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.

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?