Hypocrisy, Disconnect and No Second Chances in Today’s Society, Through The Eyes of a Former Porn Addict

Note from Josh: This is long. It’s more than twice as long as anything I’ve ever posted. That said, I think it may be twice as good as anything I’ve ever posted. For those who have said they like my writing, I think you’ll like this if you give it the time. Take it in a couple of sittings if need be. I’d really welcome feedback as I spent the better part of a weekend putting this together.

 

During my recent long road trip, I’ve had many discussions with my wife and father (who joined me at different intervals) about my personal history and the state of the world. Several years ago, they showed great compassion toward me during my legal ordeal and in my early recovery from pornography addiction and alcoholism. I needed them to give me a second chance and they came through.

It kind of shocked me they didn’t agree with the overall theme of argument: We need to be much more forgiving and dare I say, lenient and understanding, as a society, when it comes to giving people second chances.

It also extends beyond illegal/legal mistakes into simple differences between people, and I’ll get deeply into that as well. We have a highly opinionated society and we aren’t in a place to find what we have in common. We feel, as individuals and as members of different political/socioeconomic/cultural groups, that our answers should be the ones that all adopt.

I sometimes wonder if these kinds of people believe the world would be better if everyone shared their opinions, or if that’s what they think we’re ultimately working toward as a society: In the end, one doctrine wins. That’s never going to be the case, and that’s a good thing.

One caveat before I begin in earnest: I believe in understanding/compassion/second chances in almost all cases across the board. My exceptions are when an act is so heinous, like a school shooting, that even a mental health defense shouldn’t spare the person harsh penalties, or when the person openly displays wanton malice and a complete lack of understanding of the serious nature of their crime or mistake.

 

1a.

I will need second chances the rest of my life, but I want to assure people I’ve always been the kind of person to offer them, or at least offer the benefit of the doubt. A longer version of this incident was in my first book, but I think it proves the kind of person I was.

Several years before my porn addiction reached its critical stage, I was working as an editor for a weekly newspaper and a monthly magazine. The Friday night of our December Christmas Party, the owner and his family did not show. The next day, I got a telephone call from a close friend of their family who worked for us – who also no-showed – to explain what happened.

The owner of the newspaper was arrested on charges of Class A (roughly the same as First-Degree in Maine) Arson. He owned several businesses and rental properties. While it’s hard for me to remember the exact circumstances, the afternoon of our party he was pulled out of one of his properties by firefighters after a report of smoke had been called in. He was found with several bruises on his head and was loosely tied with a lamp’s electrical cord. For the police on the scene, it looked suspicious and when they learned he was in overall financial trouble, including having just had a foreclosure notice posted by the bank on the property he was discovered in…well, it just seemed too sketchy and he was booked.

His explanation to the police was that a pair of organized crime connected drug dealers who looked at potentially renting the property some days earlier returned to seek vengeance after he refused their rental. He allegedly had some roundabout connections to certain people involved in organized crime in Southern New England, and this was connected to some kind of bad blood or whatnot. I remember it being unclear in the media.

He was very hands-off at the newspaper and magazine, letting us do our thing, but we liked him very much. The following Monday, I told the staff what I’d been told and what I’d read when I followed up in the media. The reaction was understandably shock, but since I’d had a few days to gather my thoughts, I shared how I was going to handle the situation.

I told them that I didn’t know if he did it or not, but I wasn’t going to play judge and jury. He had given me the greatest professional opportunities in my life, and I was always going to be thankful for that. There were many times when he trusted my judgment and displayed loyalty to my opinions and visions for the company when others had urged him not to let me do certain things. I felt that I personally owed him that same loyalty when it came to his legal situation. I was going to support him as a friend, take him at his word, ignore gossip and let the legal system play itself out.

We had a couple of telephone calls and a pair of lunches where I told him my stance. I didn’t want him to defend himself and I didn’t want to weigh the evidence against him. I felt that I needed to support him as a human I cared about.

Long story short, he ended up taking a plea deal. I told him I completely understood, and it didn’t change how I felt. If it’s between going in front of a jury and rolling the dice at getting 20 years in prison or taking a sure thing of 6 months in county jail agreeing to a lesser charge, whether he was innocent or guilty, I think the reasonable person takes the deal.

Moving forward, some of the people I worked with made jokes alluding to the owner (who sold almost all of his shares in the company to the employees during this time) being guilty. They were meant in harmless fun, teasing the fact that they believed he probably got away with it.

I simply told myself that I could believe he was innocent, or I could believe he was guilty, but if I did that, I still was of the mindset that it would have been an irrational act of a desperate man in a very dark moment. Humans make horrible, horrible mistakes and this was one. Thankfully, nobody was injured, and he served the time the justice system deemed appropriate. That’s enough for me and although I rarely talked to him after he sold his shares, I came to realize that innocent or guilty, that didn’t change how I felt about him. He did nothing to deserve permanent banishment from my life.

 

2a.

Recently, I read an online article suggesting that Seinfeld should be removed from TV syndication and taken off streaming services. The reason was because of perceived homophobia.

Seinfeld doesn’t show a fear of gay people at all, in my opinion. What it depicts is the very real fear that existed in the early-to-mid 1990s of being a heterosexual male in their 30s or 40s who was unmarried and incorrectly classified as a homosexual.

Should that bother someone? I don’t think it would today, but that was a different time. I was in high school those years and nobody was coming out of the closet that young in the early-to-mid 1990s. Today, many kids have no problem defining their sexuality to their peers, but as I mentioned, it was a different time. The men (and women) who were in their 30s and 40s back then grew up in a time and were raised by people who had very different attitudes about sexuality than they do today. I don’t think my kids would have much fear in coming out to me as gay. That wasn’t the case just a generation earlier.

What’s fascinating to me is that the person who wrote this article also wrote an article about a decade ago praising the television show Mad Men for not sugar-coating the gender politics at play in American offices in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It reflected a time when women in the office were seen as things and not people. Sexual harassment was decades away from being a concern and the secretary-boss inappropriate relationship was born.

Why was Mad Men OK in depicting this behavior, but Seinfeld not? I’m guessing the author would say that Mad Men was representing an earlier time and it wasn’t “real.” Technically, neither was Seinfeld. The Seinfeld cast were all actors reflecting the time (which now happens to be earlier) and it’s just as “fake” as Mad Men. Would a Seinfeld-like show produced in 2019 about life in 1992 be given a pass for its handling of sexuality or is Seinfeld targeted because it was contemporary for the period it was made?

The person who wrote the article suggesting keeping Seinfeld on the air was similar to sports teams that maintain racist mascots (Washington Redskins) or cities that keep monuments to those who were known for pushing racist agendas (Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee). Personally, I think that’s a giant leap, but maybe I’m wrong. Nonetheless, it seemed like this person was arguing if any art (yes, using that term loosely for a sitcom) is offensive to anybody, it should be removed from public consumption. That’s a scary proposition to me.

 

1b.

As anybody who has spent two minutes on the website knows, I made the worst calculated error of my life when I decided in early 2013 to pull myself off of my psych meds that controlled my bipolar disorder. My rationale was that if I could tap into a dormant manic side that the medicine quelled, I would suddenly have a reserve of physical energy and the extra creativity needed to save the magazine, which was starting to head downhill as a viable business.

Instead of the desired results, without the meds my increasing dependence on alcohol and pornography to cope with my surroundings exploded. I started drinking multiple times daily and when the pornography I looked at needed to be more extreme to satisfy me, I made the jump to video chat rooms. Over time, I devised a system to catfish women into conversations with an image they thought was me, but was a carefully edited video I’d found online.

I thrived on the challenge of getting these women to expose themselves and defined success as convincing someone who thought they were inconvincible to bend to my whim. It was actually far less about sex than it was about power. When I was successful, I’d take a screen capture as a trophy for my victory, the way that I had personally and professionally collected trophies to prove my worth for the past couple of decades. Obviously, I had no idea how sick I really was at the time.

This routine lasted a few months, and while utterly reprehensible and immoral, the behavior crossed the line into illegal when one of the women I did this with turned out to actually be a teenage girl. I can use the excuse I didn’t know, but I’ve always been well aware there are plenty of females under 18 who may look of age, but aren’t.

I don’t have a defense for what I did, whether the person on the other end was a teenager or in her early 40s. It was scuzzy. My mind wasn’t working correctly, but the responsibility for making sure my mental health remained on an even level was mine. I failed this responsibility and the results were devastating not just to me, but I’m sure there are a few females out there who greatly regretted what they did once we were finished. I may have caused a lasting permanent negative impact in their lives and it sucks to live with that unconformable suspicion. They didn’t deserve what happened to them.

Did I do it out of malice? No. I did it because I was an ill person navigating uncharted, choppy waters. My mind was not processing cause and effect, action and consequence the way that it had when I was healthier. The confluence of neglected mental health care, immense stress from my professional life, a deteriorating family life, off-the-rail addictions, resurfacing trauma from youth and a complete lack of sleep led to what more than one medical professional has called “the perfect storm” I couldn’t handle.

It was my fault and I make no excuses and hope that I don’t come off as rationalizing or minimizing my actions and the fallout. I truly believe the self-neglect would have continued, probably leading to an early death had the police not intervened in March 2014.

I won’t list my entire transformation regimen, but it has been intense. I continue to evolve into the healthiest (mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually) person I’ve ever been and work very hard to share my experience so others don’t go through what I did, will go get help, and will overall create less victims in the world than if I’d just kept my mouth shut.

I’m proud of the person I’ve become. It’s only possible because of the support I had from a core of family members and a few friends that I have turned my entire life around in a way I couldn’t have imagined possible five or six years ago. My second book will soon be published and my speaking and appearance schedule for later this fall is starting to fill up.

Ironically, people who meet me for the first time now seem to appreciate my story, what I’m trying to do and actually enjoy being around me. It’s the people who knew me before – who remember an ego-driven, insufferable braggart who always had to be right – where I don’t usually get a second chance.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the lack of second chances from most isn’t about the actual crime. I believe it’s about seeing a not-so-nice person get their comeuppance. I think it’s about coming to terms with the fact I presented one face to the world, and then they were introduced to the other in (sometimes erroneous) media reports. I think for many of the people who knew me it’s a matter of too little, too late. I presented one person, while hiding a big piece of who that person was. If they accept this new person I am, they have to accept that I may still be hiding a piece of who I am. I think they’d rather not get burned twice, so in the vast majority of cases that I have reached out to people from my past (I’d guess about 80%) I get no response. I think the reality of the situation disinterests most of them. It’s easier to shun someone than try and understand them.

 

3a.

This brings me back to something I wrote about five or six months ago and won’t completely rehash here…the Lori Loughlin college admission scandal. I’m not a fan of hers. I was too old to enjoy the banality of Full House then and Fuller House now. I’d rather have oral surgery than watch her movies on the Hallmark Channel and on the whole, she’s always come off to me as a standoffish snob in her interviews. She’s the kind of person to whom social status in akin to oxygen from what I have observed even before the scandal. I had no idea that she had two daughters or that her husband was a fashion designer until they were indicted, but they act what I’d expect ultra-wealthy people who solve problems with money to act like.

While it’s for a different crime, we live/lived very different lives and the media coverage of each of our cases was on an entirely different stratosphere, I see a lot of the same instinctually reactions and then learned behaviors happening with Loughlin’s family that happened with mine. It’s the whole seven stages of grief thing run out-of-order and in rapid cycling manner.

Did she do something wrong? Allegedly. Probably. Let’s say for the sake of this article that she is 100% guilty of paying off a guy to rig the system to get her daughters, who likely didn’t deserve it, into college by less-than-honest means.

Should there be a punishment? If found guilty in a court of law, of course. Should she get the dozens of years in jail she’s looking at if found guilty because she didn’t make an early plea deal? I have trouble understanding how that does anybody good. I mean, it’s not like they stop making those shitty Hallmark movies because she’s not around. Everybody takes a step to the left and the girl from The Wonder Years or one of the grown-up The Facts of Life teens gets all Lori Loughlin’s parts.

I have no doubt that the Loughlin family lives a life of privilege. Most of us could never be caught up in a scandal like this because we could never afford it. Seeing a few of her daughter’s YouTube videos reveals a sheltered, wealthy teen that doesn’t really understand how the world works; minus the social media following and the money, sort of like almost all 19-year-olds.

Many people who rise to the level of fame of Loughlin have something a little off inside of them that craves attention at an unhealthy level – I had it myself for a long time and still fight it now and then. (I really should look at my WordPress statistics much less). That need for attention drove her to fame, which led her to money, which led her to an equally wealthy and somewhat famous spouse. Despite this, they raised two kids that don’t seem all that abnormal considering their surroundings.

Is Lori Loughlin an asshole because she can buy a new car when she gets a flat tire where the rest of us just pray our AAA card is still active? Is she a bad person because she has the time and money to hire personal chefs, private trainers and can get plastic surgery whenever she wants? Is the fact she has a daughter who admits to wanting to party vs. going to class at college make her any different than any other mother with a daughter in college?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that she wanted the best for her children, recognized that their natural talents may have to be padded with her financial resources, and went down a horrible path to make sure she got what she wanted. And isn’t that what we really want to punish Lori Loughlin for?  She has resources to get what she wants, most of us don’t, and we’re jealous. We want her to feel pain because she used something we don’t have – an almost endless supply of money and clout – in a way that most of us would never dream of using it if we were ever lucky enough to have it.

Yes, she should have just donated a few million to USC for the new Loughlin wing on a building, or presented an endowment in some Hollywood icon’s name. Had she taken either of those routes, like most of the wealthy people do who have kids with less-than-stellar transcripts, her kids would probably be in class right now.

She made a horrible mistake, and she will pay for it, but I just don’t think there was malice behind it. I think she exhibited behavior that, considering how many others were indicted, can’t be found as shocking. It was a stupid path, but to her, the ends justified the means. That’s usually a very bad thing, but in this case her motivation was getting her kids got into a good school and maintaining her lofty status as supermom. It’s stupid. It’s even vapid. But it’s not malicious.

 

2b.

As a guy in his early 40s, I’m in the prime age range to have grown up with Dave Chappelle’s comedy. I knew his stand-up comedy well before he gained cult status with his Comedy Central show or late 90s movies. When he disappeared for a decade, I missed his comedy which was equal parts offensive, clever and socially biting. I put his skill in a class with legends like George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Chris Rock. He, like the other comics I just listed, has a point-of-view toward hypocrisy that is unwavering and doesn’t change with the times because hypocrisy is hypocrisy, regardless of who is perpetrating it and what their status is in regard to gender, sexual orientation, political party, etc.

Chappelle recently released a new Netflix special. I still haven’t seen it, but I started reading reviews. After the third or fourth negative review in a row – something that critics never would have dared do to Chappelle in 1997 – I visited Rotten Tomatoes. As of the moment I publish this on September 9, 2019, 13 critics have reviewed his special and it has 23% positive ratings. Sounds pretty abysmal, huh? Then, I looked at the audience score. Out of 30,520 users’ ratings, it stands at 99% positive.

That’s a giant disconnect that deserves some attention. I’ve always believed critics have had a sense of “aboveness” from the average guy and quite often gave a review based on what progressive social trends dictated. In 1997, Chappelle railed against the hypocrisy of homophobia, the political power struggle and lagging social change. Rotten Tomatoes unfortunately doesn’t have aggregate reviews of his old work, although his 2003-04 TV show was 96% positive.

I think if you’re an average person (or at least 99% of the average people), you can see the themes and tone of Chappelle’s work hasn’t changed. If you’re a critic, you’re writing about a world that is socially and politically divided in ways most of us have never seen in our lifetimes. If you would have told me that news could be delivered in such a partisan way like Fox News or MSNBC do or if you could have told me the Pandora’s Box of pointless opinion sharing Facebook and all the other social media was about to bring into our lives back in 2003-04, I would have laughed at you. I think 99% of us would have laughed at you, but now we pick our cable news stations based on wanting our beliefs reinforced, not new facts introduced. Today, your opinion (in your opinion) means more than ever because you can post it to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Reddit, etc., etc., etc. For many, the most validation they can feel is having more people following them than they themselves follow – or that’s the second most validation you can feel after having a Tweet go viral because Buzzfeed retweeted it. I mean, for crying out loud… “retweeted” is a word people say without embarrassment. I still can’t order Moons Over My Hammy at Denny’s without feeling like a goober.

When 99% of the populace votes one way and 77% of the media vote another, regardless of any “Fake News” rhetoric, it’s hard to reach any other conclusion that there’s a wide gap between sensibilities.

 

2c.

Most will agree that this nation is currently divided and more partisan than they have witnessed in their life, but I think this is happening not just because of politics. I think that we’re starting to look for any reason to differentiate ourselves from one another at a finite level that is new to society. In a country that was designed as a melting pot of race, culture, creed, etc., that’s not a good thing.

The other day, I finally had to look-up what the terms “cisgender” and “pansexual” meant. I generally have always considered myself on the forefront of sexual and gender equality, but apparently I turned my head for a minute because I’ve been reading all kinds of terms over the last couple of years that I don’t recognize.

As it turns out, I’m cisgender. Odds are, you are too. A cisgender person’s gender identity (I feel like I was born a male) matches my actual identity (I was born a male.) When somebody identifies themselves as cisgender, it’s a lot like them saying, “I’m like 99.9% of everyone else out there.” Actually, that’s not fair. In a 2016 survey from the Williams Institute, it is estimated that 0.6% of adults identify as transgender. So, it’s more like saying, “I’m cisgender. I’m like 99.4% of everyone else out there.”

I have absolutely no problem with someone who is transgender, and I absolutely understand the need to label and identify it. But when 994 out of 1,000 people identify as something, I’m not sure there is suddenly a need as we approach 2020 to label it. Are we trying to make the 6 people who are transgendered feel better by labeling ourselves? Did we feel like we’re missing out on being special by not having a label? Was usage of this label popularized by people simply trying to show how progressive they are? My daughter has explained it’s called being “woke.”

Pansexual means not being limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity. I thought that meant bisexual, but apparently not.

I’m still cloudy on this despite reading different definitions, but apparently bisexual people are sexually attracted to more than one gender. Pansexuals claim to not see gender and simply be attracted to the person. I still see it as a different road to get to the same place, but maybe somebody can give me a super-clear definition of the difference I have yet to find.

Maybe I’m naïve, and I’m sure some people will see me as some sort of homophobe (or whatever it’s called in this case) for not understanding the delicate nuances of the many ways we’re supposed to define gender and sexuality in 2019, but I’m not sure the end result of this discussion is enlightenment and inclusion. I think it’s another way to divide people.

 

1c.

When I was on probation for my crime, one of the conditions was that I be part of a weekly support group for low-risk sexual offenders for a year, and then a monthly group until the end of probation, which was two additional years for me.

I would guess in my three years at the group, I shared time with 40 different men in this low-risk group. I heard a lot of stories about their sex and porn addictions.

My first probation officer (who never went to my group sessions) mentioned to me that he regularly attended the local group designed for high-risk offenders. He said that was the place where you’d hear stories that make your skin crawl. These were the people who were repeat offenders and had served many years in prison for depraved acts of violent sexuality, often on children. When one thinks about the term “sex offender” this is where most of our minds leap immediately.

I’m a registered sex offender. A couple times a year I have to check in at my local police station and let them know things like my address and automobile haven’t changed. More importantly, I’m on the state sex offender registry. This is the list of anybody who has been convicted of a sexual-related crime since the registry began, which I think is around 20-25 years old now.

This article is already too long for me to go off on a rant, but it’s important to note that there are no distinctive classes, categories or other way to tell the registrants apart. I, a low-risk, one-time, non-contact offender may be listed next to someone with multiple child rapes with no obvious distinction, on the surface, between our crimes.

In these groups that I attended, I met a wide range of men from various demographic backgrounds. Or, I should say they were from various demographic backgrounds prior to their crime. When one is accused of a sexual crime – not convicted, but accused – they tend to be fired from their job immediately.

The lucky ones, like me, had skills that they could transfer to work-at-home opportunities. A few others were able to find jobs in trucking or heavy machinery, which were far cries from their former lives in the white-collar world. Most sex offenders, regardless of risk of recidivism or nature of the crime, can’t find work.

Unfortunately, the loved ones and friends of many of these sex offenders don’t stay by their side. I’m lucky only 95% of the people in my life left. Many I’ve known have 100% go. These guys are cast out of their former lives and the society they knew. They can’t get work and in most cases, are extremely limited in where they can live based on municipal restrictions against sex offenders and the lack of landlords who will rent to them. The best that many of these men can hope for is to qualify for state disability and public assistance to survive. It may seem like a “free ride” but they are often given less than a quarter in benefits of what they previously earned. These men are fully capable of doing an honest day’s work for a good wage, but there are no white-collar jobs for sex offenders and few blue collars ones either, regardless of circumstances of their crime, time elapsed since conviction, or model behavior in recovery.

 

2d.

I’m the most centrist libertarian I’ve ever met. My liberal friends think I’m very conservative and my conservative friends think I’m far too liberal. That must mean I’m doing something right.

I look at each side of the political spectrum and while I don’t think they can see it, as of late they’ve each embraced a symbol/concept that screams of hypocrisy and exclusion.

For Republicans/Conservatives, it’s Donald Trump. He serves as a symbol of a specific political ideology, but anybody who thinks he actually embodies or believes that ideology is a sucker. Donald Trump was a lifelong Democrat who publicly took stances completely opposite the ones he has now as recently as the late 1990s. Let me ask you…how different are your political beliefs at 53 years old than they are at 73 years old? His are allegedly completely different.

He doesn’t have a strong political platform in his heart and mind. He simply knows how to read the tea leaves and rally groups of people. His natural condition is one of leader, it doesn’t really matter the details.

Republicans, who have always wrapped themselves in God, Family and the Flag chose somebody to represent them who completely destroys that image. If that image is important, as I was raised to believe, someone like Mike Pence should be president. Who sounds more Republican to you: the guy who works to not be alone with a woman other than his wife or the guy who has been married three times and bragged about grabbing women’s genitals?

Republicans traded in a lot of their credibility as the party of God, Family and the Flag in electing and supporting Trump. I can appreciate them liking what he preaches, but he’s preached the complete opposite in the past. You need to find somebody who actually believes the dogma of the party, not just somebody charismatic you can cheer for at rallies.

On the Democratic side, it was the adoption of the #MeToo movement without accepting that in many cases, the facts will be very gray, not black-and-white. The movement exploded when allegations of serial sexual assault and intimidation came to light about movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

Based on the accusations and evidence, it sounds like there is going to be plenty of evidence at his trial to suggest that he regularly intimidated actresses into having sex with him in exchange for favoritism in projects he was involved with and if they declined, he would sometimes sexually assault them. If he didn’t assault them, he still tried to hurt their professional careers. If he’s found guilty, he should serve a long sentence.

When the Weinstein accusations came out, there was a concerted effort to destroy his career. I don’t think the #MeToo crowd needed to work too hard on that one. You don’t get to have a normal career if you’re a convicted sex offender.

People started coming out of the woodwork in the entertainment field with wide-ranging allegations against a startling number of people when #MeToo hit the Internet. They ranged from the sinister (Kevin Spacey accused of sexual advances against underage males) to the mild (Aziz Ansari making a woman feel uncomfortable). Somewhere in the middle were cases of people like Louis CK, Garrison Keillor or Matt Lauer who seemed to acknowledge severely boorish behavior, but committed no crime.

Regardless of where they fell on the spectrum of misdeeds, the initial reaction always seemed to be a call to boycott and destroy their careers.

Take the example of Louis CK, for instance. He asked up-and-coming female comedians to watch him masturbate. Early in his career, they were his equals. Later on, he could help make or break them on the comedy circuit. Once he achieved that status, some of his accusers said they didn’t feel like they could say no, or it may harm their career. They have a point, but CK said that never manifested itself as a reality.

So, we have CK who asks for permission to exercise his sexual proclivity and only does it when women agree. There was no accuser who claimed they said “no” and he did it anyway. He admitted to having a blind spot about being the one with power in the situation. How did Hollywood respond? They stripped him of his executive producer title on several shows, pulled a movie that was just about to be released and cancelled all future stand-up performances. CK has tried to return to a decidedly mixed response…a response that’s very similar to the critics vs. public response to Dave Chappelle’s latest stand-up.

Republicans embracing almost-gleefully morally bankrupt leaders? Democrats destroying Hollywood careers into silence in the name of progressivism? Twenty-five years ago, Republicans would have shunned Trump. Twenty-five years ago, feminist leaders were writing articles of defense for Bill Clinton, who was accused of a variety of sexual hijinks.

As a guy in the middle who mainly just watches the world turn, it’s very confusing, but it all seems to be about isolating, segregating and casting away those who don’t think exactly the same, RIGHT NOW. It didn’t matter what you thought before. It only matters right now. That kind of reaction is scary.

Be it politics or sexuality, we are all about highlighting our differences in today’s society. When we emphasize what separates us, all it does is push us further apart. Ideas of commonality, sympathy, empathy and compromise disappear. Along with that, so does the concept of giving someone different than you a second chance.

 

4a.

“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” – African Proverb

 

3b.

One of my favorite stories, that isn’t recounted nearly enough in today’s history classes, is the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914. Since it was over 100 years ago, there are understandably a few details that are sketchy, but what we do know is that as the Belgian/British/French forces were locked in a grueling ground war with their German counterparts, something miraculous happened.

Accounts of how it started are unclear, though most agree that during stalemates on December 24, hunkered down in the trenches, one side would sing a Christmas carol, then the other side, and back and forth until the Western European forces started singing Oh Come, All Ye Faithful. The Germans joined in, singing the same hymn, but in Latin.

The following morning, German soldiers reportedly came out of their bunkers, wishing their opponents “Merry Christmas” in English. While leery that it may be a trap, the other side emerged, reportedly being told, “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

Stories from the rest of the day have the two sides exchanging gifts, playing in pick-up ball games, sharing meals and being allowed to tend to the bodies strewn across the battlefield they had been unable to reach in weeks.

This truce happened in roughly two-thirds of the places soldiers were fighting and unfortunately, hostilities resumed for some the following day while other locations held off until after the New Year. It was a truce, not an end, after all.

But something about a truce makes it all the more special. How did it happen? Most historians say that soldiers on both sides were getting tired, and feeling like they weren’t fighting the same war as their leaders. The best description I’ve read came from a British soldier, Murdoch M. Wood, who said in 1930, “I came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since that if we had been left to ourselves there never would have been another shot fired.”

Think about that…in the middle of one of the greatest wars in mankind’s history, both sides just stopped fighting and despite language, cultural and philosophic differences, decided to ignore what they were told to do. They decided peace and understanding was most important, even if just temporarily. Had they not given each other the benefit of the doubt and a chance to prove their Christmas Day intentions, this amazing story wouldn’t have happened.

 

3c.

I’m going to spare you another 2,000 words of tying all these loose ends together, because I think you need to do it for yourself. Let these very different stories marinate and mingle in your mind for some time.

I don’t think we’re living in a completely unique time in history when it comes to people’s attitudes. There are ebbs and flows throughout regarding how mankind treated one another. Right now, it seems to me we’re in a time of increased dissension and our foot is on the gas.

One of my main jobs as a ghostwriter is to create books by businesspeople that focus on how to run a business more efficiently. I’ve written probably two dozen of these books with various themes, and one thing I’m told by these titans of business again and again and again is that a company begins to suffer when communication between departments and divisions gets adversarial, because eventually, the communication stops.

Most businesspeople call this either “working in silos” or “sticking with your tribe” and it can not only cripple a business, but spell its end.

If it’s been proven that this behavior is so harmful to businesses, how can similar behavior not be harmful to society?

We’re all on a different page, with little regard to where others are, especially if they don’t share the same mindset and beliefs. The solution is not everybody else getting on your page because you KNOW it’s the right one. There is no right one. Not in America.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Good Time to Talk to Your Children About Pornography; A Lull for Porn Addiction Information?

I guess being away a couple of months really did recharge my battery as I have 101 pornography addiction-related things I want to talk about. Seems like a good time for one of my multiple-subject articles.

Keeping Kids in the Loop

First, it’s back-to-school time. There is no better time to talk to your children about pornography since their peers are the most likely people to introduce/distribute pornography to them.

Keep the discussion age appropriate. I don’t think any kid under 10 needs to be told more than, “If you see naked pictures of men or women, let mommy or dad know about it, OK? Just like we’d want you to tell us if you found a cigarette.”

I think you can step it up for ages 10-to-13 and let them know that pornography addiction is a real thing, just like drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, etc. Recognize that a lot of the power is in their hands as you can’t police them 24/7. Let them know you’re there to talk and that you believe they’ll make the correct decisions.

With the 13-to-18 crowd, which I think is the most critical, I believe your message has to be two-fold. First, with the boys, it’s time to introduce them to the concept of porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED). Explain that there are many guys their age – and now in their 20s – who grew up looking at so much Internet porn, it has negatively affected their ability to have a normal physical relationship with a partner. Second, for both genders, it’s good to remind them that the moment they take a nude picture of themselves or someone else, even if they think it’s safe, there is no such thing as safe when it comes to cell phones, the Internet or trusting your “friends.” If they wouldn’t pull their pants down in school, they shouldn’t be doing it in front of a mirror because it could end up being seen by everyone in school, and countless others. It’s also good to remind them that looking at such pictures, along with making them, is against the law and people do get in trouble. Sadly, the biggest producers of child pornography are actually the children. They need to know it can come with dire consequences.

Where’s the New Information?

I don’t know if it’s just a natural lull, but since returning from my hiatus, I’ve been searching for articles, studies and blogs about pornography addiction and it appears there are fewer new ones than ever. I hope this isn’t an indication that porn addiction is becoming either normalized or talking about it has just been a passing fad.

My life, and the lives of so many people I have met in the last 5-6 years, have been radically altered by pornography addiction. Some, like mine, have endings where the user became a happier, healthier person with a family that stuck by them. Most however – especially those who are unable to conquer their addiction – are tales of woe, where the addict lost everything and was largely shunned. Both groups have to rebuild their lives into something new, but it can go in very different ways.

I think both stories need to be told. I know mine is more of a success story that the addict early in recovery can strive for, but I also think we need to hear those stories of broken lives to serve as a warning to people who are debating getting help.

With my PornAddictCounseling.org site, I deal with many people who after talking to me for a few weeks or months will throw up their hands and say they are the unique specimen for whom recovery is impossible. This is when I’ll have them read both the success and not-so-successful passages I’ve seen out there.

I think both stories can be very meaningful, but I’m not seeing much out there that’s new. Searches through Google and WordPress are just turning up what I’m already familiar with.

If you’ve had an experience with porn addiction, please consider sharing your story. This can’t be something we don’t talk about. There are too many people suffering out there who need to get help and feel that they are alone. Too many of them mistakenly think they’ll be ok in the long run because their addiction isn’t to drugs or alcohol.

Communication and education are key. Considering being one of the voices.

A Final Request

Finally, if you see some kind of article, blog or study out there that is relatively new, I hope you’ll let me know about it. As I’ve mentioned, my next book is coming out later this year (or early next year) and I’m starting to stir ideas around in my head for the third one.

The concept of the new book – a professional and a former addict answering questions for partners of addicts – came directly from reading blogs on WordPress. I’m always looking for inspiration and education, so let me know if there’s something out there I’m missing.

And of course, if you’ve got an idea for a book that you’re not planning to write, I’d love to hear it. Ideas can come from anywhere and only a fool thinks theirs are the best.

Guest Blog: How Men’s Mental Health is Completely Ignored

Note from Josh: While I take an extended break this summer, I wanted to provide some kind of content, so Patrick Bailey was once again nice enough to contribute several entries you’ll read over the next few weeks.

By Patrick Bailey

With the recent news on suicide of high-profile public figures such as Anthony Bourdain and Avicii, it may be difficult to wrap our head about the fact that mental health for men is very underrepresented. Whether it’s because women often speak out, or there is generally more women who suffer from mental health issues, this is not an excuse to ignore the other side of the spectrum.

 

The facts about mental health problems in men

Also known as the “silent battle”, many men often fear coming clean of the issues they are facing because of the stigma about mental health. Often, it is easier for women to admit that they are facing these issues because there is no double standard when it comes to talking about emotions. Many men suffer in silence for two main reasons: they don’t want to be thought of as “weak”, and they don’t want to be labeled as someone with a mental health issue.

However, this problem is only making the situation worse. According to recent statistics, 75% of the total population who commits suicide annually are men. In simpler ratio, a man attempts to take his own life every 20 minutes in the United States. The stigma isn’t helping–and the silence is aggravating the situation either way. Often ignored, men may even suffer more severe symptoms of mental health problems when untreated. Some of the common conditions include:

Depression

A total of 6 million men in the United States undergo depression every year. Since men may be less attuned with their emotions, some of them have less awareness that they might be suffering from a condition. Male depression is much less diagnosed compared to female depression. Some of the telltale signs of depression in men are:

  • Fatigue – general exhaustion, lack of physical energy to do usual tasks
  • Irritability – easily angered, annoyed, displays negative moods which are far from the usual self
  • Aggression – threatens to hurt others, hurt oneself, or shows physical or verbal signs of abuse
  • Loss of interest in activities – lack of motivation in work, hobbies, and relationships

These signs are quite different from those of women, as women often report feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. Since men’s minds are wired differently, depression may manifest differently.

Anxiety

Aside from depression, men are also prone to developing anxiety problems. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Extreme sense of worry – loss of judgement over things that may cause actual harm vs. those that shouldn’t be thought about too much
  • Physical manifestations – nervous breakdown, panic attacks, cold sweats
  • Loss of function – in some cases, anxiety may be severe to the point that a man may refuse to even avoid daily activities to suppress feelings of anxiety

Another hidden problem that has lately starting to gain attention are men diagnosed with social phobia or social anxiety disorder. Some men isolate themselves to the point that they never go out of the house for years, as seen in Japan’s epidemic called Hikikomori in men.

Bipolar Disorder

Over 2.3 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, half of which are men usually around the ages of 16-25. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings which have two opposite poles: manic phase and depressive phase.

During the manic phase, a man may feel a sense of invigoration, similar to feelings like “he can conquer the world”. This results to sleeplessness, heightened senses, and even engagement with reckless activities. This might be very draining as some men experience manic episodes even during normal times of rest. During depressive phase, men may feel sluggish, unmotivated, and restless to seek another “high”.

A lot of men who suffer from bipolar disorder couldn’t sort out their emotions clearly, making them resort to unhealthy ways to cope such as drinking alcohol and taking in drugs. As a result, bipolar disorder can be accompanied with problems in substance abuse.

Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and psychosis is a very debilitating condition that affects how a person views reality and their internal thoughts. It is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and bizarre ways of thinking. People with schizophrenia may even be acting on things that appear on their minds, having mistakenly thought that it was appearing in real life.

Other men who have schizophrenia have reduced feelings of happiness, may have a flat affect, or have trouble remembering past events.

It is shocking to know that most schizophrenia patients are men over 30. This is an alerting statistic that professionals should be taking mental health for men more seriously, as early diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia disorder is key.

 

Why are men’s mental health often ignored?

To understand the reasons why men’s mental health is not given its due attention, we must take a look at the problem in many angles.

There are double standards for men in mental health.

Looking at a sociocultural perspective, the stigma on men has always been there–they are perceived as emotionally tough, mentally strong, and does not break down with the slightest challenges in life. This is often portrayed in the media through Hollywood’s superheroes, soldiers, and other men of valor who did not let their “feelings” get in the way.

As this stigma is embedded in men’s minds, it has become difficult for them to open about what they are going through because men are supposed to toughen up. This double standard to be “emotionally strong” has caused lesser men to seek help from mental professionals.

There are many organizations that support mental health for women, but rarely for men.

A lot of mental health organizations are created specifically for women, such as those related to eating disorders, postpartum depression, and anxiety. These organizations run programs that speak specifically to women’s issues, and it is for a good cause.

However, the emphasis on these programs for women strikes a loss of balance for organizations that are specific to men. Thankfully, this has been called to attention and there are now new organizations meant to address some problems commonly faced by men such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression.

Mental health is often overshadowed by a substance abuse problem in men.

Men are known to be problem solvers. Whenever something isn’t right, they don’t want to talk about it–they want to do something about it. This is why in moments of depression, anxiety, or loss of control, men often resort to whatever could seemingly “fix” the problem–whether it’s consumption of drugs, alcohol, or any other form of addiction. Men are more likely to try out different kinds of illicit substances than women.

The problem now appears to be more of a substance abuse problem and the underlying causes that brought about the abuse are often ignored. Although mental health issues are still more common than women, it may be possible that statistics for men are higher if only they sought help instead of turning to substances.

 

What should be done to help increase awareness for men’s mental health?

Given that men suffer as much as women when it comes to mental health, what are specific steps that communities should take to bring awareness for mental health towards the other gender?

Equally promote gender-targeted programs for men.

Just as women have campaigns on their own, men should also be given the same privilege. There should be more programs open to men who are looking to solve mental health problems–campaigns for PTSD, drug rehab for men, and other gender-specific programs to help them feel that they are not alone in their battle as men.

Men should be assured that it is not only women who seek help for mental health. Having more gender-targeted programs make them feel secured that there are other people who may be going through the same problems as them.

Re-program stigmas through media.

The idea that men shouldn’t be talking about how they are feeling should be removed the way it was introduced–through media exposure. Advocates can lobby in media companies and pitch advertisements, campaigns, and programs that would help increase mental health awareness in men.

Additionally, they could also spread the message in other forms–through social media campaigns, contests, and short films. It is okay for men to share their feelings. It is not a form of weakness, rather, it’s a way to unload and to let others understand your mental and emotional states. When men say that they are okay even when they’re not, others might just believe it. Re-programming the stigmas can completely change how men see their mental health.

Strengthen advocacies related to suicide.

Three-quarters of suicides in the United States are done by men. A lot of these men go through bouts of depression, and a recent study shows that men have consumed alcohol over the last hour before their decision to take their own life. This all links back to the tendencies of men to alcoholism, drug intake, and other dangerous addictions as a way to cope with depression.

The thing is, these suicides could have been prevented if the problems in depression was addressed initially. When men suppress their feelings, they tend to deal with their problems in the ways they think would give them satisfaction–through temporary, yet dangerous highs. By cutting the root of the problem, it is easier for men to succumb to problems of addictions and abuse, and ultimately suicide.

There should be more advocacies to help men who are undergoing depression. It would be helpful to see more male high-profile personalities coming out and testifying about their struggles on depression and thoughts of suicide, to help other men understand that they are not facing the challenges alone. When more people talk about it, others muster enough courage to get help.

Check on all the precious men in your lives.

Government programs and non-profit organizations are helpful–but they can only reach as far as those who ask for their help. As citizens, we can always do our part to help men succeed against mental health problems.

The first thing is to understand the signs of common mental health problems in men–whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or something else for that matter. Trust your instincts and talk to a professional right away if you notice some signs on your male loved ones. They might be able to give you some ways to encourage the men in your lives to get a definitive diagnosis and treatment.

The second thing to do is to be an encouraging person in times that these people in your life show signs of their mental health problem. We can’t truly, fully, walk in their shoes and understand their struggles, but we can empathize with them. By letting them know that we are there, and we care, they are more likely to be motivated to get help for their issues.

Lastly, it is also important to be an encourager through your actions. Perhaps your husband may be suffering from substance abuse due to depression. You can be an encourager by inviting him to try jogging outdoors. Maybe your brother exhibit signs of bipolar disorder. Give him motivation by presenting thoughtful reminders about his medication. These simple acts of encouragement makes the men in your lives feel that they matter, and for that they would want to be better.

 

Men deserve help as much as women

When it comes to mental health, men deserve all the help they can get as much as women. Men can also affected with psychological factors as much as any other type of person. However, they might be discouraged to open up due to the lack of support and stigmas in society.

The purpose of this post is to spread awareness that men can also be victims of mental health problems. By understanding why they might be reluctant to seek help, we might just be able to find ways to reach out to them.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

I was Raped. Why do I Feel Nothing?

One of my favorite blogs to read is Revenge of Eve and in one of her postings today, she reflected back on a traumatic sexual assault at 14 she didn’t recognize as assault at the time. I thought it was refreshing to hear somebody say that they were a willing participant in the moment, but that the perpetrator (in this case a man in his 30s) is appalling and should have known better. I think a lot of sexual assaults aren’t as cut and dry as “this person did X against my will” and they need to be talked about.

While I’ve written a little bit about sexual abuse I endured at the hands of a babysitter when I was a child, I’ve not written about another incident that happened to me in my early 20s. This is partially because I don’t think I’ve completely processed it, but also because I haven’t figured out how it fits into the narrative of my life story.

The Incident in Question

When I was 22, I was living on my own for the first time in my life in Portland, Maine. It’s a fun city, and as close to cosmopolitan as you get north of Boston. I had recently been named editor of a B2B trade paper covering the burgeoning high-tech sector of Northern New England. This was about 2-3 years before the dot-com explosion took a nose-dive.

I had to regularly attend tech networking events, and among those in Portland, I ran into a lot of the same people. As a single guy on the lookout for dating opportunities, these were mostly dry wells, as the women were usually double my age, married and with children. However, I did bump into a woman I’ll call Ann, multiple times.

Ann was about my age, maybe a year or two older. She was a bigger girl with naturally bright red hair, bordering on orange. Ann seemed sweet enough, although a bit socially inept, although at networking events with high-tech types, social ineptness was the norm.

After one of our conversations about a mutual enjoyment of tennis despite a lack of motor skills, we agreed to meet in the park to play after work later that week. As expected, neither of us brought a lot to our games, but it was a chance to hang out and converse in a non-professional environment.

We played three or four times before I recognized that this was just somebody I would not be pursuing romantically. I didn’t find her physically attractive and while she was fun to be around, I thought we clearly lacked a necessary spark. After one of our games, she suggested that we both go home, take showers, change and reconvene at her house where she’d make us dinner and she’d pick something up at the video store for us to watch. With no ulterior motives, I agreed and about 90 minutes later, I arrived at her apartment house.

She was just finishing making dinner when I got there. We ate and then made our way to the living room. She got us each a beer and popped whatever movie she rented into the VCR.

My next memory is laying on my back in a bed, both of us naked, with her straddled atop of me. She was placing my limp hands on her breasts and clearly enjoying herself. I blacked out again.

The next memory is waking up in her bed with the clock reading 4:30 in the morning. I was groggy, but since I was laying on the outside, I was able to get out of bed, and gather my clothes from her floor and make my way out of her room.

I dressed in her kitchen and left her apartment. She sent me an email later that day at work telling me she had a good time and hoped we could play tennis later in the week. I agreed, but we never conversed, nor saw each other again. I didn’t even see her at networking events.

Making Sense of Things

My theory is that she spiked the beer and before I was completely unconscious, she led me back to her room where she had her way with me. From an objective point of view, especially if I reverse the gender roles in the situation, it’s hard to not call this experience a rape.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t believe I carry a lot of baggage because of it and I wonder why. The few people I’ve told about this usually look on with horror as I get to the end of the story and uniformly agree it was sexual assault.

I know how many rape victims suffer some kind of PTSD or other trauma from their experience – and while I have both from other incidents in my life – I question why it feels like this one didn’t cause an emotional or mental scar. Isn’t being sexually violated supposed to shake you to the core?

I never consented to having sex with this young woman, nor would I have as I just didn’t find her attractive. She coerced me into it without my approval. That is, technically, rape.

Did this have any subconscious effect on my developing pornography and alcohol addictions at the time, or play any role 15 years later as other repressed memories aided in me spiraling out of control?

Is it possible that this could just be “something that happened to me” and there is no deeper meaning, context or result? I’ve never felt anger or hate toward Ann. It’s more a sense of pity and confusion. I don’t think there’s any answer to “Why did you do that to me?” that I need to hear for any kind of closure. Maybe I shrug off the women-rapes-man dynamic we rarely hear about. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a child. I just don’t know why I don’t feel more of…something.

Perhaps the biggest scar this incident left is the notion that something is wrong with me for not feeling more deeply about what happened. Maybe someday a door will open in my mind that gives the situation a deeper meaning and context, but for now it’s just going to remain an enigma. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to feel.

Guilty or Not, I Think We Should Show a Little Empathy Toward Lori Loughlin

It’s important that I start this article with a disclaimer. I do not in any way condone or excuse the alleged crime of Lori Loughlin or the other parents involved in the highly-publicized college tuition admissions scandal making headlines. I also do not condone, minimize, rationalize or excuse the crime that I committed toward the end of 2013. I own it fully.

This isn’t really about either of the crimes. It’s about the way people react to it.

I was well known in Central Maine at the time of my crime and early 2014 arrest. I was the publisher of a popular magazine, the founder of a regional film festival and had just finished a term on the local City Council. I received awards along the way for all of my endeavors and to the people on the outside of my small inner circle, I was a pillar of the community.

Lori Loughlin rose to fame playing wholesome Aunt Becky on 80s/90s TV show Full House. While she kept her career alive after that with the occasional Lifetime woman-in-peril movie-of-the-week, she was never an actress who took roles where she swore, was violent or displayed skin/sexuality. When the wholesomest-of-wholesome networks, The Hallmark Channel, began pumping out carbon copy feel-good shows, she was a natural choice to become a regular on the channel. Most recently, she rejoined the Full House reboot on Netflix, reprising the role that started it all. She wasn’t just DJ and Stephanie Tanner’s Aunt Becky. She was Aunt Becky for anybody under 45 years old.

I was bailed out of jail roughly 40 minutes after I got there. In those 40 minutes, the State Police issued a press release (with incorrect information), the local newspaper had been to my office looking for me and TV news vans were parked in front of my house. I was the top story on TV news for the next several days and my arrest was played on the front page of the newspaper. Every time I made a court appearance, a newspaper reporter, photographer and at least two TV cameras were there.

From the moment Lori Loughlin’s name became part of this tuition scandal case, a day hasn’t gone by where there isn’t a load of articles online about what’s going on, even when she hasn’t made a public statement, has made one brief court appearance to hear her charges and then plead not guilty. The media can’t get enough of her and something as simple as standing in her driveway with her husband becomes public fodder. But let’s not just blame the media. The media is not a public utility. It is private business that makes its money giving consumers what they want.

 

Being singled out

There are over 200 people living within 5 miles of me who, like me, are on the state sexual offender registry. Not a single one got 20% of the media coverage I received, and many of them are there for graphic hands-on offenses that resulted in much harsher sentences than I received. I’m not saying I didn’t deserve what I got for behaving inappropriately in a chat room with a teenager, but those who committed far more heinous crimes received far less attention.

There were nearly 50 parents indicted in the college admissions scandal, but aside from Felicity Huffman, can you name one other involved beyond Lori Loughlin and her husband?

I don’t think it’s that difficult to attribute why Loughlin’s case – and mine on a much more regional level – garnered so much attention. People get a morbid enjoyment out of finding out a public figure is not as perfect as they portrayed, and get a cheap thrill out of seeing that person dealt with harshly.

As I personally learned, facts don’t need to get in the way of a good public flogging, especially on social media. It was surreal reading the venom spewed my way by so many people who neither knew me, nor the actual facts of the case. They served as judge, jury and executioner in the very opening days of what was a years-long legal ordeal.

I’ll admit I was as shocked as anybody else when the Lori Loughlin story broke. It was just something you never expect to read. But now, six weeks later, I’m really getting tired of people passing judgment on the merits of the case. We know very little of what has actually happened and we won’t know for a very long time, regardless of what “a source close to the family” told a magazine. The evidence appears damning, but how do I really know what’s been reported is accurate? There were key pieces of my case incorrectly reported for months. When you’re in the thick of a legal situation, you don’t call the media to split hairs about their reporting.

My career was over the day I was arrested. The board of directors of the magazine fired me and the annual film festival – only two weeks away – had to be canceled. My son was young enough that his classmates has no idea what happened, but my daughter was so bullied, she left her school, finishing that year at home and transferred to another school the following fall. My wife started to be treated like dirt at work – and even though she put up with daily sideways glances – was eventually fired for “underperforming.” I know it had to do with me. All of this happened before I ever entered a plea.

The Hallmark Channel fired Loughlin the day after the story broke and the Full House reboot said she wouldn’t be returning. Her daughters, who had a healthy social media presence, immediately stopped posting and in the case of her youngest daughter Olivia Jade, lost sponsorships. Neither of her daughters returned to school for fear of being bullied. Depending on which news source you read, the family is either leaning on each other for support, or they’re at each other’s throats pointing fingers. All of this happened before she ever entered a plea.

 

Put yourself in their shoes

The counterpoint to all of this is that when you court attention for doing good things and put yourself in the public eye, you’re going to receive a greater amount of attention when you do something bad. The solution is not to do something bad, but people sometimes have horrible lapses in judgment. I think most people would say that both Loughlin and I had everything that was coming to us, and from a legal point of view, I agree.

From a personal point of view, I can’t agree. I probably would have laughed at Loughlin’s situation 10 years ago, making jokes about it and believing it was only happening to her in a vacuum, but I’ve been through this kind of thing now. When you are well known and you make such a massive mistake, not only do you get what’s coming to you, but so many other people get what they don’t deserve. I think it’s important to not only remember them, but also to recognize that Loughlin is being publicly dragged through a personal hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Her life is going to be radically changed no matter the legal outcome.

While you’re watching Loughlin’s case unfold remember that the alleged crime affects far more people than just the defendant and they need to be kept in our thoughts as part of a bigger picture. While I wouldn’t have been capable of it 10 years ago, I urge and practice empathy now.

Hopefully you’ll never understand what’s it’s personally like to go through a public shaming and protracted legal ordeal, nor any of your close loved ones or friends will either. When that happens, it’s easy to develop empathy and to then apply it to similar situations. I ask you to practice that empathy now instead of having the “look at the car crash on the side of the road” reaction most Americans and those in the media are having.

Practice empathy. It feels better.

 

 

Brody Stevens Made Me Feel Better About Myself When I Needed It

Lost in the news of the oversexed (R. Kelly, Robert Kraft) on Friday, there was a small celebrity news item that if you blinked you missed it. A minorly famous comic, Brody Stevens, took his own life in Los Angeles at the age of 48.

In early June 2014, I was only two days out of a 70-day stay at a Palm Springs rehab center for my alcoholism when my brother, who lived in L.A., suggested we go to The Comedy Store to see that night’s showcase.

One-by-one, the comics (including Marc Maron and SNL’s Leslie Jones) did their sets. Brody Stevens came on as the last comic of the night. I knew him from The Hangover and little things he’d done on Comedy Central, but mostly from having read about him recently having had a meltdown on a Twitter, scaring those in the comedy world for threatening suicide via social media.

I knew the tradition at The Comedy Store was that the last comic was allowed to go as long as they wanted. By the time he took the stage, probably only 40 people were left in the crowd. By the time he left the stage over an hour later, shortly after midnight, about 10 of us were left.

He did the most non-traditional set I’d ever seen in that he didn’t tell a single joke. I don’t think I laughed in that 70 or 80 minutes once.

Instead of telling jokes, he acted as a sort of group therapy facilitator for those of us who were left in the crowd, asking questions about people’s lives and providing feedback.

I was one of the people who he talked with first, when I hesitantly raised my hand after he asked who was on medication for their mental health. In most scenarios, opening yourself up like that to a comic on stage is license for ridicule.

Instead, he shared what medication he was on at that point and how it was affecting him. After learning I was from Maine, he asked what I was doing in L.A.

Now, keep in mind, I’d just done 70 difficult days at rehab, having left home after getting arrested in a major scandal. To say I was fragile and still processing things was an understatement. I didn’t know if I wanted to open myself up, but I figured they preached living an honest life in rehab, so I should do it in front of this small group at a famous L.A. comedy club.

“I just finished two months at a rehab in Palm Springs,” I said.

“Congratulations! That’s awesome, my friend! My mom lives in Palm Springs!” he said, excitedly. “I’m going to visit her on Thursday and get a massage at Massage Envy while I’m there. You see, we have more connections! That’s what this is all is about. It’s about connections.”

After another minute he moved onto others, playing a game of invisible catch with one young audience member and counseling a fellow comic who was having a rough, drunken night to name but two of his other interactions.

When the show was over, my brother and I agreed it was the most unorthodox, yet extraordinary set we’ve ever seen. It has stuck with me like few other performances I’ve ever seen, even to this day.

Brody Stevens was right about life being all about making connections. He was able to make a connection with every person who stayed in the room that night. It didn’t matter there was only 10 of us around at the end. It was something special to behold.

While I now am pretty much an open book to people who ask about my story, I wasn’t back then. I didn’t know how to deal with my issues in a public forum or what I should tell people. Brody Stevens was the first person who made me realize I didn’t need to be afraid to share my story.

It really made me sad to see that, according to reports, he’d told comics he’d pulled himself off of his meds not too long ago because it dulled his creativity. It clearly also reawakened the mental health demons he wrestled with. He hung himself on Friday, unable to cope any longer.

I was struck by how many very famous comedians told stories about Stevens in the day or two after his death on social media. Despite not making it to those levels of fame, he clearly entertained and touched those who did get lucky in a way few of their fellow comics can.

I’ll never get to see Brody Stevens perform a second time. I’m just grateful I got the first.

 

The 2018 Pornhub Statistics Should Scare the Hell Out of Everybody

Normally, I do a monthly “Your Alarming Porn Statistics for the Month” entry, but I worry those sometimes get buried and I don’t want this to go unnoticed as Pornhub, the most visited pornography site in the world, often appearing in the Top 10 of all websites for traffic in the world has released its 2018 statistics. They give a chilling testimony to just how fast pornography is growing.

First, let me say that while I don’t like what Pornhub does, they do have one of the most excellent analytics teams in the world when it comes to producing data sets. The statistician in me is glad they do such a good job illustrating the problem we have in front of us.

Here are just a handful of highlights from their 2018 numbers:

  • Pornhub’s visitors in 2018 went up more than 5 billion from 2017 to 33.5 billion people. That means 92 million people are visiting daily and Pornhub expects that number to exceed 100 million visitors per day by early 2019.
  • Pornhub saw 4.79 million new videos uploaded in 2018, or over 1 million hours of new content. If you watched for 24 hours a day without duplicating a single video, it would still take you over 114 years to view just the new content. In a single minute, over two hours of new content is being added to the site.
  • The top seven countries remained exactly the same in user rank, with United States, United Kingdom and India ranking in the Top 3, respectively. Interestingly enough, these are the three countries, in that order, that visit my website.
  • Of the top 20 countries that utilize Pornhub, only one saw a decrease in duration, South Africa. The United States was up four seconds to 10 minutes and 37 seconds. The Philippines leads the list with 13 minutes and 50 seconds. Throughout the world, the average was up by 14 seconds. In the United States, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama were the states that used the site the longest. Kansas, Nebraska, Washington DC and Utah were the shortest.
  • Women now make up 29% of Pornhub’s viewership worldwide. That’s an increase of 3 percentage points over last year, or about 12% more overall. The Philippines has the most female viewers, at 38%, while the US number is 28%.
  • The average Pornhub user is 35.5 years old. Only 22% of users are older than 45. Viewers 18-to-24 are actually down 3% from 2017 and now represent 26% of the total viewership. Conversely, viewers 25-to-34 are up by 3% to 35%. This means that 61% of all traffic on the world’s busiest porn site is under 34 years old. It’s unknown if children who view are not tabulated or lumped into the 18-to-24 age group.
  • Considering its young users, it’s not hard to understand that 71.6% of users access Pornhub with their telephone. That number is up by 8% in 2018. Less than 20% used a traditional desktop or laptop computer, down 18% from 2017. Porn is mobile.

I’m going to stop here, but their statistics go on and on and on. I don’t think it really matters who the most popular porn star was this year or what the most popular browser to utilize porn on people’s tablets might be.

I’m not going to give my analysis on every statistic, other than to state these numbers should scare the hell out of people. Young people use the internet. Young people use their phones and young people are reporting higher rates of PIED (porn-induced erectile dysfunction) and pornography addiction than ever before.

This starts with the porn. No, not every viewer is going to end up critical, much like not everybody who tastes a beer or places a bet on a game ends up an addict. The difference is that the populace as a whole is still greatly uneducated about pornography addiction. I truly believe it’s one thing to start smoking cigarettes, knowing what the potential health risks are to viewing pornography, which the vast majority of people still believe (while morally questionable) is relatively harmless.

As always, if you have a pornography addiction, seek help. Here are a few RESOURCES where you can begin.