Sorry Parents, You Can’t Porn-Proof Your Kids in 2020

My parents raised me to think that one sip of beer would lead me, minutes later, to the destitute life of a wino, laying in the gutter, hiccupping while holding a bottle like an alcoholic cat out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I was also told smoking cigarettes was gross and would give me almost immediate lung cancer. Marijuana would kill me. Pornography would turn me into a Peeping Tom pervert before the day was done and gambling was something only done by degenerate mobsters. Needless to say, I tried them all.

Once I recognized that one of their dire warnings was little more than hyperbole, I recognized all of their dire warnings were BS. It took me a while to become an alcoholic and I was always “functional.” Cigarettes and marijuana were used for years, and I quit both on my own. I still will occasionally visit a casino, but don’t think I’ve ever lost more than $50 in an evening. Losing more isn’t fun. And even with pornography, I never found myself hiding in anyone’s bushes or drilling holes in the wall of the girl’s locker room.

The message I got from my parents was ultimately, “None of this stuff is as bad as we said it was.” I know it’s not the message they want to send.

I appreciate all of the parents out there who want to stem the flow of pornography into their children’s lives. Whether it’s putting parental controls on the cable box, filtering programs on their computers or content blockers on their cell phones, their heart is in the right place – just like my parents’ hearts were.

My mother would lose it if HBO was on and a breast or a bare buttock came across the screen when I was a kid. We immediately had to change the channel, even if it was only something like the movie version of Romeo and Juliet from 1968 which they played all the time when I was a kid and had about two seconds of nudity. I could watch a show with all the swearing or violence I wanted, but the moment there was more skin than you could see at the beach, that show was over for me.

I don’t remember if she had any justification for it. I think it was mostly along the lines of, “Change the channel because I said so, I don’t want you seeing that kind of stuff.” For an inquisitive little kid like me, “Why don’t you want me to see that stuff?” is the question that swims in my head, but was smart enough not to ask. Her overreaction was curious. Clearly she didn’t want me to see any of that stuff.

But, around 11, my cousin showed me my first hardcore pornography magazines. At 13, a friend I met in middle school would invite me over to his dad’s house on weekends where the Playboy Channel was part of the cable package. At 14, I found a video store that would rent me porn.

What did all of these things have in common? My mom wasn’t aware of any of it. She still hasn’t read my first book, so I’m pretty sure she still doesn’t know about any of it.

She couldn’t porn-proof me and nothing has changed in 35 years. You can’t porn-proof your kids. You can remove every device in your home where the image of genitals could ever appear and all you’ve done is take care of one home in your neighborhood. Unless you’re living in a Little House on the Prairie world, it’s not even a drop in the bucket. A drop is better than nothing? Are you trying to convince me or you? I believe porn blockers are more for parents to give themselves peace of mind they are protecting their children more than anything else.

The average age a boy sees hardcore pornography these days is between 8 and 10. The average age a child gets a cell phone is 11. Let’s say that you buck the trend and your son doesn’t see porn between 8 and 10 and at 11, you gift him with one of those specialty phones like Gabb Wireless that keeps things like the Internet and photo texts off their device. Do you think every child your son interacts with has parents doing the same thing with their child?

My friend’s dad had no idea we were watching the Playmate of the Year Video Calendar for 1989 late at night on the TV in the basement. I’ve got to imagine they’re still making the same kind of content. And that doesn’t even begin to address the world of desktop, laptop and tablet computers. I have a feeling that before “Brush Your Teeth” to the end the night, the three words a teenage boy remembers most are “Clear Browser History.”

You can’t porn-proof your child and I’m not sure you should even try. What you need to do is talk to them about pornography. In a very age-appropriate manner, you need to tell them when they’re young that, like cigarettes or alcohol, pornography is something for adults and they aren’t to touch it. If they find any, or stumble upon it on their phone or computer, you won’t be mad at them and if a friend shows them, you just want to know about it. As they get older, you can get into more nuances of “that’s not depicting love or what sex is really like” and even a little older, especially for boys, you can talk about things like Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction.

I understand you love your kids and I understand you want to protect them, but shielding them instead of preparing them is not the best tactic, I am proof of that.

Healthy Sexuality is Very Different from Total Abstinence and Self Denial

I realize that one of the things I don’t talk enough about on this site is what healthy sexuality looks like. I try very hard not to be an anti-porn crusader because I think it’s a waste of time, flies in the face of my beliefs surrounding personal freedoms (for both producers and consumers) and it’s ultimately not the way that we get a handle on porn addiction in this world. If you want any proof that banning pornography would be a pointless waste of time and resources, read up a bit on how America tried to outlaw alcohol early in the 20th Century.

So, while a pornography-free life is the best choice for me, much like an alcohol-free life is the best choice for me, my battle is not with you looking at porn. My battle is with you not knowing that if there are certain factors already in place (childhood trauma, other addictions) you may be more susceptible to becoming a porn addict and the consequences that come with it.

Since sexuality is such a wide-ranging topic, I rarely delve into it beyond aspects of pornography addiction. I was not an intercourse addict, nor voyeurism or exhibitionism addict, so I can’t speak to those aspect of the umbrella “sex addiction.”

Outside the realm of addiction, I have learned a lot about sexuality, but to be honest, I’m not completely sure that there’s as strong a connection between being a sex addict and abnormal sexuality as experts think. Abnormal sexuality is a side effect of porn addiction, not a cause of it, much like I believe unhealthy eating habits are a side of effect of food addiction, not a cause of it. I think that there are people who can use pornography in unhealthy ways that don’t rise to the level of addiction, and I believe there are many people who see any use whatsoever as addiction.

In doing the research for my latest book, and in doing some marketing since, I spent a lot of time on blogs and in online forums, like those you’ll find here on WordPress or on Reddit, learning from female partners of porn addicts. Simply reading their stories taught me so much, and at least here on WordPress, you know who you are. Places like Reddit are a bit different. There are a lot of women who confuse their disgust of pornography with usage that rises to the level of an addict. Removing any moral argument of whether they should or not, is it possible for a man to look at pornography once, or look somewhat regularly without becoming an addict? Statistics, history and facts lead me to say yes. I’m not endorsing it, I’m just saying as a scientific fact, it seems like it’s possible.

Despite one being morally opposed to it, their partner may use it and not fit the definition of an addict. However, if that partner’s use is harming the relationship, and is causing a disturbance to their sex life, I would argue that it is an instance of unhealthy sexuality. If he removes the porn immediately, but nothing changes when it comes to this couple’s communication, aren’t they still living in a world of unhealthy sexuality?


Healthy sexuality is a very individual thing, and it’s something that needs to be defined as a unit if you’re part of a couple. My wife and I would never participate in BDSM or be part of swingers’ groups, but if you’re part of a couple that wants to do this, likes to do it and it has no negative bearing on your life, is it unhealthy just because it’s out of the mainstream? I don’t think so.

I think if what you’re doing sexually is legal, you enjoy it, feel it is a natural extension of how you express yourself, it doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself, you’re not forced into it, it doesn’t have a negative effect on your day-to-day life and you’re not forcing anybody else into it, then it really can’t be unhealthy, even if it’s outside of societal norms.

We judge so much of this world on what we feel is normal and average. I believe most people want to fall within the 40th and 60th percentile of almost everything so they can feel like part of the larger flock. One of the ways of being part of a majority is to rail against a minority. I really try not to do this when it comes to pornography.

I’ve mentioned on here before that there are anti-pornography arguments that have been spewed since the 1950s that clearly don’t work. If it’s anti-woman, why are more women watching than ever before? If it degrades its participants, why is it becoming a huge work-at-home industry? If it’s only for those on the fringes of society, why do statistics suggest that the majority of men under 60 watch? If it’s a sin, why are usage numbers by the religious higher than that of secular society?

I can apply a moral filter to viewing pornography, and for me personally, I have one now that I didn’t have before entering recovery. I know it’s not as strong as many people’s, but I also don’t scream and yell about it the way some do, yet then don’t apply that filter to themselves. My moral issues with pornography have nothing to do with the arguments I listed above, and I don’t make them part of my presentations and rarely talk about them here because they cloud my overall theme that education about pornography addiction needs to be happening in this world.

That education should be part of overall healthy sexuality for everyone because I believe with knowledge usually comes health. Beyond that education though, it’s not up to me to tell you what to do with it and it’s not up to me to determine what is sexually healthy for you or not. Would I ever watch porn with my wife? No. Is porn healthy to watch with your spouse? Well, statistics show that married couples who watch porn get divorced at higher rates than those who don’t. That said, there is truly not enough data that you can extrapolate watching porn together equals doomed marriage. Are there couples who watch porn together and have happy marriages. Yes. Their healthy sexuality is not mine, but it’s also not mine to judge or infringe upon.

If you’re asexual, you’re asexual. If you want to change your gender, or dress up like a different gender or whatever, that’s fine with me as long as it’s safe, legal and consensual. Be gay, or straight, or celibate… just be genuine to who you are in the healthiest way possible. Most people who try to eliminate sexuality as part of their life as a function of recovery end up in the camp of “sexual anorexia” which is just the other side of the spectrum of unhealthy sexuality.

I don’t talk a lot about healthy sexuality on this site because it looks different for every person out there. What you may see as one person’s repression is totally their comfort zone and vice versa. I’m not here to dictate to you what is healthy sexually within your life or your life as part of a couple. I’m here to say if pornography is part of it, it may lead to other problems, or it could exacerbate problems that already exist, as it did in my personal case. What I am here to say is that both of us need to continually define healthy sexuality in our own lives and continue to strive for it, without judging others.

Christians Need a New Strategy to Battle Pornography Addiction

One of the areas that I’ve been starting to focus on with my porn addiction education is podcasts and radio shows that have a spiritual or religious audience. Most of them are Christian, which is perfect, because the statistics around Christians who use pornography far outpace that of the secular world.

I was a leery to enter this space for a long time. I was raised Catholic, but don’t really subscribe to a lot of the doctrine and dogma. Watching from the sidelines for a couple of years though, most of the religious people who write about porn addiction are still using shame and God’s judgment as motivation to quit. That just doesn’t work. You can pray away addiction as effectively as you pray away cancer.

The rates of use among Christians is fairly staggering. Here are a few numbers from the Barna Group and Covenant Eyes:

  • 68% of men who attend church on a regular basis and 50% of pastors report viewing pornography on a regular basis. Among the 18 to 24-year-olds, it’s 76%
  • 87% of Christian women said they have watched pornography at least once.
  • 70% of youth pastors say they have had a teen tell them that they have a pornography issue in the last month.
  • 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issues to their congregation, while only 7% say their church has a program to help people struggling with pornography.

These are numbers that reflect a population that needs help. Both the clergy and the followers have been raised in an institution that preaches sexual sin is among the worst. Despite various forms of repentance is different denominations, it’s human nature not to admit the problem in the first place for fear of the fallout, embarrassment and shame.

For the Christian people out there struggling with pornography, if your church is unwilling or unequipped to help you, seek assistance outside. Simply because somebody doesn’t worship the same way that you do, or doesn’t worship at all, does not mean that they can’t help you overcome your personal demons.

Porn addiction does not make you a bad person. It makes you an ill person who can take the proper steps to get better. Having a strong faith and belief system will only be a plus in the process, but you can’t let that belief system be a hurdle to getting healthy.

If there is anything I can do to help any Christian or clergy member out there, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Q&A Time: What’s The First Advice You Can Give an Addict or Partner?

Note: I answered this question on Reddit today and it seemed like the perfect thing for a short Q&A on this site. I also liked the way she referenced my book. Big news coming about it very soon!

QUESTION: Given your experience, what is the likelihood of someone kicking this habit and if I decide to stay, what advice might you have to follow initially? I will get your book if I do decide to stay for the full advice.

ANSWER: I’ve never seen any actual statistics about recovery, but I have seen many men (and several women) successfully kick this habit. They all had the following in common:

  1. Every addict admitted they had a problem, decided they wanted to fix it and committed themselves to it.

  2. Every addict had a supportive partner. I truly believe partners need to learn the ins and outs of addiction to understand what the disease is on a scientific level. Once you understand, it’s easier to accept the fact it really has nothing to do with you, never did and never will.

  3. Every addict sought professional help. Addiction is a symptom of a bigger problem. With porn addiction, 90% to 94% of addicts have some kind of trauma in their background, wit 81% reporting sexual abuse as a child. Until the addict can figure out why they developed their addiction, it’s not deal with the root cause. That’s why I’m not a fan of the NoFap culture. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger wound.

  4. Every addict had some sort of fellowship. Be it a 12-step group (whether they followed diligently or not), group therapy, and online forum or another means, addicts need to talk to other addicts who are in recovery.

I hope this helps a little bit.

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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.

The Book Made it to No. 1!!!

I sold a few books over the weekend, although not as many as I had hoped. That’s OK. There’s still plenty to do in promotion and I feel good about getting the word out there. This is going to be a multi-month push to get into the right hands and the longer it lives on Amazon, the more likely it is to be discovered without any work on my part.

I mentioned in a post this weekend that it was important the book rise to the No. 1 spot at least once on the best-selling new sexual health recovery releases chart on Amazon and it happened! Big thanks to Try Not to Cry on My Rainbow for pushing us over the top late Saturday night.

Here are a few screen captures I grabbed of the moment:

Thank you to everyone who reposted my Friday article. And thank you to everyone not buying the banana blow job book.

Give them a listen

I know most people who frequent this site don’t listen to the podcast appearances I post, and that’s OK because most are me just telling a lot of the same stories over and over, and you’ve either already heard them or read versions of them here. I get it.

However, two new ones dropped over the weekend and I’m extremely proud of both of them. Neither are too long, either. I’d love if you would just throw one on in the background while you’re doing other things and let me know what you think.

Screen Shot 2019-12-01 at 12.18.03 PMFirst was Dr. Mark Goulston’s My Wakeup Call. This one so shook me to the core when we recorded it back in October, I wrote an entire entry on it the day after it happened. You can read about it HERE. Although Dr. Goulston may have a name you don’t recognize, he has sold over 500,000 books in his career and is more accomplished than I could ever hope to be. This 45-minute podcast is one of the most interesting discussions I’ve had. Click Here to take a listen.

 

 

FBTB 089 Joshua A. Shea Instagram (New)Then it was From Betrayal to Breakthrough with Dr. Debi Silber. Sometimes, when I know a show is only going to be a half-hour long, I worry that some of my more important messages are not going to get across. Often, the host will get lost in my personal story, missing the larger picture. Not only did that not happen with Dr. Silber, but we had a great discussion of having age-appropriate conversations with children about staying away from pornography. This is the podcast that I’d urge any parents to listen to who are worried about a world where kids get sexualized too young. Click Here to take a listen.

 

Other Random Stuff

I really need a new headshot. I’ve been using that one for two years now. I don’t look different, but I’m just getting sick of seeing this same one on all of the promotional material. I bet my wife never knew that a random picture she took on the steps of our home would be used so much. In the full version, my shirt is also wrinkled all to hell, but if you know me, that’s pretty typical. I put the shevel in disheveled.

Starting tomorrow I’ll go back to writing more traditional entries. I understand that’s what this site is about, although it’s ironic that I had great numbers over the weekend. That softened the block of lower sales. People were clearly venturing over here to take a look and in the grand scheme of things, the education I hope that I offer on this site is just as valuable as what you’ll find in the book.

And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t jam another opportunity to buy the book down your throat. You had all weekend to think about it. You feel bad you didn’t step up to the plate before now. You know it would be a nice donation to your church or local social agency that helps women or as a resource for your therapist. Click Here to Buy through Amazon.