The One Thought That Won’t Leave You Today

Ok I warned you, it’s not just a clickbait headline.

Set a 10-minute timer on your phone, then come back to this…

In the time you were away, there’s a 12-year-old kid with internet access somewhere who has just seen more hardcore sex acts than his ancestors did in their entire lifetime.

Have a good day.

The Horrible Truth of How I Ended Up Here

There’s been a lot of positive comments thrown in my direction lately, both here and on the podcasts I share my story. I know a bunch will come when my book comes out. I appreciate all of them and treat them not as fertilizer for my ego, but as an indicator that I’m doing the right thing now. I also realize they come from people who don’t actually know me in my everyday life, despite the fact I may share more here than anywhere else, and that helps keep things in perspective.

I’m going to share a story today that is honest, but may get your scorn instead of sympathy or admiration. I think that people forget just how I ended up here sometimes. It’s not a pleasant story, but it’s one that I have to retell myself every so often.

I shared a more graphic version of this in my first book. I’m going to tone it down quite a bit here and not talk about any specific incident in detail, but I thought it was time to come clean with my readers about what was going on in the weeks and months leading up to my arrest. Trigger warning, I guess. Scummy person warning, I’m sure of.

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After a 20+ year addiction to pornography, I made the fateful leap to the world of online chatrooms in mid-2013. My illness reached a critical point. Cross-addicted with alcohol, suffering the consequences of an ill-timed abandonment of my bipolar disorder medication, growing estranged from my family and watching my professional life begin to crumble, I let myself slide into a place of emotional, mental and physical disrepair unlike I’d experienced.

I told myself I was a victim of the world around me – a world conspiring on all fronts to take me down. As with so many other addictions, when what you’re doing isn’t meeting your self-soothing needs, you up the ante. I abandoned traditional online pornography sites for peer-to-peer webcam sites. This was when rock bottom started to get in sight.

These were not the traditional adult sites where one pays to talk to a stripper or “model.” The one I found was fairly simple: two random users connect via their webcams. If either doesn’t like what they see on their screen, they click “NEXT”.

Men outnumbered women 20-to-1. If you were going to get a woman to stop and talk to you, you’d better be handsome and have something fast to say, or in my case, type. I’ve never had a problem with a quick comment, but I wasn’t going to make the cut in the looks department. I looked as much the haggard late-30s failure as I felt.

Despite the site claiming to have over 40,000 people online at any given time, I noticed several of the same attractive men – the kind I bet women stopped for – popping up on my screen repeatedly. They were always in the same spot, wearing the same clothes, day-after-day. Something wasn’t right.

When the same buff guy bathed in orange light sitting against his couch appeared, I was able to get him to stop and tell me what was going on.

Whoever was actually on the other end of the computer explained I was watching a video. He couldn’t get women to stop to talk to him, so he found a video of a “hot dude” who appeared to be typing on his computer. He said women wouldn’t stop to talk to the real him, but he could probably get one out of five to stop now, and a quarter of those could be convinced to take their clothes off and/or perform a sexual act.

I found a video at a site containing these kinds of catfishing clips he directed me toward. A handsome guy in a white T-shirt and basketball shorts was laying on his bed, typing away. During the 14-minute video, he smiled, waved, made a peace symbol, laughed, pulled his shirt up to show his abs and took his shirt off completely. I isolated all of those moments into individual clips, including the main video, nine minutes of him typing into his laptop. I could play it on a loop for an hour without raising suspicion.

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I’m a project guy. I like to figure out how to get an idea off the ground, fine-tune it, and move on. My life at that point was more about being a fix-it guy, and I don’t play that role well. I was trying to save a business I’d long lost interest in. I was watching relationships with my family fall apart and had no idea how to salvage them. I was over-indulging in pornography and alcohol addictions I’d mostly been able to keep under control for two decades and it was taking a physical and mental toll. Instead of living a life where I was creating things, I was putting Band-Aids all over a balloon that was about to pop.

Then I found that website, learned how to manipulate a video and my warped, decaying mind found a new project. I’m a methodical worker. I experiment, analyze, experiment more, analyze again. I’d already cracked the hard part learning the technical end of being an online groomer. As somebody who interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of people in my years as a journalist, I had an above-average ability to read people and get them to talk. As a charismatic business owner, I had plenty of techniques to convince people to do what I needed. These are not good skills for a sick person with no sense of boundaries or consequences to possess.

I’d seen how the average guy on one of these sites operates. If they could get a woman to stop, within 30 seconds of talking to them, they’d tell the female to flash their breasts. I could never see how the low success rate of that strategy reaffirmed it as the go-to technique.

I think these are the guys who frequent strip clubs and don’t understand it’s a show. They believe all women are nymphomaniacs just waiting to be commanded to remove their clothes in everyday life. I wasn’t interested in stripper types, who put on a show for money or nymphos, who made things easy for the simpler guys.

I wanted to talk to average, everyday women (or at least as close as I could find on a peer-to-peer cam site) who would hit “NEXT” the moment a guy like that demanded nudity. I wanted to find a woman who believed she’d never do that kind of thing and then figure out the path to push her to get there.

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I still got the NEXT treatment from most women and of those who stopped, if they looked underage, couldn’t hold a conversation for more than three seconds, or immediately steered the conversation toward sex – an indicator that it was probably a video – I’d hit the NEXT button.

The women I wanted to manipulate were never going to comply with a direct request. Much like a sales call when I sold advertising at my magazine, I had to build rapport and trust before I could close. Treating these scenarios like business transactions and not viewing the females on the other end of the computer as people would have been a red flag for me at so many other points in my life. Short of a professional intervention, I don’t know what could have stopped my increasingly poor judgment. I just saw “right” and “wrong” as concepts others lived by, not me.

I claimed to be a struggling model, surviving only by working as a personal trainer. I said I didn’t like training buff guys because they intimidated me. I preferred average women because they were more “real.” Ironic, I guess. Instead of taking a scholarship for college, I wanted to see if I could be a model, which broke my parents’ hearts when I left high school since I graduated second in my class. I said I wasn’t making it as a model and was considering quitting and heading back home.

So, I’ve created a smart, good-looking guy who prefers average girls and is trying to follow his dream, but is getting discouraged…and hasn’t yet said a sexual word. For the kind of women in need of attention on a site like this, you couldn’t build a better guy. At least, I couldn’t.

I made a show of not wanting to share my personal information. Most of them had never encountered a guy who accused them of wanting too much personal information. Many of them would start blurting facts about themselves just to prove I could trust them. I felt so powerful, never appreciating how my sense of good judgment was disappearing more every day.

I could take whatever information they gave me and while we held a conversation on one part of my screen, I’d be figuring everything out I could about them on the other side. If I discovered a lot of photos on Instagram of them as a competitive show jumper, I would somehow introduce a reference to my sister loving horses. If there was a Facebook entry about the third anniversary of their grandmother’s death, I’d casually mention mine died a few weeks earlier, but I couldn’t go home for the funeral. Most people simply don’t realize how much information they share about themselves and how that can lead to a world of other information. How do you think psychics are able to be so accurate?

Inevitably, they’d ask about my modeling and want to see examples. I found a model on the Abercrombie & Fitch website with a passing resemblance. There was another on a lifeguard supplies site who could pass. All I had to do to find these was take a screen capture of the video I was using and drop it into Google Images. When a woman would ask, “Is that really you?” I’d talk about lighting and makeup and how I always look so much worse in real life. They’d uniformly tell me I was wrong.

Along the way, I’d gauge just how much my story was getting them to have feelings. If none were developing, I’d cut my losses and let them go. If I wasn’t successfully manipulating them, my diseased mind saw no reason to continue and I was on to the next, or if it was past 3 a.m. at the point, I’d call it a night. I needed to get my 2-3 hours of sleep before I faced the world that hated me, I told myself.

In November of 2013, a female who popped up on my screen that I told myself looked old enough turned out to be underage. As I did with all of the other women, I took a couple screen shots of her at the end of our session. They were trophies of my accomplishments, not used for sexual gratification, but used to convince myself I had some semblance of control in my life and could reach goals I set. It’s still hard for me understand how I could rationalize that night after night, but I guess there wasn’t a lot of rationalization going on then.

I was informed about her age when the police came knocking at my door in March 2014. They found my folder of “trophies” and were able to establish she was the only one underage. With the way I was thinking then, I probably got lucky, as much as it hurts to recognize that.

I’m at the six-year anniversary of talking to that girl. She’s in her early 20s somewhere now. I hope my transgression didn’t cause any lasting permanent damage. Nobody deserves to be taken advantage of that way, at any age.

My poor choices led me there. It was nobody’s fault except mine. My poor choices also led me here, to create this blog, give the interviews and write my books. Hopefully, at some point in the far future, the good I do in my life now will cosmically, karmically and in-actual-fact, outweigh the harm I did.

Scary, scary statistics: Trying to Explain the Amount of Porn on the Internet

Since the New England Patriots are in their bye week, which means I won’t be getting my weekend fill of statistical data to analyze, I thought it would be a good time for the monthly alarming porn statistics feature, and I found some especially crazy numbers this time around.

We all know that as far as information repository, the Internet is huge, but much like outer space, we don’t think about how huge because we just don’t utilize numbers that big in our everyday life. Also, just like space, we know it’s constantly growing, but rarely stop to recognize how quickly this thing is expanding.

These statistics come from a compendium released by Josh McDowell Ministry in 2018. The executive summary of the report is available via PDF if you click HERE.

Over the last 20 years, how has Internet pornography grown?

1998 – 14 million pages
2003 – 260 million pages
2010 – 500 million pages
2012 – 980 million pages
2018 – 2.3 billion pages

What’s really the difference between 2.3 billion and 14 million? It’s 164 times bigger. With the exception of social media, I couldn’t find any industry that has grown that much in 20 years. In 2018, the world population passed 7.5 billion. Basically, that means there is a page of pornography on the Internet for every third person on this planet.

Imagine if there was one place to buy alcohol in the city you live in currently. Then you move away for 20 years and come back. Suddenly there are 164 places. What conclusions would reach about the last two decades?

This report tries to drive home just how much porn 2.3 billion pages truly is:

It’s 3,110,400,000 gigabytes. Again, too big, right? What does that really look like? I did some math. If you took the average $5 32-megabyte flash drive, you’d need about 105 billion of those flash drives. Still too big?

Maybe it can be simplified. If you printed out each web page onto a typical sheet of paper, it would result in 201 trillion pieces of paper. If you asked someone to count those pages, it would take over 100 million years. Birds were just starting to emerge as a thriving species of animal 100 million years ago. Still too big?

Here’s an easier way to think about it. Remember those 4-drawer filing cabinets that you’d see in your teacher’s classroom or at the doctor’s office before everything went digital. Well, if you put those pieces of paper that you printed out the pornographic Internet onto in 2018, you’d be able to fill 20.1 billion of those cabinets. Wait, that’s still too big.

That really didn’t help. Maybe I can explain it.

Time to try to figure out how to explain this on my own. According to Google, the average tree (whatever that means) can be harvested for 15,000 sheets of paper. Doing that math, you’d need to harvest 13.4 billion trees to print out the pornographic Internet. There are 6.5 billion trees in New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island), the heaviest forested region of the United States. The pornographic Internet could kill them all twice….plus still need enough paper to kill all of New York City’s trees 80 times.

OK, I failed. I can’t explain it. I can’t put into our normal everyday terms just how much pornography is on the Internet in a way we can easily digest it. But then again, maybe we’re not supposed to be able to fathom its largeness. Maybe that should be the red flag that finally causes society to stop and not only ask why is Internet pornography so vast, but what is it doing to people?

I don’t have all the answers. I barely have any ideas. But I think these numbers need to be known by everybody.

 

 

Q&A Time: Did My Porn Addiction Cause My Daughter to Become a Cam Girl?

Warning: This Q&A could possibly cause a trigger to a recovering addict, especially if they enjoyed cam sites. 

QUESTION I’m a porn addict, I admit it. I’m trying to control it but after 30 years, I’ve kind of just come to live with it. Some days are better than others. This is a strange question, but I have no idea where else to ask. I discovered that my 23-year-old daughter is doing webcam shows, and yes I discovered it the worst way possible by stumbling upon it. She has a lot of followers so I think she has been doing it for a long time. Do I tell her I know she’s doing this? Do you think she’s doing this because of my porn addiction?

ANSWER This is by far the most out-of-the-box question I’ve ever had. I’m not even sure it really has to do with porn addiction, but it stuck with me since it came as part of a longer email. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s take it a step at a time.

If nothing else ever changes about this situation, the first thing to do is NEVER to go back to that website. Obviously, try to quit porn. If you know this site, you know I’m going to tell you to see a therapist. You may want to see a therapist because of this situation anyway. If you need cam sites, you can find webcams elsewhere. I’m hoping you saw her and quickly clicked away. Do not go back to that site. If you feel a pull to that site and to God forbid, watch your daughter, you need to get help immediately, regardless of whatever she’s doing. Something beyond porn addiction is happening at that point, but hopefully that’s not the case.

Jumping to your last question, it’s impossible for me to say if she’s doing this because of anything that happened in your home. You don’t mention if she still lives with you and is doing these broadcasts from your home, nor do you mention anything about her upbringing. Anecdotally, I’ve heard first-person stories of a lot of women who became porn stars, or even just Playboy centerfolds, talk about those kinds of magazines being around the house when they were young and finding the women beautiful. I wonder if they really found them beautiful or they were reacting to their fathers finding those women beautiful. Either way, we now know that exposure to pornography sexualizes a child at a young age and for a brain that is still in the formative years of development, it can certainly create sexual attitudes unlike their peers.

As for telling her, what’s the goal? Shame her into stopping? As the father of a 20-year-old woman/little girl, I certainly wouldn’t want her getting naked and performing for people on camera, but I would fear that telling her that I know she’s doing it would cause a rift that may never be fixed. I know after telling her the next question would be, “And how do you know?” Do you want to answer that question?

The other reality is that if she’s living on her own, supporting herself, there’s probably almost no leverage you have to make her stop. Legally, she’s an adult. She can make her own choices. It sounds like you don’t know exactly why she’s doing this. Realistically, there are women who strip to put themselves through med school and there are women who strip because they are hypersexual and have legitimate issues. I can’t tell you which side of that pendulum she swings toward.

I think I’d casually offer to pay for her to get therapy by saying something like, “I was reading that a lot of parents are paying for their kids to be in therapy in their early 20s because making the transition to adulthood is tougher than ever. I wish I would have had a therapist when I was young. I’d be happy to pay for you to have someone to talk to if that ever interests you.”

And, then, you hope that they talk about the cam stuff, because I really don’t think you’re in a position to say anything.

I’ve got to admit, this is the one of the toughest questions I’ve ever had to answer…does anybody else have good ideas for this guy?

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

It’s Time to Admit the Reasons We Tell People to Stay Away From Porn Aren’t Working

I use Einstein’s definition of insanity too many times on this blog because it explain the frustration I feel with a lot of people’s attitudes and actions toward pornography and pornography addiction. I’ve never made my fight against pornography itself because I think it diverts attention from education, but it seems a correlation could be made if people were effectively dissuaded from using pornography, there would be less pornography addicts.

The problem is that our current list of reasons for urging people to stay away from pornography are ineffective. I’m not saying that they aren’t valid reasons – they almost always are. They aren’t scare tactics, which don’t play well with most, but well-reasoned rationalizations for putting down the porn. And none of them work.

I recall about 15 years ago, fast food restaurants were forced to put the calorie content on all of their menus by the FDA, with the belief if we only knew how bad it was for us, we’d stop. Yeah, that didn’t work. People knew fast food wasn’t quality food. In fact, fast food revenues exploded with the invention of the value menus with popular items for $1 or $2. People didn’t want healthy, they wanted cheap. It’s the same story with porn. If you’re paying money for porn these days, you’re doing it wrong. I think most people see it as junk food for the brain. It’s not healthy, but it’s not going to create lasting damage. Our standards reasons to stay away don’t combat that attitude effectively.

Why don’t our go-to reasons for staying away from porn work? I think I’ve figured most of them out:

The actors and actresses are exploited, don’t want to be there and had bad childhoods – All of this may be true, but has it stopped a single person from watching pornography? I think on some level everybody who watches porn understands its very essence is about the exploitation of the human body. As for not wanting to be there, I recently wrote a blog for a freelance client where I had to dig up statistics on job dissatisfaction in white-collar corporate America. Depending on the study, it ranged from 70% to 85%, so nobody likes their job.  As for having bad childhoods and still needing to seek out work, that isn’t a porn-exclusive thing either. I think when most people look at porn, they’re just not thinking about the poor professional conditions because they have to live with those conditions themselves and most would rather be having sex with beautiful people in pretty places than washing dishes at Buffalo Wild Wings.

It’s not realistic and doesn’t depict love – There have been a million and one studies on why people look at porn and one of the top two or three reasons, usually the top reason, is that it is an escape. People understand it’s not realistic because they only have to look to their own lives to reach that conclusion. I don’t think pizza guys and tennis instructors get into those vocations because they see a lot of sex in porno movies for guys in those industries. How many people would want to watch porn if it was people who looked like them doing things that they do? When it comes to love, I don’t think people turn to porn. If they want to see love, there’s a whole Hallmark Channel showing a slightly different version of the same Christmas movie for the next two months.

It’s going to rot your brain – For addicts, it actually does change the brain chemistry, but by that point, any standard reason to not use doesn’t work. I think that we’re told that so many things in this world are going to rot our brains and it simply doesn’t, and most people know that. First, you had people claiming rock music would make us all miscreants and Satanists. Didn’t happen. Then, kids raised on video games would all be prone to violent outbursts. Proven untrue. Porn certainly isn’t good for your brain, but enough people walk away without permanent scarring – or we’re still not talking about that scarring – that this argument falls on deaf ears for lack of proof.

Looking at porn brings you further away from God – I’m guessing this might work on some very devout people, but data would suggest otherwise. Two of the four fastest growing consumer groups of porn are members of the Roman Catholic Church and LDS Church and those who work in service of god (rabbis, priests, reverends) all report higher-than-average porn usage rates. This doesn’t even take into account that there are a lot of people who don’t believe in God or that he doesn’t play an active role in the consequences of their decision making. I have no hard statistics other than my own experience, but I bet 75% of the blogs I find on WordPress that talk about recovery from porn addiction give a lot of credit to God, but threats of the almighty fall on deaf ears prior.

I wish I had some great new techniques and solutions. I think most of the solutions are going to come from talking to our kids while they are young and informing them about the potential physical and mental dangers of taking porn use too far. We can argue whether that has or hasn’t worked with drugs and alcohol, but I think everybody who has a kid that is clean is thankful they said something.

We can keep repeating the standard “evils of pornography” list and while they certainly are valid, they are also ineffective. It’s tough to admit that, but the sooner we do, the sooner people far smarter than I can work to develop the new techniques and solutions we so desperately need.