndicated TV series. "I had to fight to get the guys with the money to cast him, but he was perfect for the part, and he takes everything he does seriously, maybe too seriously sometimes."

"This is my first movie, and he's made how many?" asks "Wonderland" director Cox. "I would have been crazy not to take his input seriously. He has great ideas. Sure, we'd disagree, and obviously he has more clout than I do. But I think in the end, we respected each other, and I'd make another movie with him in a minute."

"I try not to let all that negativity affect me anymore," says Kilmer, who doesn't have time to worry too much.

His latest projects include the independent film "Blind Horizon," a thriller in which he costars with Sam Shepard.

The film should be released next year, along with "Delgo," an animated fantasy adventure to which he lent his voice; "Spartan," an original drama about the kidnapping of a politician written and directed by David Mamet, whom Kilmer describes as beyond brilliant; "Stateside," in which he plays an investigator trying to find out why a young Marine has gone AWOL; "Mindhunters," an action thriller that marks the return of director Renny Harlin; Stone's "Alexander," playing, to his great amusement, star Colin Farrell's father; and a Michael Mann action drama starring Tom Cruise.

In December, Kilmer follows "Wonderland" with "The Missing," a suspenseful Western directed by Ron Howard and starring Cate Blanchett, who says any trepidation she had about working with Kilmer and the notoriously prickly Tommy Lee Jones "was to my great relief, completely unfounded."

"I've sure been busy for a guy people allegedly can't stand," says Kilmer. "At the end of the day, I have to live with myself. And so far, I'm doing OK."

Teacher faces sex, porn charges

The marching band director at Adams Central High School turned himself in to police Thursday after an investigation concluded he had sex with a 17-year-old student. Jeremey J. Johnson, 26, of Bluffton, walked into the Wells County Jail sometime before noon.

Bluffton Chief of Police Tammy L. Schaffer said Johnson had sex with the girl at his home in Bluffton and fondled and touched her at the high school. Adams Central Community Schools Superintendent Michael Pettibone would not say whether the girl was a member of the band but did say she was no longer at the school.

Investigators also found more than 500 digital images of child pornography downloaded to Johnson's home computer over a period of more than one year, a Bluffton Police Department report said. Investigators seized both his school and home computers and charged him with 41 counts of possession of child pornography.

Johnson also has been charged with seven counts of child seduction in Wells County for the alleged incidents at his home with the girl and 19 counts of child seduction in Adams County for the incidents at the school. He was being held Thursday in Wells County Jail on $240,000 bond. To bond out, he would also have to pay a $95,000 bond held for him at the Adams County Jail, Schaffer said.

School officials found out the relationship after the girl's mother notified them, Schaffer said. They then went to the police. Their investigation began this summer, and Johnson was suspended before school or marching band practice started. He has not been on school property since, Pettibone said. In accordance with state law, Johnson was suspended with pay. He could be fired depending on the outcome of the case, Pettibone said.

"In terminating someone, whether because they're a bad teacher or an immoral person, the rules are the same," he said.

Johnson taught instrumental music at both the high school and middle school for two years. A licensed instrumental instructor has been brought in to take over the marching band, and parents and students were notified why Johnson would be absent.

"It's our season ... and our kids shouldn't be stopped from enjoying (marching band)," Pettibone said. "Is there some disruption in our program? Sure there is, but our kids will still be able to have this program."

Johnson's job at Adams Central was his first after graduating from Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion. Adams Central officials called all of his references and ran an Indiana State Police criminal background check on him, Pettibone said. Nothing came up.

"Sure, we're surprised. Sure, we're disappointed," Pettibone said. "At the same time, that cannot stop us from realizing the many good people working hard and accomplishing good things here."

Sex site charges

AN unemployed drummer accused of being the administrator of a child sex internet site had produced written instructions on how to groom young boys.

A Melbourne court heard yesterday that the 49-year-old -- one of six men, including a former police officer and a teacher, arrested in two states over the weekend -- was part of a child pornography syndicate.

The man, Philip Alan Reid, from Malvern in Melbourne's east, was found with thousands of images of young boys.

Australian Federal Police agent Melinda Kaye Adam told magistrate Lesley Fleming she had grave concerns Mr Reid would reoffend if granted bail.

Mr Reid was remanded in custody until April 28. Four of the other five men arrested were also remanded in custody.

Internet addiction is no laughing matter

Five years ago, poking fun at his profession, psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg coined the term "Internet addiction disorder" as a joke. No one is laughing anymore. Though still ill-defined and poorly researched, Internet addiction has emerged as a serious--and growing--problem.

As millions more go online, people are increasingly engaging in risky behavior, playing havoc with their work, relationships, and lives. Tracy, who asked that her last name not be used, is one of them. A divorced mother of two in Portland, Ore., she entered a singles chat room last May and got hooked. Soon she was skipping meals and staying up late at night to chat with newfound male friends. She began missing work, neglecting her kids, and losing her inhibitions. Rapidly, she progressed from chats to cybersex to phone sex with 40 different men. "I went completely beyond all my normal boundaries," she says.

A friend suggested she talk to Jay Parker, an addiction counselor in Seattle. He convinced her she was addicted to both sex and the Internet. When she tried to stop, she fell into depression and attempted suicide. Finally, on July 9, she gave up chat rooms and cybersex. With support from her parents, she entered a six-week treatment center for sex addiction, where she found others who had become hooked on the Net. By December, she was back at work, living on her own again, and staying out of chat rooms. "I still have a computer at home, but I'm using it safe now," Tracy says.

Caught in the Net. No one knows how many people develop personal problems because of Internet misuse. In the largest study to date--an ABC News survey of more than 17,000 people last year--psychologist David Greenfield found that 6 percent of Web users, about 6 million Americans, could be addicted.

In a new study of 1,500 companies asking about Internet abuse in the workplace, Greenfield found many employers have fired workers because of excessive time spent on online pornography, shopping, or gambling. Most companies have no policies on Internet abuse, and the few experts are in hot demand.

Internet-addiction centers are popping up across the country to help bored housewives obsessed with chat rooms, husbands having cyberaffairs, students hooked on online games, and day traders turning violent when their losses mount. "People say, 'I used to do drugs in high school. Now I don't need it. I've got the Internet,' " says Maressa Hecht Orzack, who founded Computer Addiction Services at Boston's McLean Hospital in 1996.

Skeptics say Internet misuse is usually a symptom of underlying psychiatric problems that need treatment. "It's not the technology which is addicting, it's the behavior," wrote psychologist John Grohol, a vocal skeptic. But others believe the Internet is creating new problems. "Online content is immediate, constant, uncensored, and unregulated," says Kimberly Young, one of the first psychologists to study Internet addiction and the author of Caught in the Net, the first book on the subject.

The Internet's interactive nature, anonymity, and convenience certainly make it easier for people to indulge in deviant or even criminal behavior. Former Disney executive Patrick Naughton, arrested in September for arranging to have sex with a 13-year-old girl he met online, pleaded not guilty, using an unusual defense argument that his actions were grounded in an online fantasy world. On December 16, a jury found him guilty of possessing child pornography but could not reach a verdict about the charges that he arranged to have sex with a minor.

Little research has been done on treatment. So Hilarie Cash and Jay Parker, co-founders of Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Wash., are designing a study testing three treatment methods: traditional cognitive behavior therapy, a 12-step addiction-treatment program, and expressive arts therapy.

In the future, virtual reality and wireless access may make the Net more addictive. "Be really cautious about this technology," warns Parker. "It may not be so grand and good if it's not kept in balance."