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.

Your Alarming Porn Statistic For June

We all know porn is huge on the Internet, but with all of the percentages and millions of people doing this or that, it’s easy to just let those numbers fly by. I stumbled upon a fascinating website that ranks the popularity of the Top 50 websites in the world.

Based on statistics that came out on May 1 this year, The Top 5 are exactly what you’d expect: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo. Odds are you use one or more of those sites every day.

So what are the next three most popular websites in the United States? Pornhub, Xnxx and XVideos – all sites that deal ONLY in pornography.

That means that there are three porn sites that are individually more popular than Ebay, Twitter, Wikipedia, Reddit or Instagram.

Think about that for a second. All of those people you see taking selfies and posting them to Instagram or who say “I gotta retweet this”… well there are even more people than that at home watching porn, with a decent percentage getting addicted.

Another site, XHamster, ranks at No. 17, just above Netflix. That’s right. There are four sites that stream pornography that are more popular than Netflix.

Four of the Top 20 websites in the world are nothing but pornography. When you see a list of popular websites, and there isn’t any porn on it, know that whoever is presenting it is ignoring the porn and call them out on it. Ignoring the porn is how we got here.

Getting Trivial Things Off My Chest – May Edition

I suppose I can announce it here, or maybe it’s not an announcement…not sure how to qualify it. For the last two months I’ve been working on a book proposal with a licensed marriage and family therapist in California who specializes in sex and porn addiction issues. The book is geared toward the partner or significant other of a porn addict who doesn’t know what to do with the revelation the have an addict in their life. This past week we started shopping it to agents. I forgot how much I hate this demeaning part of the process. I imagine it’s what a young actor feels like going to audition after audition. There’s rarely any constructive feedback, usually just flat-out rejection, or they never get back to you. Not sure which one is the rudest. I don’t know if we’ll get an agent this time out because it’s still a very new genre and most agents only make 15%. You’ve got to sell a lot of books to make that worth an agent’s time. I didn’t get an agent on my first book, eventually finding a small indie publisher who liked the idea. I feel better about our chances in that market, but it’s one of those things where if I don’t at least try to get an agent, I’ll never know what could have been.

In case you didn’t read my last entry, I finally decided to start offering porn addiction peer support and advice services. I have just been spending too much time in the last few months giving out a ton of free advice and letting that cut into the time I usually spend bringing money in with freelance writing. Hopefully this will be the best of both worlds. It’s one of those things where a lot of people have told me it’s a good idea, but who knows if it will actually develop into anything. At least I don’t have to feel as guilty not spending two hours every morning not making money. Add up a week of that and you lose more than one of my average work days.

When I finally took a Myers Briggs Test at my second rehab, I had an even score in two of the four areas. The test administrator said she’d only seen that before two or three times. When we had to divide into groups multiple times to discuss the results, she always told me, “Just do whatever you want.” I think that was a big part of what got me there. Anyway, I think there’s a duality in me that creates these kinds of situations. Long story short, I hear “Yanny” and “Laurel.”

Since I’m trying to focus on getting the new book together and opportunities that may arise from the peer support/counseling I’m offering, I’ve made the decision to stop actively promoting my current book. It’s been out for four months and has already far exceeded what I expected to sell for the year. I don’t want to be one of those people in four years who is still hanging his hat on the fact he once wrote a book. I’ll still do podcasts and stuff if I’m asked, but in an effort to be more aware of my time and what it’s worth, I need to look to future plans, not past ones.

The WorldCat library cataloging system says that my book is at Philadelphia’s public library. But I go to their site and can’t find it. City of Brotherly Love? Really? At least there’s 130 other libraries that do have it. Here’s an easy LINK to the page that lists all the libraries. And if you don’t see yours, loudly complain to your local library. That $2.20 royalty isn’t just going to make itself. Gee, maybe I’m not totally done promoting it.

There is meaning to life…no matter how bad it may get

When one is an addict, porn or otherwise, and hits rock bottom, some dark questions about mortality can emerge. Is there meaning to life? Yes, there is. But don’t try too hard to figure out the finer details. Like the concepts of infinity, the universe and God, I don’t believe the human mind is evolutionally equipped to understand the concept.

If there wasn’t a meaning to life, why wouldn’t more people try to kill themselves?

The suicide rates for the five-year periods between 1910-1915 and 1929-1934 were just over 16 people per 100,000. These are the highs of American history. Since 1945, it’s never gone much above 13 per 100,000…nor has it dipped below 10 according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Based on that, it’s pretty safe to say that when you’re only talking about 10-16 people out of 100,000, you’re talking a tiny, tiny minority. Clearly, it’s not hard-wired into our DNA to kill ourselves. It doesn’t rise significantly during times of war, bad economies or poor leadership. Conversely, the rate doesn’t drop much during times of prosperity and great peace. It is what it is.

For those people who say there is a difference between a meaning to life and a survival instinct of a life, I think you’re wrong. If there was no meaning, there would be no survival instinct. Things will get better, things will get worse…yet only 10-16 people out of 100,000 will choose to end their life in a given year.

 

Why? Because life has meaning. Even if you’re an alcoholic who ran over a child or a drug addict with no job. You could have gambled away your life savings or eaten your way to 600 pounds. You’re still here. There’s a reason.

But it’s not exactly survival instinct. Our bodies know when to give up and stop working.  You can witness that in a hospital every day. Sure, we have so many cries for help, but so few actual cases of suicide. You’ve got to really, really be out on that ledge to make the jump. I like to believe that those people who do kill themselves were just as terminal as a cancer patient and knew there was no coming back.

I think people are actually asking a series of questions when they ask if there is meaning to life. I think it is more about wanting reassurance they are not a mistake, that they have value and a genuine concern how to make a difference in the time they are given.

While not all of us were part of our biological parents’ plans, you are not a mistake. Your female parent had many eggs over the years. Yours was a strong one. Your male parent had billions of sperm through the years. The one that made you was a fighter. The odds of that particular egg in that particular person meeting with that particular sperm in that particular person are not calculable…especially if one of your parents was a giant whore. Isn’t there meaning in simply beating those kinds of odds? It’s like winning a lottery of lotteries of lotteries. The math behind you simply being here is astonishing.

I don’t know if life is supposed to be about helping others or advancing humanity. For some it’s about wealth acquisition and the conquering of power. In a vacuum, neither is right or wrong.

I believe I’m here for some reason, but I don’t think I necessarily ever need to get the fortune cookie that tells me what it is. For a long time, I looked for definite answers, but I don’t think the meaning of my life needs one. Just the fact there is meaning…is meaning enough.

Creating an environment to address concerns you have with someone else’s pornography use

Over the last few months I’ve talked to a lot of people about pornography addiction and I get a lot of the same questions over and over. That’s OK, it shows they are the most important. Ironically, the two most popular questions have the same answer. They are: “How do I approach someone about the fact I think they have a porn addiction?” and “How do I talk to my kids about pornography?”

I think the words you use are secondary to the conditions you create. You know the person that you’re talking to better than me, so you probably can figure out how to actually say the words. It’s like firing somebody. Theoretically, we can all do it, but no matter how much you prepare, you don’t always know what’s going to come out of your mouth and how the other person will react.

The two conditions that will allow the most favorable outcome are:

  1. Create a judgment-free zone: We all have our opinions, biases, likes, dislikes, stereotypes, fears, political views, etc. None of these are important as part of this conversation. Telling a child they are naughty if they look at “dirty” pictures or your brother that you “don’t understand how they can look at that smut” may be two things you absolutely believe, but all they will hear is, “I don’t approve of your actions.” It’s OK to not approve of their actions, but if you’re trying to have a conversation, removing your condemnation in the moment is important.
  2. Create a safe space for dialogue: Kids want advice and guidance. Addicts want to know you care. If either feels threatened, you’ll be giving a soliloquy, not having a conversation. A good rule for any conversation that may be stressful or you may worry will become combative is to first establish common ground. When the other person feels like you’re on their side, it becomes safer to share information.

The sooner we start working pornography into the “beware of drugs, strangers and look both ways before crossing the street” speech that parents should give their kids, the sooner we’ll be raising a generation who understands the negative power of pornography. The sooner we’re able to address those who have pornography addiction as concerned onlookers, the sooner we’ll be removing the stigma from what is an illness, not an act of moral repugnance.

We need to start talking about pornography addiction as a society, but we also need to do it the right way.

Are people inherently good or bad?

Neither. People just are. Social norms, acceptable behavior, laws and regulations all change over time. The behavior of someone in Year 317 or 1317 may seem to stand in stark contrast to behavior labeled as acceptable today. Were those people bad and didn’t know better? If we’re so advanced, will people in 500 or 1000 years look at us as immoral cretins?

When I was arrested and charged with possession of underage pornography, I went from a “good” person to “bad” person in the blink of an eye for many people. Nothing else mattered. I wonder if in revising their opinion, they decided I was secretly bad prior or was it just that now they knew a piece of information about me, it eliminated everything I’d accumulated in the good column?

One of the more interesting evolutionary traits of humans (and I’m talking over millions of years, not hundreds) is the increasing need for order, averages and the status quo. We crave to know where to set the bar when it comes to every product, behavior or thought we produce or consume.

People are neither inherently good or inherently bad. People are inherently fearful. They are scared that they will fall outside of their desired norm – and that’s even true of the most alternative anarchist. We go with the crowd, even if that crowd is a minority.

When people are looking through their black and white lenses because shades of gray are scary, I’m reminded of the oft-used phrase, “Hitler loved his dogs.” Can somebody be pure evil if they still love dogs? If the person who is the gold standard of evil has a soft spot for puppies is anybody 100% bad?

Well, no and nobody is 100% good, because again, those are labels that I’m using with my own unique definition. You have your own definition. Hitler existed. His behavior has never been accepted as OK. But what if the Nazis won? There’s a good chance we’d be living in a world that looked back on Hitler through very different eyes and reached a very different conclusion about his place in history.

When I was arrested and convicted for my crime, I know that many people took an eraser to all of the things I had ever done that were seen as good. I raised tens of thousands of dollars for and brought awareness to plenty of local causes. I regularly volunteered my time or donated advertising space in my magazine. I made dozens of filmmakers’ dreams come true with the film festival I ran for three years. I’m not going to run through a list, but I went from being a “good” person in many people’s eyes to a “bad” person because the one act of convincing a teenage girl to masturbate online trumps everything else I’ve ever done.

Should it? It’s not up for me to decide. I accept and live with the punishment I was given. I’ve come to understand what happened and for me, it takes place beyond good and bad. It was more an issue of sick vs. healthy. But I can’t stop people from viewing me as bad.

People are not one-dimensional enough at their core to be inherently anything. Labeling and stereotyping makes things easy. I think it was George Carlin who said something like, “There’s no reason for sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. If you just take a few minutes to get to know somebody, you’ll have legitimate reasons not to like them!”

I want people to like me and I want to feel like I’m contributing something to society. I think I achieved it in my life prior to my arrest. I want to be seen as good. With what I did, that may never happen for a vast majority, even if I find the cure for cancer.

What’s important for my recovery is that I know that I once had the capacity to do things that most people could not. I was very sick when I made the decision to talk to women in online chat rooms. Even most sick people don’t do that. Then I made the decision to urge several to take off their clothes. Even more sick people don’t do that. Then I ignored the fact that there were females who might not have yet reached the age of 18, but continued the behavior. We’re now getting into a small number of sick people…but it’s what I was capable of, sick or not.

Does the fact I have the capacity to sink this low make me inherently bad? I think statistics suggest it makes me inherently rare and someone society correctly punished and has determined tabs should be kept on for a while.

There is no one-word, conditional-for-the-world-we-live-in-at-this-moment label that can apply to anyone. If we are inherently anything, it’s complex.

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