Nobody wants to talk about it, yet it’s affecting half of our families, according to a well-recognized watchdog group.
According to National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 47% of families in the United States reported that pornography was a problem in their home in a 2010 survey. If that’s not disturbing enough, every second of the day an average of 29,000 are watching pornography on the Internet. They’re part of the 40 million who say they use the Internet for pornography and likely contribute to the 68 million searches for pornographic material every day.
But nobody is ready to talk about it. I know, because I’ve been trying for a while.
Although many self-diagnose, there are believed to be around 200,000 genuine pornography addicts in the United States. Those addicts are often the ones who utilize child pornography. Of those millions of pornographic search engine queries, 116,000 are related to child pornography every day according to government figures. The FBI reports that the amount of underage content on the Internet has grown by 700% in the last 10 years. Criminal investigations opened that lead to arrests are up 2,000% in that time. In 2012 alone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber Tipline received 400,000 leads about people possessing, making or distributing child pornography.
But nobody is ready to talk about it. I know, because I’ve been trying for a while.
Some law enforcement officials believe for every person caught and prosecuted on child pornography-related charges, there are 20 who are getting away with it. That’s on the low end. Some law enforcement officials believe the ratio is more in the neighborhood of 1-to-100.
But nobody is ready to talk about it, I know, because I was the 1 in those ratios.
I was arrested in 2014 for possession of child pornography. I was sentenced in early 2016 to eight years, with all but nine months suspended. I ended up serving six month and six days.
I liked a lot of porn. I liked wet T-shirt contests and lesbians. I liked celebrities and cheesy foreign porn movies from the 1970s and ’80s. Whenever I felt bad about my porn usage, I figured I wasn’t hurting anybody and I told myself the wet T-shirt girls didn’t regret being exploited once they sobered up. That faulty thinking was with me for decades.
I think that I’ve been a porn addict since I was a small child. In all of the deep analysis and work I’ve done with professionals since my arrest, there are many red flags from my youth that likely contributed to or exacerbated the problem: A caregiver who was sexually inappropriate when I was very young, a home where talking about sex was forbidden and taboo, the ability at 14 years old to rent porn at a local video store.
My life seemed normal to people on the outside. I had girlfriends, went to school, cultivated a successful professional white-collar career, got married, had a family and ended up running my own company. Almost nobody knew that I utilized pornography, and since it was all legal usage up until 2013, I didn’t see it as a problem either. I knew my alcohol use was an issue, but that’s because we’re inundated about the dangers of alcoholism from a young age. Nobody talked about porn.
In the months leading up to my arrest, I had started to use cam-to-cam sites, recognizing that most of the videos of the young women I liked were recorded from interactions on sites like with names like “Chat Roulette”, probably the most famous of the genre. I quickly learned no female would stop to talk to a man in his mid-30s that looked like me, so within a few days, I had created a looping video of an attractive man in his early 20s. I was so manipulative, but in such a state of disrepair mentally, physically and emotionally that I couldn’t recognize how low I’d sunk.
On March 24, 2014, the Maine State Police arrested me and said they had been following my computer since November 2013. How exactly I got caught was in the evidence discovery packet, but I never looked too closely. It doesn’t really matter.
In the 22 months between my arrest and sentencing, I spent 70 days at an inpatient facility in California for my alcoholism. I also started seeing a therapist who specialized in sexually deviant behavior. Upon my return, I entered into deep therapy and became a voracious reader about sex and pornography addiction. I also spent 50 days at an inpatient facility in Texas for my pornography addiction. These two facilities were the most transformative experiences of my life. Success rates in rehab are not spectacular, but I beat the odds, made a multitude of changes to my life and the judge could see this, hence the heavy suspension of my sentence. I have still not had a drink nor utilized Internet pornography since early 2014.
Telling my story
While in jail the first half of 2016, I wrote a memoir detailing the several years of my life leading up to my arrest. During that time, the magazine company I ran and my relationship with my family slowly imploded because of my addictions and because of the surfacing of issues from my past. I stopped taking medication I’d been on for a dozen years for bipolar disorder and slept only 2-3 hours per night prior to the arrest. Most people couldn’t tell anything was happening to me at the time because like all addicts, I was a great liar and manipulator. As long as you shave, have charisma and act like everything is OK, most people will buy it.
A few months out of jail, I edited the book down to a reasonable length and shared it with both a professional true crime author and a producer of true crime television. While it didn’t have the level of grisly detail they were used to producing, they gave a bunch of notes and said it was worthy of publishing. It was a story neither had seen before.
There are a lot of publishers who like to portray themselves as cutting-edge, ready to cater to the needs of authors who aren’t embraced by the mainstream and want to make a difference in the world. I am embarrassed to admit I was too naive to recognize these kinds of claims as branding and marketing.
Publishers who focus on memoir and biography said it was more suited to true crime. Those who publish true crime said it wasn’t the right kind of crime. Inspirational publishers don’t care about a happy ending in a tale of redemption when you’re not the victim. It wasn’t the quality of writing that slowed down selling the book. I spent many years as an award-winning journalist and those agents or publishers who bothered to read the book said the writing was top notch.
Who wants to be ‘That Publisher’?
Say the words “child pornography” out loud. I was caught with it and even I prefer “illegal pornography” or “underage pornography.” There is something about that phrase that I believe people are afraid to utter for fear the mere words will make others think they are not completely repulsed and revolted by it.
You can say “I read a book about a guy who was into heroin” or “I read a book about a guy who killed his family” and nobody thinks you have any connection to that guy. Say “I read a book about a guy who downloaded child pornography.” I think most people assume they will be seen as an apologist for the guy, because they are seeking to understand and not simply demonize him.
While it is standard for an agent or publisher to simply reject a response, there were a few who I believe took pity knowing I was in a Catch-22 situation before I did.
“The problem,” wrote one co-publisher who went to bat, but couldn’t convince her acquisitions team to take the chance, “is that many people will see you defending your crime and minimizing the victim no matter how many times you say that you want to help make things better. It’s difficult to position a book like this.”
I’ve been told the book: “Hits on key points that are important to our understanding of pornography and child abuse,” “There are good things here, good writing,” “A powerful story, well written” and many other compliments but nobody came out and said what I think the real problem is: “There’s never been a book like this before and I’m worried what the fallout could be. I don’t want anybody to think I’m defending you.”
Here’s the thing: I’m not defending myself, either. For a short period of my life, I let an addiction get out of control and become heinously criminal. With almost four years of recovery under my belt, I don’t condone my actions. I also think if I would have been exposed to a cautionary tale similar to mine, it may have slowed or stopped my descent.
Fifty years ago, nobody wanted to talk about alcoholism or rehab. Then, Betty Ford did more to help the world than her presidential husband could ever imagine when she admitted her addiction and opened a center in Southern California to help treat it. Twenty-five years ago, it was sexual addiction. I’m in front of a wave that is still beginning to crest.
Statistics prove this isn’t a problem we can ignore until it goes away. How is this not going to continue to escalate until we are forced to face the issue? If 47% of families say porn is a problem in their homes and only 3% didn’t admit it, half of the families in America are exposed to pornography.
Thankfully, in the midst of the rejection letters, there was one publisher who recognized based on his experience publishing a heroin addict’s memoir that most people are cross-addicted and issues of sex are often one of those addictions. The forward-thinking folks at my publishing company recognized there is a lot that can come out of telling my story and by simply hearing the story, it doesn’t turn you into a sexual deviant any more than reading a book about Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer turns you into a serial killer.
My story is one about understanding how I sank to such depths, not war stories recounting females I manipulated. It’s about somebody’s life imploding who was too sick to see it coming. It’s a tale of addiction of a 21st century variety.
But nobody is ready to talk about it. Hopefully, I’ll help change that.