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.