Porn is 100% Objectification of the Human Body… 100%, I Say!

I’m sure there’s something cool to see in Amsterdam, but beyond a long street and it’s offshoots known as De Wallen, I can’t recall much.

You see, De Wallen is Amsterdam’s Red Light District and as a 19- 21- and 22-year old, I didn’t spend much time doing anything in Amsterdam except drink a lot of alcohol and stumble in and out of strip clubs, live sex shows and hash bars.

If you read my stuff before, you know I’m an alcoholic, and there was nary a night back then when I didn’t finish without being double the legal intoxication limit. Today, I have negative thoughts about the legalization of marijuana, and I’d be a massive hypocrite to espouse them too loudly considering I probably smoked even more than I drank back then. So we’ll just leave those aspects of my Amsterdam excursions alone for now.

I’ve mentioned before that I hold no ill will toward the pornography industry. Trying to fight the industry seems pointless, especially since so much of it comes to us digitally from overseas companies. There’s no reason to fight Penthouse or Playboy…they’re imploding on their own, just like your local newspaper.

I’ve been working on a book with a brilliant therapist out of California, Tony Overbay, over the last several months. I’m hoping we’ll have it ready to shop around sometime in October, and that you’ll buy at least 5 copies.

One of the themes that we’ve been exploring — that I never gave a lot of thought to during recovery — is how pornography exists for the sole purpose of objectifying another person. When you think about it, unless you’re a biology teacher using it for demonstration purposes, that’s completely accurate. Nobody looks at porn and wonders how smart that naked lady is or if that naked guy recycles.

I Think I’m Turning Japanese/Big in Japan

Twenty years ago, I lived in Tokyo, Japan, for about five months. I was working for a newspaper called Stars and Stripes that went to armed service members in the Pacific Theater. I won’t tell the long version of the story, but suffice to say, a white, English-speaking 22-year-old who was half decent looking and open to new experiences can be very popular in Japan.

I ended up befriending several American baseball players who were over there. They liked to spend a lot of money and party hard after their games. Most of them were in their late 20s, still hoping some American team would come calling, or in their early 30s, understanding their best days were behind them and this was the last stop of their professional career. I think I served as a mascot of sorts for them. I had the combination of naive, deer-in-the-headlights fanboy and…nope, I was just an amusement to them, but that’s cool. I played my role.

The guys I knew played on the Nippon Ham Fighters. I still don’t know what that means, but I prefer to believe it’s not about engaging pigs in battle. When these guys were in town, it meant three-to-five days of non-stop partying and they always started at a strip club. They’d buy me plenty of private dances and have me run the tips for the girls from the table to the stage. I was kind of like a young Henry Hill in Goodfellas, but since it involved pro ballplayers and beautiful naked women, I obliged with a smile.

When I returned from Japan, I had a hankering for strip clubs. I’d never visited them in the northeast before, but after being treated like a VIP in Japan, it seemed like the kind of thing that would be cool to have a few miles from my home.

Born in the USA/Proud to Be An American

In Japan, I’d come in with the ballplayers, be immediately ushered to a VIP area and be doted on all night. It totally played to my need to feel special. I think the Dutch called it narcissism. Not sure what we call it here. I realized quickly that I had nothing to do with any of that special treatment when I got back to the US. Whereas the strip club in Japan was a 2-3 hour start to a night of fun, here it was the only destination, and I didn’t go with anybody else, much less millionaires who could play flipsies with their own baseball cards.

I only went to the strip club in Maine a couple of times. It was so pathetic. Instead of beautiful women from around the world in a well-kept place with a $50 cover charge, it had a $3 cover charge, looked like it had last been remodeled in 1978 and featured a bunch of average looking women wearing too much black eye makeup and sporting plenty of stretch marks and cellulite. Nothing against mothers or chunky gals, but the Japan club wouldn’t have employed any of them.

There was no VIP section and looking at the clientele, it wasn’t famous people and high rollers. At the Japanese club, I met members of the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs (who were in for an exhibition game), and members of the group Bon Jovi. I wasn’t even going to run into members of a Bon Jovi cover band at my local strip club.

The guys there were probably an average of 45 or 50 and just seemed beaten by life. The girls seemed beaten by life. The DJ was beaten by life, as were the bartenders, waitresses and guy who watched the front door. Seeing the women who would drag their feet across the stage under the guise of dancing, the whole thing was just sad. I didn’t want to objectify anyone here, but it still wasn’t for the right reasons.

I Can See Clearly Now/Redemption Song

I can see how someone would get addicted to going to strip clubs if the experience was always like mine was in Japan, but with the depressing scene in the Maine club, I would rather stay home and find porn on the computer. I think it’s been 18 or 19 years since I went to that strip club the last time.

It never occured to me that those were a form of pornography, but now that I think about it, I went there with the sole purpose of seeing good looking women naked. It’s also made me realize that aside from the chemicals I could put in my body, Amsterdam was little more than an exercise in extreme objectification with an in-flight movie. Watching people perform sex acts in front of me wasn’t about anything other than flicking the dopamine receptors in my brain.

I’m now starting to recognize just how much I objectified women (and men) in the past. Just because they are wearing bras and panties doesn’t mean the Victoria’s Secret catalog isn’t porn. If you’re not shopping for underwear, and barely notice the clothes, it’s porn. If you’re at a Hawaiian Tropic bikini contest, let’s be honest, you’re not there as an aficionado of low-SPF results.

If you’re watching a movie mostly because you’ve heard it’s sexy and had scenes that may appeal to your more prurient interests, how is that not porn? Why do you REALLY watch female (or male) Olympic beach volleyball? I highly doubt it’s your American pride, especially in those Brazil vs. Sweden matches.

I know that nature has built us to notice the attractive people. It’s part of the whole mating/furthering the species thing, but we’ve taken it to levels far beyond nature needs. We’ve always lived in a world where sex sells, and that’s not going to change, but how you personally analyze and view the world can evolve.

If you’re driving down the street and see a good looking person walking by, what thoughts go through your head? How long do you look at them? What body parts of theirs do you pay special attention to as you pass them? Do you slow down for a longer look?

I had a therapist at a rehab who once said that you’re allowed to think anything for three seconds because it’s involuntary, but beyond that, you’re making a cognitive decision to continue with the thought. That fourth second is conscious objectifying.

Where are you come the fourth second?

Proof of a Soul and What I Think Happens After We Die

In almost every support group or group therapy I’ve been a part of on my road to recovery, there always seems to be a few people who are preoccupied with dying. Despite the fact we’re there to talk about pornography addiction, they can’t stop quoting the Bible or babbling on about the afterlife. I guess that’s good, because it encouraged me to address what I think happens when we die, and if we really have souls at all.

The day after you die, the sun is going to rise, just as it did the day before you were born. People will go to their jobs, have their lunch, watch TV and go to bed. Somewhere around 99.9999% percent of the humans on the earth had no idea you were here when you were alive. Of those who did know you, very few will be significantly impacted over a long span of time by your demise, much like very few people’s death have significantly impacted you – despite what you may want others to believe and they want you to believe about them. People’s deaths are sad for a while, but few are truly impactful.

On that happy note, I think my lack of aversion to dying is a big part of the reason I never grasped onto the religion presented by parents as a child, nor a lot of the spirituality others found in alternatives when I was a young adult. I would have like a detailed breakdown of how the Universe operates, but I wasn’t going to go to church every Sunday nor harness the power of crystals to get me there.

When I looked around at church, I just saw a lot of people who were afraid of dying. I’m guessing it’s because they worried they’d go to Hell, but something in me never was willing to believe in Hell. I don’t think I ever really believed in Heaven. I just believed in “After”.

I never believed “After” was the place where all your friends are waiting for you and every pet you ever had is there to greet you. Even from a young age, it seemed like a story designed to make people feel better about dying.

I do believe in a spirit, and probably unsurprisingly to you, I was able to come to that acceptance having it explained to me scientifically. I was told that all of the body’s cells regenerate every 7-to-10 years. This isn’t exactly accurate, but the moral of the story is that we physically change and evolve constantly. There isn’t anything about your body that is the exact same as it was 10 years ago, and again 10 years ago before that. In the case of most cells, it’s a much shorter time span.

So, if somebody who is 50 years old has every cell in their body die and replaced many times in their life, how are they still essentially the same person? You can’t tear down a house, rebuild it with new supplies and say it’s the same house. It’s because houses don’t have souls or a spirit. I think that there is something in us that can’t currently be measured by science happening much deeper than a cellular level. How else are you the same person? There’s some sort of glue, some body energy, something that binds us through our changes.

Forensic scientists can tell you that we’re clinically dead when certain organs cease to function, but that things like skin cells and blood cells can remain alive long after your heart stopped beating. Your physical body does not die all at once. I think believing your soul or spiritual body dies in an instant is probably also wrong.

I don’t think our soul goes anywhere otherworldly. I think it stays here and dissipates over time like a dimming lightbulb…and that’s OK with me.

I also think that part of your spirit while you are alive is your influence. It’s your legacy. It’s the impact you’ve made on others. If not for my parents, I wouldn’t be here. If not for being raised by those two specific people, I wouldn’t be the specific person I am today. When they die, I’m still here with all of the traits, both inherited and learned, they provided. Their influence is slightly less in my children, and will be slightly less in my grandchildren. I don’t know what influence my great-great-great grandfather has in me, because he long dead before I got here, but I’m sure there’s a little something there. His spirit…his essence…lives on that way.

And yes, eventually, like the dimming lightbulb, after more generations arrive, his spirit will probably not be a part of family members any longer…and that’s OK with me.

For people who are afraid of dying, I guess the fear is that Hell will just suck forever. For those that don’t believe in Hell, I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe it’s the fear of the process of dying, like it will hurt, or a narcissistic belief their absence on earth will be felt much harder and deeper than it actually will. The people you know, even those close to you, will be able to go on without you.

I think part of the problem is that people associate some sort of consciousness to the state of being dead when it is the exact opposite. The total lack of consciousness is too scary, so we say things like “Doesn’t he look peaceful?” or “He would have liked this” to make ourselves feel better at a wake. Saying “He looks like he’s in agony” is just as accurate as the peaceful statement, but won’t play as well to the crowd around you. They need to believe that the transition into whatever is next isn’t fraught with peril, because they still have to make the journey. The only evidence they have to draw upon is the body in front of them at a wake. Interpreting it as peaceful is more for them than the person in the pine box.

I would love to believe that there is a state of conscious bliss after we leave this world. I really would. I think, like the family gathered around the casket, it would make me appear more peaceful. But I just can’t believe that. There has never been a shred of scientific support that we “go somewhere” when we die. Until there is, I’ll assume our soul stays here…and that’s OK with me.

I have a feeling the day after you die is a lot like the day before you were born. Find peace in knowing the sun will rise, people will eat their lunch, watch TV and go to bed. Be OK with that.

First Guest Blog: Google Trends Data Gives Insight Into US Addictions By State

Note from Josh: This is the first time I’m presenting a guest blogger. Aeden Smith-Ahearn approached me with some research he was working on and wondered if I’d like to share it. Upon looking at the map he’s created, I think he shows just how prevalent sex and porn addiction is in the US. I also think it’s important to point out all of the other addictions. This is really some fantastic work on his part and I hope you’ll enjoy it and be educated as much as I was.

 

By Aeden Smith-Ahearn

Addiction is on the rise, and with it comes a slew of problems that we seem unequipped to deal with. With the opioid epidemic being declared a public emergencyalcoholism on the rise, and pornography addiction still not being considered a “medical issue”,  it seems we have an overall problem that is being seriously overlooked.

In order to better understand this issue, and how it has permeated our society, we analyzed the data inside Google Trends to see just what addictions were concerning to modern Americans. We looked at this data on a state-by-state basis to find out which states were worried and educating themselves about which specific addictions.

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Here are some of our findings:

Pornography and Sex Addiction

By far the most prevalent and most searched for addictions fell in the pornography and sex addiction category. This is a growing problem, yet still not listed as an actual “disorder” by psychologists and medical professionals today.

(Note from Josh: This was written before the World Health Organization began listing sexual compulsivity disorder).

Sex addiction was more prevalent in the east, with pornography addiction trending more prevalently in the west. On the full scale, clearly American’s are worried about these addictions—given the massive search volume and popularity. Given this trend, is it only a matter of time before this problem gets too out of hand—if it hasn’t already?

Drug, Alcohol, and Opiate Addictions

With opiate and heroin related overdoses becoming a daily occurrence. News stories about drugs and alcohol are more prevalent than ever. Some states even showed trends regarding specific opiate medications, like Tramadol in Florida, or Vicodin in Michigan. Such specific trends get at the heart of the problem, with certain states having their own specific issues that are unique to them.

Nicotine and alcohol remain at large in the US as well, and work to further fuel other addictions. Rarely does one addiction come alone, but, often, one addiction leads to another in a cycle of behavior that is hard to eliminate.

Social Media and Internet Addictions

Apparently more prevalent in eastern states, the use of smartphones, addictions to social media, Facebook, and other Internet platforms are on the rise nationwide.

And because of the piggyback nature of addiction, we wonder if these simple, easy to access addictions are providing a basic neurological route that leads individuals down a path to much stronger addictions like drugs and pornography.

Food and Sugar Addictions

Overall health continues to get worse, and declining life expectancy in America is just one major signal of this bigger problem. Obesity and other issues continue to be a massive setback for the country. Food addictions are not making things easier, and many American’s are searching for education related to these addictions.

Are We Doing Enough?

The problem of addiction is very real. There is a conversation happening, and many are hoping this conversation leads to real change. However, many of these issues are new, and they come with very little real scientific understanding.

Change is happening, but is it happening fast enough? Are we doing enough? Are we creating the future for our children that will empower them?

Maybe time will tell. But let’s hope we are not leaving this problem up to chance. That seems like a poor approach to the significant problems at hand.

 

Aeden Smith-Ahearn is the content coordinator for Experience Ibogaine treatment centers. Aeden was a massive heroin addict for seven years and, ultimately, found sobriety through Ibogaine. He now spends his time writing, educating, and helping others find freedom from addiction through alternative treatment methods. 

MAJOR NEWS: Compulsive Sexual Behavior will now be labeled as ‘Mental Health Condition’ by World Health Organization

Yes, it will probably take another decade of studies until the DSM (the Bible of Psychiatric Diagnostics), accepts it as a diagnosis, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has just released its latest literature, The ICD-11 (11th version of the International Classification of Diseases) and compulsive sexual behavior is now listed as a diagnosable mental health condition.

This is actually a super huge deal.

Why is this so important? Because health professionals around the world treat this as one of the most important guides to diagnose physical and mental health issues. It’s also used by government agencies around the globe. The WHO is a well-respected organization with no political agenda.

If you’re reading this from the US, you’ll get this analogy: It would be like NBC (WHO) going on the air 10 minutes before everyone and announcing there was an earthquake. Ten minutes later ABC and CBS (DSM) would catch up. It’s akin to breaking news and now it will take a long time to understand what the real fallout is.

Unfortunately, many insurance agencies side with the DSM when it comes to these kind of things. I had to be processed into rehab with an impulse control disorder to have insurance cover my treatment. Even gambling addiction, which is recognized by the DSM, is still scoffed at as a legitimate diagnoses by many insurance companies.

While WHO came just short of calling this compulsive sexual behavior and addiction, it does define it as preoccupation to the point of obsession with and loss of control over sexual fantasy and behavior.

So the next time somebody says to you “Sex addiction isn’t real” or “Porn addiction isn’t real” you can punch them in the stomach and say, “Well Joshua Shea and the World Health Organization says it is!”

We now return you to Wheel of Fortune, already in progress….

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Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Good Friends Closer

I know I’m writing a bunch lately. Whatever the opposite of writer’s block is, I have it, and you’re the victim. One of the things that my 15-year-old son doesn’t seem at all interested in doing in life is creating or maintaining close friendships with other people. I guess it’s OK, but as somebody 27 years his elder, I worry that he’s going to come to regret it, especially if he finds himself with his back against the wall like I did when my pornography addiction was revealed in a very public way.

For those of you who follow this blog, forgive the next few sentences. You’ve read them too many times, but I’ve got to bring the newbies up to speed.

I was a prominent member of my community six years ago. I was the editor/publisher of a popular regional lifestyle magazine, was co-founder of a film festival that was finally getting national recognition and I’d just finished a term as a City Councilor where I lived.

I also had bipolar disorder, alcoholism and a porn addiction. Through a series of bad choices, I ended up engaging with a teenage girl online, convincing her to perform sexual acts on-screen. This is obviously illegal, I was arrested some months later in early 2014 and within an hour of my arrest it was the top story in Maine media and remained so for a few days. I ended up serving six months in jail for it in early 2016. I’ve been in recovery since April 1, 2014 with no relapses.

I was never the guy who formed deep bonds with people going back to my youth. I didn’t have a large group of friends. I had a large group of acquaintances in school. I had four or five good friends, but nobody rose to the “best friend” status.

I did a year of college in Rhode Island, made some friends, but never stayed in touch with them. Same thing happened at several work places I’ve had. I can be very, very close to you in November, but if you’re laid off in December, there’s a good chance we get together once in January and then never talk again. And for clarity’s sake, liking a photo of a “friend” on Facebook doesn’t count as friendship.

When I was running myself into the ground with the many full-time jobs (not to mention being a husband and father) six years ago, I thought I had more friends than I did. Since I had a big hand in the local media and the local government, I didn’t recognize exactly how many pretended they liked me much more than they ever did just to get my ear.

When I was arrested, about six people from that world of hundreds dropped messages to me on Facebook. When details – many that were incorrect – were in the media, even a few of those dropped by the wayside.

By the time sentencing rolled around in the first couple weeks of January 2016, I was left with two friends. Two. One had been around since 7th grade. The other was the ex-husband of a co-worker I met back in 2000 or 2001. Neither really had anything to do with the fast-paced life I created. They were around well before that time.

These two guys are not high-maintenance. We can go six days, six weeks or six months in between talking. It’s not a lot of effort to stay friends with them. It’s probably a big reason it worked.

I’ve reached out to a handful of other people who I thought I was closer with than most, but have received unanimous silence. When I see somebody in public who I know, I don’t go up to them out of courtesy and say hello. I allow them to come to me. Why create an awkward situation? I think people have said hello to me twice in 4½ years.

I understand there are a lot of things at play here. I was accused of a heinous crime, convicted on lesser charges and most people don’t know the actual details. I am probably more of a bogeyman in their eyes than is factually correct. If I am now just my crime, who wants to be friends with that crime?

I also understand many were never my friends. I do understand how friendships come and go while few stand the test of time. I thought that I had at least a half-dozen others out there that would last through everything.

I believe most people locally don’t actually despise me because of the crime. I think they despise the fact I presented myself as one thing while behind closed doors I was something else. I think there’s a level of betrayal there. If I were truly a monster incapable of change, I don’t think I would have sold any copies of my book or have been invited on so many radio shows and podcasts for interviews.

I have sold around 50 copies of my book locally. I was actually thinking I’d sell more, if for no reason other than people wanting to see if their name was in there. Honestly, I thought I’d sell a few hundred here. Thankfully, the higher-than-expected sales elsewhere made up for it and I’m still further ahead than expected.

I’ve not heard a review from anyone local other than my family. I wonder how many of my former “friends” have even read it.

The flip side of this is the idea that this is just part of my punishment. I shouldn’t be given a moment of pity over losing any friends I had and it’s all part of the package that comes with doing something as heinous as I did. I hope people recognize how much of the punishment and consequences of a crime don’t come from the legal system, but from society in general.

In the end though, I know it comes down to the fact I just wasn’t the kind of person who valued friendship for a lot of my life. I was content to let people go and I think because I gave off that vibe, others were content to let me go. I’m sure for many, I’m now just a guy they used to know.

I doubt my son is going to do anything as stupid as I did, but I worry that if he does, he’s going to have as little a support system outside of our family as I wound up having. I wouldn’t be this far along if it weren’t for my two friends, but I also wonder if I had four or five friends if I’d be even better off today. It’s one of those questions there is no answer for.

Cultivate friendships and nurture them. You’re going to be thankful they are there when you need them.

 

 

Hate pornography? Hate the porn industry? Work on education, not eradication

I wrote something about this last year, but in the last few radio/podcast interviews I’ve done, more from a “pornography addiction expert” angle than a “here’s my story of porn addiction” this subject has been coming up. Despite my experiences with it and the obvious effect it can have on people, I’m not really all that wrapped up in hating the pornography industry.

Let me preface this. I do hate illegal pornography. I hate that people are forced into porn for fear of their life with no choice. I hate children and animals being involved. I hate when porn crosses a line from “adult entertainment” to illegal activity. That’s not a sketchy industry though, it’s just sexual assault.

I know I’m supposed to hate all porn. My addiction to the stuff led me to a place where I crossed over into the illegal territory. Had I not looked at traditional porn for two decades, I probably never could have reached a place where I was live-chatting with someone who was underage. I completely recognize this.

But is that really the porn’s fault? Aren’t I the one who has to shoulder the blame for convincing a teenager to do sexual things on her computer screen, not the industry itself? Of course.

Do I wish there was no porn industry? Sure, why not. I also wish there were no weapons of mass destruction, 24-hour news stations, racist people and fish didn’t spoil so fast. Could I fight to change any of those things? Yes. Would I win? Not a chance.

I tend to be a socially liberal person and I think even a lot of “conservative” people are secretly socially liberal. They don’t want you to dictate what they can do with their life – they just haven’t quite worked out not telling you what to do with yours. I think for the most part, people want to be able to make their own choices and live with the consequences.

My mission has been to inform people about the potential consequences of looking at too much pornography. Porn addiction isn’t fun, but neither is my alcoholism. I’m not pushing for a new wave of prohibition. It wouldn’t work anyway, we’ve proven that.

I knew drinking could be harmful. I have alcoholics in my family generations before mine. I saw what happened. Teachers made it clear in school and my parents let me know that alcohol could be bad for me. I knew the potential outcome and I did it anyway. I find it hard to believe anybody I see with a cigarette dangling out of their mouth isn’t aware that ingesting toxic smoke isn’t good for your body.

I think it sucks that the porn industry has so many unhappy people working in it, but if you’ve ever walked into a call center or big box retail store, you’ll find plenty of people just as unhappy. You’ll find those employees getting high behind the building, repressing abusive memories and wondering what the point of life is while hoping things get better. Porn stars don’t have the market on workplace unhappiness. They just do it without their clothes.

I also think that we’ve proven working conditions of employees in any industry doesn’t matter to most people. People don’t want to know about the migrant workers who harvested their food or children who made their clothing in less-than-human conditions and when they find out, how many really change? I appreciate illumination of the plight of the porn star, but that’s not a tactic that’s going to change anything, otherwise it already would have.

Is porn unrealistic? Of course. But that’s like telling people professional wrestling is fake. It’s not a revelation, even to the most ardent fan. I’ve yet to meet a porn addict who strove for that lifestyle as a realistic alternative. It’s a place of escape. Sure, you’re get the fanatics, but that exists with everything. One man’s Comic-Con is another man’s Adult Video Expo.  I don’t think most people care about the secrets of the porn industry as if what they are watching is supposed to be a documentary but they’re being conned.

The anti-porn activists who advocate for a more accurate portrayal of human sexuality don’t seem to understand nobody wants to watch people who look like themselves having realistic sex. That’s like watching the unhappy big box retail store employee fumble through explaining the differences between LCD and Plasma big-screen TVs. It’s just awkward and you’re more confused when it’s finished than when you got there.

I could do nothing but sit in front of this computer churning out blogs all day about what I wish was different in the world. Some of those things may be affected if I put effort into it and some couldn’t, even if I devoted my life to the cause. People have been fighting the porn industry for a century. They’re not gaining any ground. Much like the war on drugs, maybe we need to take a different tactic. When your message and method falls on deaf ears, it’s time to evolve.

I think a free society is one that allows people to make their own decisions when it comes to their behavior, especially in situations where potential harm could exist. I think a healthy society is one that arms people with as much information as possible to make the best decisions. Now if we can only work on having a healthy and free society.

If people armed with the knowledge of consequences still wish to engage in behavior that can lead to negative consequences – and it’s not illegal – they’ve been warned. I think if I treated porn any different than cigarettes, greasy food, not using sunscreen or 100 other potentially harmful behaviors, I’d just be a hypocrite. The world already has enough of those.

My battle is against pornography addiction ignorance. That’s a fight I still believe I can impact. Will I win them all? Nope. But a baseball player who fails 7 out of 10 times is still a Hall of Fame candidate. I’ll just keep trying to make a difference and let free will guide others with the information I provide.