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.

Documentary Forced Me to Revisit My Use of Porn Movies in the 1990s

Despite taking two different medications for it, I will inevitably wake up in the middle of the night at least twice a week because of my acid reflux, or as I’m told it’s more correctly called, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Usually I’m forced to eat a popsicle and just sit up for an hour or two.

This happened over the weekend. When it happens during the week, I know what shows play in the middle of the night, so I don’t need to peruse the movie channels we have like HBO. On weekends, however, the schedule is all messed up and I usually end up flipping through the movie channels with the remote.

As I was going by, there was a woman in a white lab coat who didn’t quite look like a doctor saying something like, “It was a race to find Patient Zero.” I’m a fan of any epidemic or pandemic documentary, so I stopped.

Then it became quickly clear what this was about. In the late 1990s, adult films followed a trend of being very extreme with what was shown on screen. The industry had a very poor system for testing its workers for communicable disease and all of a sudden, women started testing positive with HIV. Ironically, the doctor who finally instituted a real testing system was a former adult star herself in the 1980s.

I clicked on the info button and found the documentary was called Porndemic and it was recently released.

I quickly asked myself if I should be watching the Showtime documentary. While I didn’t see any nudity in the first few minutes, it still was about pornography. I decided to give it a few more minutes and ended up watching one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in years that I think should be shown in rehabs, in every Sex Addict Anonymous meeting and to anybody who has a porn addiction.

It was the furthest thing from triggering. There was nothing sexy in this film. It profiled a bunch of sad, often mentally ill people who usually had a bunch of other issues, and showed what their reckless behavior and ignoring their own health (both physical and mental) can result in.

It wasn’t an indictment on the industry itself, and it certainly wasn’t designed to be an anti-porn documentary, but the interviews done recently with those people who were stars 20 years ago are borderline tragic.

Most look like they’ve aged 50 years, not 20. A good portion still clearly have issues they can’t deal with and almost all regret being part of the industry. I found these interviews to be more powerful than any anti-porn program I’ve seen. This documentary didn’t attack the industry, it just shows what happens when you’re a part of it.

The late 1990s was when I made the transition from the kind of films these actors were in to Internet pornography. I recognized some of the names and faces. It was actually heartbreaking to see what happened to them. Instead of ending up rich and happy, they’re living in trailer parks, now have dead end jobs and regret so much of what has happened in their lives.

These people turned to porn for escapism, the same reason I did. They were just on the other side of things, and we both ended up having porn radically and negatively affect our lives. We really weren’t all that different back then, and in some ways, even now.

While I wouldn’t want kids to watch this documentary, and it might be difficult if you’re just getting into recovery, I think this film is a power wake-up call to pull the curtain back from what you’re watching if you’re a porn addict. There is a stray body part here or there, but it’s clear the documentarians tried their best to keep it nudity-free.

Patient Zero is eventually found, but not until he infects five or six women. It’s such a sad and scuzzy story that it has evolved my outlook of porn and made it even worse than it previously has been.

I don’t like anti-porn documentaries because its usually crazy people screaming incoherently and that isn’t the way for me to get a message. Allowing these poor, broken souls to share their tales really struck me in the heart. Hearing directly from the people who were involved and where things stand now, it’s tragic in most cases. I think about all of the time I spent watching those movies 20 or 25 years ago with those exact people and feel like I was part of the problem for the first time. I think that’s a good wake-up call for me.

I didn’t care about the real people behind the naked bodies on screen. I didn’t want to think of their real lives when I was watching, just like I didn’t want to think about mine. Now here we all are, 20 years later, and porn destroyed so much for us, and so much of us.

Would anything have changed had I seen this documentary 20 years ago? I have a suspicion the answer could be “Yes.”

Porndemic could be a wake-up call for a lot of people.

 

We Need to Re-Examine the Sexual Offender Registry

Tomorrow is passport picture day. For most people, that’s only once every 10 years, but for me, it’s twice a year. As a registered sex offender, every time I have my quarterly check-in with the police, I have to bring a passport photo that is sent to the state capital to be posted online with my crime. Thankfully, CVS provides two passport photos, so there is only need to visit twice a year.

I’m not suggesting by this entry that I did not deserve to get punished for what I did. On the contrary, I took my sentencing like a man and do not get into the argument of if I received too much or too little time. The government decreed that six months and six days in county jail was appropriate for the crime of engaging a teenage girl in a sexual manager in an online chatroom, and I did the time.

I have no problem with the probation I was given, three years, despite the fact that both my lawyer and the state suggested I only have two years. I think the judge gave me a lighter jail sentence and longer probation as a trade-off. Whatever, that’s fine. I’ve got about eight months left and aside from signing a piece of paper and having a 30-second conversation once a month, it’s not that bad. I can certainly understand why it’s useful for drug criminals who need to submit to a urine test.

At the end of probation, though, those drug criminals aren’t tested anymore. They have served their time and they are free to live their life. Hopefully, they stay away from the substances that got them there, but as far as the criminal justice system is concerned, they’re free to move along.

Sex crimes are not treated the same. I’m not a law scholar by any means and I know the validity of the sexual offender registry has been tested in several states and always upheld, but I have a problem with serving my sentence, doing my probation time, yet still being on the hook for the rest of my life.

For me, there are two arguments against this.

First, is the fact that I’m not treated like any other criminal. I literally could have been convicted for manslaughter, done my time, and nobody follows me after probation. I could have been nailed selling drugs to teenage girls, but I’m not put on a list for the rest of my life of people who need to be watched. I could beat my wife and kids, do my time, and the law isn’t going to follow me once probation is over.

Something seems askew to me when people can commit crimes with tangible results that are just as bad, or worse, than mine, yet there is no criminal registry for what they have done. Once they are finished with probation, they are left alone.

Second, is the fact that I’m on the same list with violent sexual predators. I’m not suggesting my crime wasn’t heinous and severe. It absolutely was. I took advantage of a young person and who knows if my behavior scarred her for life. What I did was disgusting and wrong.

That said, I never put my hands on a child. I never forced a child to commit a sexual act on me, nor did I commit one on them. No violence, nor threat of violence came with my offense. There were also no threats made against her family, property or anything like that.

I have taken four risk assessment tests and questionnaires designed to determine if I am at a risk of reoffending. On three I ranked the lowest score possible. On the other, I didn’t even rank on the scale. I have taken two polygraphs about my sexual history and have passed both with flying colors.

Yet there I am, on a list next to a guy who repeatedly raped a four-year-old boy. On the other side of me in the list is a guy who raped a 9-year-old girl, did his time, got out of jail and promptly returned to the girl, now 14 and raped her again. I think I have the right to say that compared to me, on a spectrum of sexual offenses, these are violent and depraved criminals who committed acts that are nothing like mine if you’re looking for an even playing field.

In my opinion, I think my being on the same list as these violent predators is like being someone who once bought a bag of pot being next to an international drug smuggler on the same list or someone who stole a lady’s purse being put next to an armed bank robber. Yes, the offenses may officially fall under the same umbrella, but there is a world of difference between the two.

I know there are people out there who probably couldn’t get beyond the third paragraph of this and who think that I should have been put in jail for life. Sexual offenses illicit a strong response in people and its one area where both Democrat and Republican law makers are more than happy to add new laws to the books, even if they make no scientific or historical sense. It feels good to castigate sex offenders.

I’m not looking for pity, I’m looking for equal and appropriate treatment. I’m hoping that you can take whatever opinions you have of sexual offenders and somehow parse them, not putting all of us into the same box. Unfortunately, the registry doesn’t do this yet.

I did a rotten thing, but under our current way of punishing people, I think that I’m being held to a different, higher standard, and I don’t think that’s fair.

How to Get 13-Year-Old Boys to Stop Looking at So Much Porn

Whether during an interview or presentation, I’ve been asked dozens of times how we stop kids from getting hooked on porn. I’ve offered a rehearsed answer that sounded good, but in the back of my mind probably wouldn’t work. I didn’t know the answer. It wasn’t until I went back to being a kid in my mind that the solution became clear.

A Young Porn Addict in the Late ’80s

When I was 13 years old, about 30 years ago, the term “Internet” had not been coined yet, or if it had, it was only known by hardcore computer geeks who were inspired by Matthew Broderick in War Games. The Apple II computer in our house was useful for typing papers for my junior high school projects and playing games that didn’t quite measure up to our Atari.

The computer wasn’t an issue with my porn addiction, because there was no way to get it with a computer at that point.  It had been a few years since my first exposure to explicit pornographic magazines and I took every chance I could to watch late-night HBO if something looked especially “adult”. You could spot those movies when not only did it have an R rating and an N for nudity, but also had SSC for Strong Sexual Content. That was like a beacon for what I wanted and I don’t hesitate to say at 13, I was already a pornography addict.

The world of porn opened up to me that year because for the first time, I was able to get a video rental card at the local independent video store. This was long before Blockbuster wiped everyone else out. You either rented videos at the Mom and Pop places, like this one, or your local supermarket.

I’d been going to this video store with my parents for a couple years and saw the sign that said you had to be 16 to rent videos. One day that year, I wanted to see a WWF wrestling video, so I took it off the new release shelf and brought it over. I said I didn’t have a card to rent videos there. They gave me one without even asking my age. I still remember my member number: 3660.

It didn’t take long before a wrestling video became a PG-13 movie, then R, then a softcore porn video. Then I got brave, and went to the back of the store where they had a small room cordoned off with a couple of saloon-style swinging doors. I actually went underneath so nobody would hear the creaking of the doors opening.

They had binders with pages of cut-out box covers. You’d find a box cover you liked, then find the correspondingly numbered video on a nearby shelf. I picked one out, mixed it in with the other non-porn video or two I was renting and walked to the check-out counter like I owned the place.

“3-6-6-0,” I told the lady standing there. Like one of the Stepford Wives, she mindlessly punched in the number, picked up each video and punched in their corresponding number.

“Due back Wednesday,” she said for the hundredth time that day.

I always wondered if they were actually breaking any laws doing that. The movie theater wouldn’t let me see an R-rated movie under 17, and most convenience stores wouldn’t sell porn to people under 18, but were those in-house rules or were they laws, like the state had over liquor or cigarette purchases?

This was a massive day in my life because it was the first day I had an endless supply of pornography. No more waiting for HBO movies. No more hoping to catch the Playboy Channel unscramble briefly. No more buying magazines. I could have as much porn as my wallet would allow.

Introduction of the Internet

It was another five or six years before the Internet made it into my house. The World Wide Web, “browsing” or “surfing the ‘Net” were still a couple years away from American lexicon. After writing an article about local online Bulletin Board Services for the local newspaper, I decided to take the plunge and buy a modem. They were faster than ever before and everything I read said that we’d all be talking to each other soon enough.

Sure, you could spend two days downloading a video clip, or 20 minutes downloading a single picture, but the Internet of that day was not conducive to porn.

It took a couple of years and getting a few million more people online, but the technology caught up. For whatever reason, pornography and pro wrestling are always on the cutting edge of what’s available. I’m sure there’s a heck of a college thesis in that. If you want to know the latest in technology, just see what the smut peddlers and the fake fighters are doing.

Very early on, it became quickly clear to me that the Internet would replace VHS tapes (or maybe it was DVDs by that point). Five or six years after I first heard the siren’s song of the modem going online, Google arrived, ready to deliver anything my mind could conjure.

I recall having conversations about the sudden influx of unfettered access to pornography into people’s lives. Just 10 years earlier, you had to make the walk-of-shame from the magazine rack or the back room of the video store, and that was if you could pass for being old enough, or in my case, find an establishment that valued the dollar over the moral purity of a 13-year-old boy.

Even then it was clear that I was going to be part of the last generation to have to do any actual work to look at pornography. I had to ride my bike to the video store, about two miles each way, play the whole cat-and-mouse game of trying to act older (though they never denied me) and mixing in a mainstream movie or two. I had to hide the porn from my parents and make sure they wouldn’t catch me watching it.

Even in 1998, it was clear the way people viewed porn would be forever changed and it didn’t take a genius to understand the Clear Browser History button would be a 13-year-old’s best friend. You could look at anything your heart desired and nobody would ever find out.

I couldn’t imagine having been a 13-year-old boy in the age of the Internet.

I wrongly hypothesized that viewing porn was going to become a mundane activity. I saw the danger of getting my hands on porn and the potential of being caught as part of the intrigue. I was wrong. Take away the danger and intrigue and you’ve still got naked people doing naked things. I now know that will always be enough to draw people in.

A Pathetic History of Porn Education

Nobody talked about porn as a bad (or good) thing when I was a kid. Nobody talked about it except far right-wing politicians or religious zealots who always seemed detached from reality. Stories of going blind or hairy palms were ludicrous, yet preached by these groups. It was almost cartoon-like with its idiocy.

There was a blip in the late 80s and early 90s with groups like the Parents Television Council or the Parents Music Resource Council gaining a little bit of ground – that’s back when explicit lyric advisories were placed on CDs and TV shows started being rated. But they also talked about the dangers of violence in video games and Satanic lyrics in music, so again, their zealotry eliminated any actual common sense they occasional brought to the table.

These days, I don’t see porn as being the taboo subject it was when I was growing up, but I also don’t think it’s seen in a negative light nearly like it was. I’m not sure this is a good thing.

I’m guessing these days (where the average kid first sees porn at 11) there is no sense of danger or doing the wrong thing that there was back in my day. There are no more gatekeepers beyond a parent trying to put a filter on a computer – but those are easily skirted by anybody over 9, either in age or IQ. There is an unending supply of porn flowing to children through the Internet on their computers, tablets and telephones.

I don’t think we can stop it. I think it’s a fool’s errand to try. Our government’s war on drugs has proven they don’t have the resources and on a First Amendment basis, as a journalist, I don’t like barring people’s right to freedom of speech or expression. Even if I find it reprehensible, I’ll still defend the right to say it or do it.

I don’t think pornography will ever end. It just evolves. If you look at the history of Penthouse Magazine over the last 20 years, you’ll see most have turned their back on the pornographic magazine industry. Playboy even ran an experiment through much of 2016 with eliminating nudity from the magazine. They went back to it after few people bought the magazine sans skin.

Eventually, in our lifetime, there will be no Playboy or Penthouse magazines. This is no more a victory for anti-porn groups than when early man stopped drawing dirty pictures on the walls of the cave. It’s an evolution, not an extinction.

Let’s Teach the Boys About PIED

These days, there’s a fairly new medical diagnosis affecting young men: Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED). I’ve spoken to several professionals who have explained it to me. Basically, these men can get erections and reach orgasm if they are looking at porn. However, if they are in a real life situation, they simply can’t finish, if they can get erect at all.

If you suffer from PIED, you could have a Victoria’s Secret model as a girlfriend, but unless you’ve got pornography playing in the background, you’re not going to be able to perform to completion. It doesn’t matter how sexy or how crazy she gets.

I may sound insane, but I think this is the way to get to the 12- or 14-year-old boys who are starting to look at porn on a regular basis – aren’t yet addicts – and haven’t started having sex with partners yet, to pay attention.

We can decry porn as immoral, we can cast the actors as victims or we can pretend none of this is happening – those techniques haven’t helped one bit.

One of the only thing these young guys want more than porn is an actual girlfriend. Despite spending a fair amount of time looking at porn, I always wanted a girlfriend more than I wanted a magazine or video. When I was in my mid-to-late teens and finally engaging in sexual behavior, I realized I was right…it was always better than porn. Like most addicts, I didn’t turn to porn as a surrogate for sex as an adult. When it came to crossing the finish line, I always preferred my wife to a video on the computer.

At the same time that we’re teaching kids about the evils of drugs, or teaching them the birds and the bees, it might be a good time to talk about pornography addiction. Understanding the harm of drug addiction is easy. Understanding the potential harm of gambling or food is a little tougher for a young mind, but not a huge leap. Understanding there is any harm in looking at pictures or videos of naked people probably doesn’t register because it doesn’t seem like there are consequences.

While it will likely feel awkward for the educators and everybody is going to laugh when it’s brought up, I think the best defense we have to slowing the ever-growing numbers of porn addicts (1-in-3 men under 30 believes they may be addicted according to 2016 stats) is to teach the cause-and-effect nature of pornography with the effect being PIED.

If you tell a bunch of 13-year-old boys that in the next several years, when they’re finally able to convince real-life girls to engage in sexual behavior with them that they’ll look like a fool because they won’t be able to function normally, I think we may be surprised just how effective that information can be.

We can back it up with plenty of science and there are no shortage of first-person stories out there. Let these 13-year-old boys know that if they watch too much porn they are likely to not be able to have sex and you’ll see a lot of 13-year-old boys take a different approach to porn.

Right now, our warnings are too abstract, too easy to ignore, or simply meritless. Show them that they may be stuck with porn, alone, for the rest of their life and I have a feeling the Clear Browser History button is used less.

I never tried hard drugs because of what they could do to me. People scared me into staying away with the facts. I think we can use the facts and make a dent in these ridiculous numbers of young porn addicts we face today.