A few days before my foray into the dark side of the internet abruptly (and appropriately) ended, New Year’s Eve came and went, and the next day The Toronto Star printed a front page picture of two teenagers enjoying a new year’s kiss. I guess it’s the kind of picture that sells holiday editions of newspapers. A cute couple. Puppy love. ‘Happy New Year’ hats.

 

It was then that it occurred to me that here was the one thing I wasn’t seeing on the internet. A guy and a girl – or if you prefer, a man and a woman – looking as though they were in love with each other. Or at least an expression of tenderness.

 

Many months later, I was on a more mainstream site that features the work of various photographers. One had posted a head-and-shoulders shot of a couple about to kiss. While there was nothing truly unique about the picture, it was well done. Within a few days, more than sixty people had posted comments about how much the picture meant to them. Why? Because it was refreshingly different from so much else that’s online.


I’m not saying that if you comb the images of the internet you can’t find pictures of couples in love; staring deeply into each other’s eyes. I’m saying that within the context of the ‘porn side’ of the internet, such images are nowhere to be found. This is surprising, because you would think that somewhere there would be webmasters whose mission is simply to promote the beauty of sexual love; to promote the sexual excitement that takes place when a man and woman discover the beauty of each other’s bodies; or some combination of the two. You’d think that somewhere out there, some cameraman snapped a picture of two people who were actually enjoying themselves. Instead, it seems you see nothing but sadness.

 

Look deeply into the eyes of the subjects of porn pictures, and you’ll see nothing but pain. Someone is exploiting someone else. Someone is enjoying a moment of pleasure at someone else’s expense. Whatever fantasies are being portrayed, the fantasy of mutual enjoyment is not one of them. Tenderness is not to be found. Devotion is certainly not to be found. And don’t even mention love.

 

Of course, all of this is in the event that you get to see two people at all. With so many younger subjects walking a fine line when it comes to age and legality, and so many seasoned porn actors dealing with disease, it’s unlikely that anybody is going to have a photographic library containing much in the way of artistic ‘couples’ shots. In the case of the younger subjects, there’s probably enough potential liability just taking the pictures without compounding it by having another subject also present in the shot. In the case of the so-called “professional” porn stars, years of that lifestyle has erased all expression off their faces; they are so visibly jaded that they wouldn’t even be able to “act” love.

 

So you end up with two kinds of pictures. The ones where one person is just using another person and it’s clearly about plumbing and only one individual’s pleasure, or the ones where there is one subject in the photograph, which suggests that in the western world, sex is often a solo activity.

 

It’s also interesting that in the majority of cases where there are two or more subjects in a shot that actually shows (or pretends to show) sexual activity, no matter how many people are in the photograph and no matter what the ratio is of male to female subjects, in the majority of cases the end result is deemed to be the servicing and satisfaction of the male. In a world where even the language used to describe sex is constructed to reflect male dominance, the guys get what they want.

 

The sexual gratification of women is usually shown as a solo activity. There is no sense of anything other than selfish acts either way. If you’re looking to see the beauty of sexual love online, or you’ve been duped into believing that’s the motivation for all those websites with naked people; forget it. It’s just not there to be found. Sex is about getting not about giving. Someone can be freed from the need to view the images online through outside coercion or an act of their own will, but how are they then to be reprogrammed in terms of their attitude toward sex? How, when and where can ‘love’ ever reenter the picture?

 

And as a message, this “missing message” – the absence of love — online is something that should concern us every bit as much as the other messages the pornography industry is promoting. As illustrated online, sex is at best purely recreational, at worst is about one person using another person for their pleasure.


In telling my own story, I’ve obviously gone down a different road than those who enter the internet’s dark side by way of chat rooms. I have no personal experience with it at all, though I stood at the “doorway” to several, but couldn’t bring myself to create the online alias needed to enter. I did visit a few forums however, so I get enough of what’s going on to understand it a little; and if you’ve ever posted a comment to a blog or news site, you’ve caught the essence of the technical side of this.

 

So even though this chapter is short, I wanted to give it special recognition because of the role that chat rooms and forums play in some people’s online experience. I’ve already stated for the record that I find text sites to be quite devastating. I want to say “more” devastating, but I suspect many would challenge that, but certainly in my own case it’s true.

 

So I can’t begin to imagine what those initial encounters would be like if they had contained an interactive element. Again, being part of the Christian community, I think I have an example from my world that makes it more relatable: The difference that one finds between attending church on Sunday where you’re sitting in rows watching things happen on the platform versus going to a small group meeting in someone’s house where everyone is sharing around the circle. The popularity of small groups in the last twenty years is due to the added stimulation of being the person who might share something next, or get asked the next question, and this has led many people to find their small group experience makes Sunday morning rather stale by comparison, which has led to churches introducing interactive elements in their morning services. (If that’s not a part of your experience, think back to your college days; you probably hated the lectures but loved the tutorial groups.)

Well…that principle applies in other areas, too. Once you introduce the element of interactivity, there is going to be a heightened sense of stimulation – which is central to this subject – which is going to make the whole experience that much more intense.

 

The other side of this, however, occurs when the chat room experience becomes specific to certain individuals whose aliases you begin to recognize over time, which may often end up being one specific person over time whom you “meet” on the chat room at predetermined times.

 

Again, I can’t imagine sitting in my family room, typing away as I am now, but carrying on a conversation with another woman in another town, sharing some of the more intimate parts of my life and allowing my fantasies to be part of the conversation, while my wife sits just a few feet away sewing a button on my shirt.

 

That would be bad enough. But then, as the conversation becomes more intimate, we select a privacy option which means that only the two of us are in the chat room.

 

That would be bad enough. Add to it the dynamic of pretending to be someone else, located somewhere else; pretending to be younger; pretending to be single, or pretending to be someone of the opposite sex. It’s no wonder these keyboard conversations get carried to the point where there has been so much intimacy that the people involved can’t live another minute without meeting somewhere in person.

 

That would be bad enough. But add to it the dynamic that the person I’m writing to may be equally spinning a tale that even Pinocchio’s nose isn’t long enough for. So I fly to Cincinnati, or Denver; or she agrees to meet me in Atlanta or Seattle… What are the odds of this ending well versus the chances that it will end badly?

 

But even if we never meet, even if her computer crashes and she’s offline for a week, and I lose track of her never knowing what happened, what of the emotions, deep longings and intimate thoughts I’ve shared with her that I really belonged to my wife? Haven’t I really cheated already at that point?

 

That’s why chat rooms were never part of my online experience. Unfortunately, many men – and women – can’t say the same thing. Enter the world of online pornography and you’re playing with fire. Add the element of interactivity, and you’re playing with a nuclear bomb.

 

Before leaving this subject though, I have to remind you that it’s possible to play the chat room game without even installing an internet browser, as long as you’re connected to that other internet device: E-mail.

 

We haven’t discussed e-mail at all here, because usually, the only collateral way e-mail enters into this discussion is that the porn user suddenly experiences an increase in spam (those unwanted e-mails from people you don’t know.) Websites can track who it is that’s knocking at their doors, and are quick to follow that up with offers matching an already demonstrated interest. They also make money selling e-mail addresses to both related and unrelated businesses.

 

But if a person only uses e-mail to communicate with someone whose address they have obtained, surely that’s not pornography, right? I disagree. I would suggest that substituting e-mail for chat rooms is an attempt to legitimize what may be an equally graphic exchange of steamy, erotic text content. Furthermore, e-mail can be used to send pictures, too. I think that the method of transmission matters little; if you’re using the internet in any form for sex talk with someone who is either a stranger or someone known to you, that’s a form of internet pornography.

 

The other thing that has to be said, whether it’s chat room exchanges or sexually-charged e-mails, is that the ‘acting out’ factor on this is well documented. People chat online and then they meet. That’s why it’s so important for couples to have absolute transparency with each other where their computer usage is concerned.

 

Again, as with other forms of text pornography, I think that it’s important that people avoid rationalizing this activity because no one is stripping naked for pictures. In fact, the intimacy these exchanges include mean that there are lots of people who are being emotionally laid bare.


 

One of the goals of this book is to simply not include any content that would give anybody who’s reading this for the wrong reasons any ideas. In this chapter, that goal remains present, though nearly impossible. Some people will read this and say, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about;” while I hope others will realize, “He doesn’t talk about all he knows.” There are one or two things I have decided to omit entirely here, even though for a few people, they play a major part in their online experience.

 

I think it’s important to know what’s out there and since appearance is everything let’s begin by looking at the three distinct categories of the images appearing on the computer monitor:

(a) text – written characters only on the screen

(b) pictures – camera-generated real images of real people

(c) animation – images hand-drawn or computer generated

This is the first time animation has been mentioned  and the implications of it are very important.  In fact, if the primary big idea of this book is that we shouldn’t minimize the potential horror of text-only porn, the secondary big idea of this book is that animated porn represents a more serious threat in the future.

Let’s begin with text. I’ve already mentioned online novels and short story sites. These may be professionally written, or may be sites where anyone can submit content online. There are also collections, where individuals have gathered material together from writers or other sites which are grouped into a theme. Some writers create collections to advance their own compositions which are slipped in among those by others.

 

Forums are similar to the ‘comments’ sections on blogs. Usually you have to log in to comment. Some are ‘live’ and begin at a certain time and get many responses; others are ongoing and people continue to post comments months after the original topic for discussion was introduced.

 

Confessionals are places where people tell their stories for the purpose of freeing their consciences from often unspeakable things they did. Though many of these are general in nature, usually the majority of responses are confessions of some sexual adventure. Not all confessors are fully remorseful however; some are simply bragging, while others are simply dreaming.

 

Blogs in this context often consist of sexual addicts sharing with others where to go to find more risqué content elsewhere online. I’m told that child porn addicts use these kinds of sites to communicate with each other. Often the links contained on these blogs don’t work because the sites are so extreme they’ve been shut down by the time they read them. That doesn’t stop people from trying.

 

Chat Rooms are similar to forums except that two people can decide to break away privately and hold their own conversation. At that point, others don’t get to read what is being shared.

 

Sometimes a group or organization will post a normal looking public website to advance their views on a particular topic of sexual interest. Other times a site may masquerade as being educational in nature when it’s not. (This is a good time to mention that a noticeable amount of pornography is located on sites with .edu address endings; meaning that they are operating out of colleges and universities.)

 

Visual sites fall into categories: (a) still photographic images and (b) moving images.

 

Most still picture sites are called galleries. They may be just that, the work of an individual photographer or collector who has posted them for show and nothing more. To see additional galleries, one “joins” the site through a monthly membership fee. Other galleries are similar but the pictures are collected from other galleries. One picture can take you to another website and when you finally weaken and decide to join, the computer tracks where you came from, so appropriate commissions can be paid. The galleries themselves may claim to have specific themes (i.e. teen pornography) but in fact they are all quite similar.

 

Months after writing this, I realized I hadn’t clearly stated the obvious: If each picture is also an internet link, and you have high speed internet with lots of memory, or especially if you’re working in a school or college that has state-of-the-art fiber optic connection, it’s possible, as you click from site to site, to have nearly a thousand picture images on your computer in just 60 seconds.

 

Portals are similar but only display “banner” advertisements for other sites. They exist purely for the purpose of extracting commissions when you enter one of the advertised sites and then pay the fee to access the desired content. The second type of galleries mentioned above operate like portals, but provide the ‘free samples’ mentioned earlier. The portals are only concerned with getting you directly to another site.

 

Movie Galleries are intended to get you to sites where you buy downloads of pornographic films. There tends to be less here in the way of free samples, though short clips are available. They want your credit card. Bored with still pictures, many users are more than happy to pay to see some ‘living’ pictures.

 

Webcam sites pretend to offer you live access to the bedrooms of the nation, but in fact there’s more looping video here than anything truly live. Most have an amateur film quality to them, but play on the voyeuristic nature of those viewing. There might be some free samples, but they also want your credit card. Some sites claim to supply interactive chat with the subject onscreen. Again, I wouldn’t know.

 

File Sharing refers to people trading images of all kinds online. Not having any files to share (thank goodness) I didn’t investigate these sites. However, I’m told they are key to the distribution of child pornography.

 

High Res is short for high resolution. These are more professional looking stills and videos which take longer to download. The images are strikingly real, and provide that higher “kick” that we talked about. Very little is available without forking out that Visa or MasterCard number. For many, these images take longer to download and use up a lot of computer memory. So many of these sites offer product that is shipped the old way – by mail or courier.

 

This list is by no means exhaustive. People are thinking up new avenues for online pornography every day. But if you ever again hear the phrase, “the world of pornography,” know that it is, indeed, an entire world onto itself that presents a myriad of options, with each one serving as a unique type of entry point or gateway into that world.

 

Before we move on to look at the third type of site, I want to consider an important side issue.

When you live in a society where government bodies don’t think twice about using taxpayer money for funding a public photography display that includes shots of people urinating, you know that somewhere, values got messed up.

 

Visual pornography sites often masquerade as other than pornography for a number of reasons. First of all, it may help them to avoid prosecution if there’s anything (such as the age of the subjects) which is crossing the line legally.

 

Secondly, it helps break down the resistance of the type of customer who is more concerned about the morality of what they are doing. It provides a kind a reassurance that what they are viewing can be rationalized or justified. This results in guilt-free viewing (or at least lesser-guilt viewing). It’s a kind of ‘end-run’ around the ‘everybody’s doing it’ argument. Not everyone is doing this, and so it brings legitimacy to the web pages concerned.

 

The first kind of porn that is so justified would be that which could be designated “art.” Usually these consist of the work of a single photographer. The backgrounds and sets are tasteful (so to speak) and often expensive, and lend the appearance of a higher class of eroticism. This is pornography with sophistication; surely this must be the type of pornography for the upper middle class.

 

The second kind of site is the one which appears to be marketing models who are seeking work. By all appearances, this is a wholesale market for the catalog industry, and we wouldn’t want to stand in the way of corporate America, would we? By extension, this expands to include the modeling industry as a whole. Many of the sites consist of faux magazine covers. This then expands to include the beauty pageant industry. From there, it’s not a big step to junior beauty pageants, the websites of which are often fodder for pedophiles, even if the child models are somewhat clothed.

 

Both of these types of site generally move faster to the credit card payment stage, and why not? Their existence is more easily justified and rationalized and their clientele often has a greater means to pay the price of admission.

 

The third kind of site in this category deals with the naturism (a.k.a. nudist) lifestyle. I recently encountered and spent about a half hour on a website – it had no pictures – which consisted of page after page after page of articles and notes justifying naturism from a Christian perspective. Yes, you read that right: from a Christian perspective. This person used a great quantity of Bible references to back their position. If some Christian people feel this way, you can bet that the population as a whole have no particular issue with it.

 

The challenge here is that these pictures are designed to look – pardon the pun – natural. Increasingly, there seems to be a greater tolerance of what was once considered a peculiar behavior. The lifestyle is characterized as family-friendly. From there, it’s easy to see that these sites have no problem including family shots which may include teens and even children. In light of that, there are some sites that I am surprised aren’t shut down sooner. Hopefully, as I write this, some of them have been.

 

A fourth attempt at legitimacy has been noticed more recently. At this writing, I no longer have any reason to be viewing the standard pornographic websites, but having done so in the past, I can now spot sites a mile away that are trying to subvert our worldview. This newer type of website masquerades as a more general gallery of a variety of photographs, collected from different sources. However, after the site has been running for awhile, one in every ten pictures is a nude image. Then, a few months later, it’s one in eight. Then, weeks later, one in five. Sometimes it levels off there; with the website’s other pictures and past history legitimizing the inclusion of naked women. Many times the viewer enters these sites innocently looking at the nature scenes and urban landscapes. Because these web pages are the work of professional photographers, the images are very high resolution and the mix of images provides the shock factor or ‘kick’ factor that can feed an addiction in a different way.

 

So whether it’s art that is ‘tasteful,’ portfolios of models who are simply trying to make a living, or the healthy living of naturism, both the site providers and the person viewing has another reason to believe the lie that, “there’s nothing wrong with it.” And in a world where the term “wrong” is slowly going the way of extinction, it’s easy to see why some people have no problem spending several hours each week viewing this material.


Now we come back to the types of visual pornography. This third type is serious and deserves its own chapter.

We live in a world where cartoon and comic book art is a huge industry that actually reaches people in a wider age bracket than just children. From the popularity of Japanese styled ‘manga’ comic books to their ‘anime’ moving-picture equivalent to the long running popularity of The Simpsons, cartoon art is everywhere. Where this topic is concerned, the first comment is always along the lines of, “But there’s no human subjects…no man, woman or child is being exploited in these pictures… nobody gets hurt, so what’s wrong with it?”

The problem here becomes one of audience. This material is more likely to be seen and studied by children than the other types of porn we’ve discussed; and yes, make no mistake about it, it is definitely classifiable as pornography. Anime and manga are a huge industry right now. Even adults have more choices of prime time animated television than at any previous time in history. There is also the close relationship between this art form and other media, particularly the gaming industry, both the arcade version, the X-Box or PSP home console version, and the games designed for personal computers. Again, the majority of users are teens or twenty-somethings.

There are two main characteristics of animated (sometimes called ‘3D’ though it’s not really three dimensional) pornography. If you read articles on this subject, they’ll be quick to point out the first one. The second one is often not discussed.

(a) Cartoon or animated pornography is able to depict scenes that are anatomically improbable or impossible,

(b) Cartoon or animated pornography is able to depict scenes which would be illegal to create in a photographic situation, many of which are anathema even to other pornographers.

It’s the second issue we want to look at here. Out of all the various types of pornography that are available, this is the one where I feel the creators are on a mission. They have a definite agenda and it is by no means a hidden agenda. They have a message to preach, and they’re preaching it largely to kids; kids as young as eight, nine or ten.

Just as the gay rights community has lobbied hard and successfully to bring down the gay taboo in western society, there seems to be an attempt on the part of the writers and artists who produce cartoon pornography to advance a single worldview. It’s doesn’t encompass the entire world of graphic art porn, but the preponderance of evidence suggests that it’s upfront and increasing in visibility.

They want to break the incest taboo. Incest. As in sex between members of the same family. Brothers and sisters. Mothers and sons. Fathers and daughters. Even children and grandparents. Seriously. This material is widespread on the ‘net as you read this, complete with audio or text in many different languages. And where galleries allow animated website links to commingle with photographic visual pornography, all of the animated links connect to sites depicting and promoting incestuous sex.

It’s dangerous to make predictions, but here goes. I think that just as the gay rights lobby advanced their position over the last few decades to change the way people think about homosexuality, so also will the ‘incest rights’ lobby become more visible over the next decade. I know this disagrees with the writings of others who feel that it’s the issue of rights for pedophiles that is looming on the horizon, but I wish to suggest that it’s going to be this issue, not that one, that takes the headlines in the years to come. Besides, if the pedophiles take this issue, they’ve won half of their battle.

At this point, I know some readers are saying, “This has nothing to do with my situation.” But remember what we said at the outset; over time, tastes and interests skew and they often skew younger. The preoccupation with youth in our culture is well established, and this content feeds that desire.

But the biggest danger here is what happens when this material is seen by young, impressionable minds. If the constant danger with pornography takes place when an individual “acts out,” then how does a girl or boy act out in response to this material. Does a teenage boy make an indecent proposal to his mother? Does a pre-teen girl start dressing provocatively and flirting with her father? Do the kids start fooling around when the parents go out for dinner?

To answer that question, you’d have to flip back to the confessional websites. Even if only fifty percent of the people there are telling the truth, the answer is yes, it’s already happening. This is also strongly reinforced by the text-only pornographic websites consisting of stories and novels. The moral and spiritual prohibitions against incest are disappearing in North America, Europe and also Japan, where much of the graphic art design of these sites is created. A whole generation is being raised on this material online, and are coming into sexual maturity fully convinced that there’s nothing wrong with incest.

At the same time, this material is not being missed by the adults. Because it’s a taboo, the incest topic is a ‘turn on’ for many guys. (Remember the part about surprise value?) So you have willing children and willing adults, you have a recipe for trouble, leaving individuals and families which will never thereafter be the same.

So far we’ve accomplished the impossible: Eleven chapters on this subject and no mention of what takes place when it’s same-sex pornography that’s being watched or downloaded. First of all, it’s difficult to know where to begin here because the situations vary, but could be simplified as fitting one or two broader patterns:

(a) the individual has already demonstrated homosexual tendencies and is simply using online internet pornography to feed an interest that was already acknowledged; or

(b) the individual has heretofore had no interest at all in same-sex issues, and this represents a kind of skewing of their interest (or what we called harder kicks) as discussed previously

The first case is the subject of many books. Joe Dallas is probably the leading author writing on the subject of homosexuality within the Christian publishing world. I haven’t read his many books, but don’t need to read them to be convinced that the internet probably figures heavily into his discussions as to what led some individuals into the gay lifestyle. I would venture to safely guess that the internet as a contributing factor is present in well over 90% of recent case histories. Instead, I want to consider the second situation.

There are a few gallery sites that link to pictures of both men and women, so it’s not impossible for a man whose tastes are 100% heterosexual to be presented with the option of clicking on a site containing pictures of other men. Here again though, things get confusing. Is a site with pictures of women or girls on the ‘net for the benefit of heterosexual men or lesbian women? Is a site with pictures of men or boys uploaded for the benefit heterosexual women or gay men? Just because you see a picture doesn’t mean you can make an instant assessment of its context without studying the site more closely. Furthermore, in our present sexual climate, heavily reinforced by popular television series, there are a lot of men who are turned on by lesbian themes. Again, I think this is where the gay and lesbian lobby accomplishes its purposes more in text sites than with visual porn; in fact I’m going to venture a guess here that proportionate to the actual sexual orientation of the general population, there are far more gay and lesbian sites devoted to stories or confessionals or erotic literature.

Nonetheless, out of sheer boredom with the status quo, it’s possible for a man to suddenly find himself having ‘stumbled’ on a site with pictures of gay males. My exposure to such sites was somewhat limited because the whole gay thing, especially when confronted with it visually, is something I find rather repulsive. My “catch and release” strategy was never as useful as it was here; I got to the point at the end where I really wanted to know what all was out there, but didn’t really want to look at the monitor. As unbelievable as it will seem, I actually got quite good at that.

From what I did see, my greatest concern is with the sites that are targeted specifically at boys. Note that I did not say those which contain pictures of boys. (Some of the gay sites seemed quite unconcerned with the issue of the age of the subjects, though I really didn’t see enough to know if I can draw that as a general conclusion.) Many of the sites exist to convince young boys that this is a normal, healthy, acceptable lifestyle.

Early on, while looking at more ‘normal’ pornography, I asked myself how exposure would have shaped my life if I had exposure to it as a teenager. After encountering some samples of gay pornography, I asked myself the same question. I think the answer is: Confused. As I said earlier, I see teenagers as analogous to stem cells; being formed and shaped into what they will appear as in adulthood. I think there are lot of teens who would grow up straight but for the ‘crisis’ of a homosexual experience, and by experience I include those who simply end up looking at same sex photographs online and find themselves aroused by that experience. The logical conclusion becomes, “I must be gay or I wouldn’t be reacting like this;” while in fact, the person would have been equally aroused looking at opposite sex photographs.

I honestly think that a lot depends here on who gets to the young person first, or rather, who gets to the young person at the time of life they are most vulnerable.

The sites themselves exist in all the forms we discussed in the ninth and eleventh chapter. While I did not take the time to locate animated gay pornography, I did read some articles on the subject at the time and discovered that once again, Japan is the source of much of the animation itself. Again, this raises all sorts of concerns, not the least of which is (again) the link between animated pornography and computer generated gaming, much of which also emanates from the East. With two teenaged boys at home, I am probably more looking over their shoulders at their screens when they are playing online and downloaded animated games than I am at any other time.

I can also see how it might be possible for an adult heterosexual male, after much viewing of women online, could suddenly get turned on by a website featuring men. To some men it would be like looking at a computer monitor for weeks with pictures containing nothing but green hues, and suddenly finding sites with pictures that were shades of orange. It becomes a different kick. I think that over time, so many normal inhibitions have disappeared that the sex of the people onscreen becomes less of an issue to a male sinking deeper and deeper into porn.

Finally, it’s important to know that many gay rights advocacy groups have a very militant agenda. Many national gay rights groups have toll free phone numbers where ‘counselors’ are standing by to assist young people and adults who want to ‘come out’ as gays. Many have follow up contacts located in key cities to whom callers are referred.

However, nothing is impossible here. I’m told that an organization dedicated to intergenerational gay sex called NAMBLA (if you don’t know what it stands for, you don’t want to) had at least one of their websites shut down a few years ago due to public pressure. Just because you believe the world is morally in a downward spiral doesn’t mean you stop trying to make a difference.

I believe it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. I hate listening to speakers who spend endless words decrying the ills of society and documenting the ‘slippery slope’ we’re on and the ‘collision course’ we’re headed for. Give me something encouraging to get me through today!

Part of my motivation here is based on the axiom that ‘knowledge is power.’ I think it’s important for the third-party ‘victims’ of pornography to know how the mechanics of how the thing works. If one person in a family constantly viewing this content changes the relational dynamics between that person and other family members, or creates an abusive situation, then this whole process needs to be seen and understood with open eyes.

But the mechanics pale in comparison to the motivation of the producers. So far we’ve covered three main points:

(a) This is a business with the objective of getting money out of our pockets and into their pockets, using credit cards and online technologies. No different than the barker outside the circus tent inviting people to come in and see the entire show.

(b) Pornography is more than pictures. It’s a genre that encompasses various forms, and its text form may be more insidious than the forms containing pictures

(c) Pornography has a message; its producers are ‘evangelizing’ the general population and some of them are determined to eliminate taboos which are necessary for the preservation of the family unit.

Looking back over my own story, I think the thing that caused me to return to the internet’s dark side every few days – the addictive factor notwithstanding – was frustration. But not sexual frustration. I might have had a bad day at work, or something was not going well in some other area, and I just wanted to escape for a few minutes. I know that may not be the same for everyone, but I suspect a lot of guys start surfing for porn because some other life factor isn’t being fulfilled. (Okay, I promised not to ‘Bible thump’ but maybe some other life factor is missing.) Or maybe they were just bored.

I think also that as a person who grew up in fairly conservative Christian home, this was a window on a whole new world. As someone who was told by a hippie English teacher in high school that my whole generation was ‘repressed,’ I longed to have a broad world view and wrote a paper once about adolescence as a period of moving, “from innocence to awareness.” The problem is that the internet tends to move people from innocence to corruption.

Married couples might well ask, “What about online sex manuals, or websites that provide advice for husbands and wives to use to heighten their experience in the bedroom?” I honestly don’t find most of those websites to be pornographic in nature. In fact, there are books that are similar to The Joy of Sex which are available in Christian bookstores, including Sheet Music by Kevin Leman (and others among his titles) and Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat. The concern here is that internet is so “guilty by association” that a married couple might do better to buy the print version of such books or manuals.

But what does one do if someone in the family is accessing pornography? Technology provides two distinct options:

(a) installing an online filter, so that some websites are simply blocked. My youngest son actually did this with his computer entirely on his own;

(b) accountability software which requires having someone who will act as an accountability partner; some of these systems are not easily circumvented, though they would not report a person’s internet use at work or at an internet café.

The technical solution may not necessarily get to the heart of the problem. Some technical solutions may work for man’s home computer, but not the one he uses at work. Open communication is probably the best way to deal with this issue, but as mentioned early on, constant exposure to pornography can shut down communications in a family.

At some point along the way, the person needs – to borrow a familiar line from various twelve step programs – to admit they have a problem. For me, a family crisis provided the necessary wake-up call, and as my wife sat next to me on the couch I suddenly confessed to having a problem about which she had no previous knowledge.

Mind you, my dalliance with online porn was extremely short lived. I would contend that if someone is watching this stuff over a long period of time, the family does get hints and clues, though I will also accept that there are anecdotal accounts of families where one individual’s online habit was a well kept secret.

The story often plays out differently, though, when one family member discovers the internet habit of another. The guilty party might respond angrily, might try to deny the severity of the problem, or might collapse in a sea of relief that their problem is recognized, knowing the time and energy it is draining and keeping them from more wholesome projects.

At this point it’s not enough to just start hitting the ‘delete’ key. There has to be a catharsis, a moment in time where the person says, “enough is enough;” or “I know I have to stop.” Sometimes however, there is a long interval between “I know I have to stop;” and “Here’s what I’m going to do.” Every case is different, however; anyone who thinks it’s that simple doesn’t understand the nature of addictive behavior.

But it’s not impossible. It may be a concerned wife who sits down next to her husband with the files he’s downloaded and says, “Look at her… that could be our daughter.” It might be an intelligent daughter who reads a downloaded online story and asks her father, “What if that was me in that story?” It could be a girlfriend who asks her boyfriend, “Is that what you’re thinking about when we’re out on a date?” It could be a mother who simply asks her son, “If the computer crashes right now and you take it in for repair, what will you do if they find all that stuff on your hard drive?” (In some areas, new rules require computer repair shops to report any content they find which may be illegal in that jurisdiction.)

If nothing else works, there’s always the cold turkey approach. I heard a story about a year ago about a guy who simply disconnected the computer, took it outside and smashed it to pieces with an axe. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that radical. Many internet service providers will suspend your account for a few months if you’re going on holiday; so if they’re a reasonable company they should understand that sometimes, some people need to take a computer holiday.

Failing that though, the computer needs to be ‘cleaned up’ with anything that might prove a temptation taken away. Never having downloaded anything, I can’t begin to imagine what a major task this might be. Backing up important files and then wiping the hard drive clean and reloading the operating system may be the only solution. Don’t give the computer away to someone. That could just lead someone into the situation you’ve just escaped.

Also, don’t forget that pornography existed long before computers. Months after I was long past thinking about porn, we were visiting a town park in another city and when I went to use the restroom there was a copy of a pornographic magazine that someone had ‘left behind.’ (I think there’s nothing more ‘icky’ than seeing a magazine like that lying around a public restroom.) As I walked past, I couldn’t help but notice that this ‘free sample’ had the same name as one popular porn website. Another example of media convergence and corporate synergy. Did someone truly forget to take this magazine with them, or are copies being left in public restrooms across the nation?

For some reading this, though, moving towards a solution is entirely in the future, and everything I’ve written is idealistic. All you can be at this point is loving and supportive, and try to provide an environment that offers fulfillment in a variety of other areas. For others, the title alone of the book Caring Enough to Confront by David Augsburger best describes what you feel you need to do. In either case, you want to tread carefully.

A few years back I invited a friend to join me at a special service at Church that was not the one he usually attends. While I knew he would enjoy it, his excuse was something about “how the cow tends to go down the same trail in the morning.” People addicted to pornography have a certain pattern of computer use that has been thoroughly ingrained over time. The cow trail has become quite worn. This pattern of behavior is familiar and comfortable and over time fits like an old shoe. They could turn on the computer in their sleep, and effortlessly navigate the internet to frequently visited locations. One counselor suggested to me that it takes “harsh measures” to break the “brain pathway” that causes this. For any of us to change we need to look at ourselves and our situation differently, and then carve out new pathways and practice following new pathways that are healthier.

If you’re in a situation with a family member – though it could just as easily be a neighbor or a co-worker – where you’ve been aware of the addiction but have been somewhat relaxed about the issue; it may be time to put your foot down and say, “enough is enough.” Don’t feel that what you didn’t do in the past has added to the problem; just focus on what you can do today to make a difference in both of your lives.

I also need to remind myself here that the person reading this may be the person with the problem, even though this book wasn’t designed with that in mind. Believe me, I understand the tremendous hold this addiction has on you, but I also believe it’s possible, right now with God’s help, to stand up, shake the dust off your feet, walk away, and not look back. There is no possible benefit that you are getting from viewing pornography that can’t be replaced with something that is one hundred times better, richer, fuller, deeper and more rewarding.


I promised at the outset that despite the Christian origins of my ‘take’ on this subject, I wouldn’t preach at you. However, I find I can’t wrap up this topic without integrating some of that about which I am most passionate – my personal faith and how it affects this issue. If you want to hold me to my promise, feel free to skip this chapter. I also didn’t want to write a book that could see wider distribution – not through the publishing industry, but through people passing on copies – that contained scripture references with things like “I Cor.” and “Rom.” leaving some readers unclear what an I Cor or a Rom is. (They’re abbreviations for Bible references.)

 

I also recognize there will be some who think, “If he’s so spiritual he wouldn’t have gotten seduced by this stuff online in the first place.” You know what? I’ll give you that point. It would be nice to think that both veteran, seasoned Jesus-followers along with those who’ve had a more fresh, recent experience of what we call “crossing the line of faith” would never be tempted in any area. But it happens, and in this case I was able to not only get out quickly and cut my losses, but also redeem the experience by using my perspective to create a book presenting a take on parts of the issue which heretofore hasn’t existed in the world of Christian publishing. I hope it has been helpful to you.

 

First, let’s discuss this for those who are in what is considered “a Christian home.”

 

What about those three issues we talked about at the outset? The propensity for lust is huge in our world. Every magazine, every television show, every subway advertisement; all of these are pushing the envelope on permissiveness. I can’t help but see. But I can choose to quickly look away. As a Christ follower, I vowed in a ceremony that took place in a church, attended by two (!) ministers, in front of both friends and relatives that I would be faithful to my wife. I believe that God’s intention is that a husband and wife should find their fulfillment in each other. All their fulfillment. When I’m with her, I can pretend we’re on a Caribbean island, but I can’t imagine that I’m with someone else.

 

The issue of self control is something addressed several different ways in Christian teaching, in fact it’s one of nine special qualities singled out in the Apostle Paul’s letter – in the second part of the Bible – to a church in Galatia that he calls the fruit (or result) of God working in our lives. A newer translation of the Bible, something called the TNIV, renders a verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (10:5) this way, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The NLT (New Living Translation) treats the whole verse like this, “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” In both of these translations, Paul personifies our thoughts, as though they have a mind of their own. Which they do. In another place the Bible talks about our minds as a kind of gate; choosing what gets in and what is tossed aside. That sort of suggests in context of this topic, that we are to be our own internet filter.

The third issue mentioned in the introduction, the stewardship of our time, is also something that Christ followers are challenged to be aware of. In another one of Paul’s letters, this one to the church at Ephesus, he challenges us, “Look carefully then how you walk… making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” That’s how the English Standard Version tells it (5:15-16) but check out how The Message (a modern version) deals with this: “It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!” (verses 12-16).

But maybe there’s something more basic we could look at here. Have you ever been to a wedding ceremony and heard the minister say something like, “What God has joined together let no man tear asunder”? Most of us, if asked what that means would say, ‘It means that these people are now husband and wife and don’t do anything that would tear them apart.’

Good answer. Recently I heard someone – sorry, I really don’t remember – share something different: Science has come to learn what’s going on at the atomic and nuclear levels. The drawing of electrons spinning around a nucleus is familiar to us. But we’ve also seen the destruction that can take place when you “tear asunder” or “split” the atom. Hiroshima. Scripture says “by Him all things hold together;” and I’ve heard several preachers suggest that God is Lord over atomic structure at the micro level, in addition to planets and stars at the macro level. The next step is to consider that among God’s creation – along with electrons and planets – is the family. The family structure is part of God’s master plan. In the last few decades, the rise of divorce, the acceptance of alternative sexualities, the redefining of marriage; all these have ‘split the atom’ so to speak.

Now re-read the phrase: What God has joined together – the family unit itself – let no one tear apart.

One of the inevitable consequences of pornographic exposure – the one we stated in the first chapter – is changed relationships. Many times the ‘acting out’ of this leads to affairs (or transfers of affection, or inappropriate conduct) which lead to divorce. That leads to kids growing up with single parents, or in blended families so complex that drawing a family tree becomes utterly impossible.

Without wanting to sound like Dr. Dobson – not that there’s anything wrong with it – the fact remains that the family unit, or what I would prefer to call ‘the family principle’ is under attack. When you recognize how high the stakes are, when you truly appreciate the consequences, it makes you want to take ‘the western approach’ and ‘head ‘em off at the pass.’ You want to stop this thing in its tracks.

Obviously – well, it should be obvious by now – I believe in theocentric families; God-centered families. I don’t believe necessarily in theocratic government (in this life) but I do believe that if we have families where God is at the center, then we will be able to protect ourselves from the horrors that are affecting others.

One of the unique challenges here is that in North America, men aren’t going to church or taking a strong spiritual stand in their family’s life. Part of that is the church’s fault itself; David Murrow did a good job covering this in Why Men Hate Going To Church. Many other titles have been written on the challenge facing wives who are married to an ‘unsaved’ husband. (I think that increasingly, some of the men are ‘saved’ but have simply dropped out of church out of boredom, or in favor of working the weekend rotating plant shift or coaching soccer or baseball.) Putting the notion of ‘family’ back together involves families returning to the concept of worshipping together and of placing a high regard for scripture in their home.

But as I write this, I realize there are also readers who go to church every Sunday, yet someone in the family has a secret online habit. At that point, suggesting that a Christ-centered family life would make a difference is absurd; the family (as a whole, even though only one person is responsible) is effectively living a lie, and Jesus taught that ultimately, no one can serve two masters.

At this point, I want to just say, ‘Well…ya gotta keep praying;’ but I recognize how trite that may sound. I would suggest finding ways to enlist the prayers of others. That’s tricky where sharing the request essentially reveals the secret. You can’t do that overtly, unless you have a prayer partner or pastor you truly trust. (You could actually ask for prayer online through a web ministry that takes requests; which means creating an irony where the ‘cause’ becomes part of the ‘cure.’)

You can confront the issue and offer to pray together, or just suggest that as a couple you should pray more together generally. When two people are ‘moving towards the cross’ they can’t help but be moving closer to each other.

What are you really praying for? Many of our prayers are not specific enough. I think – and this is just my opinion – that asking God to fill someone (their attitudes, their thoughts, their actions) in a new and fresh way may be a better prayer than asking Him to simply remove the offending behavior. Somewhere in The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says something to the effect that we never really look at sin rightly, unless we see it as being against God. You can make a resolution that you don’t keep, and feel that you let yourself down, but we need to see these things at hurtful not only to ourselves but to God. Then we need to let His love – and an awareness of His love – motivate us toward the place where we don’t want to let Him down or fall short of His standards.

If you’re dealing with a son or a younger brother, this isn’t easy. Often the spiritual maturity that causes us to long for personal holiness is something that comes with more general maturity; something that takes time. But it needn’t always be a factor of age. The first disciples are described as “unschooled” and “ordinary;” but the verse that provides this description goes on to note that despite this, they had “spent time with Jesus.”

Perhaps this discussion so far doesn’t match your situation because you simply aren’t in what would be called “a Christian home.”

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re not sure – or you are sure – if you’ve ever actually crossed the line of faith yourself. You may need to lead the way in this by starting on a path towards a greater knowledge of, and a closer intimacy with Jesus Christ, being careful not to exhibit a newfound ‘righteousness’ that would only drive a greater wedge between your spirituality and your spouse’s online interest.

One of the recent buzzprhases used in the Evangelical church is, “intentional spiritual formation.” I don’t want to go overboard trying to explain that phrase except to underline that spiritual next steps have to be fully intentional. It has to be at the top of your “to do” list.

Get yourself one of the easier to understand translations of the Bible. If possible – unless someone you know really knows their Bible translations – don’t buy this online, but get a trained person at a Christian bookstore to guide you through the process. Head to the New Testament and start reading who Jesus is and what He said and what He did. (You might like to start with the story as outlined in Matthew or Luke .) I promise you that if you look at His life with an open mind, you can’t help but be changed.

Then, try to connect with some other people who are Christ-followers. It may be in a church setting, or it may be a bunch of Christian professionals who meet early in a donut shop once a week, or in someone’s kitchen twice a month.

Third, at some point in this process, be open to taking that invisible, indescribable, and individual step of faith where you simply speak out (either aloud or in your heart) and ask God to meet you at the place where you are, with the hurts that you have, and the hopes that you dream, trusting that when you read all that Jesus did and said, that Jesus was the God He claimed to be, and that through his death and resurrection, you have the right to ask God to help you and be the center of your life. (Wow! That was a long sentence… take a minute to read it again.)

Seeing a change in the life of someone else – a wife, a girlfriend, a mother, a daughter, or a sister –has the potential to have a large effect on that husband, boyfriend, son, father or brother.

Someone has said that being a Christ-follower consists of “coming under the loving Lordship of Jesus Christ and being joined to a company of imperfect people who are trying to live a new life in a new way.” I can’t promise that your step of faith is going work like magic to instantly heal every addiction related problem in your family, but I can promise you that you are better served working with God than without Him.

One of the dangers in dealing with books in the “self help” field is that many are written the same way psychology textbooks are written: in other words, with lots of anecdotal evidence. The problem here is that if someone is addicted to porn, those stories may just feed their addiction. There was a Christian book for teens written in the mid ‘90s and I’m sure the author’s intention was to warn girls particularly of the dangers of messing around sexually. But for guys reading, it was more of a “how to” manual on seduction. It was re-released a few years ago, but quickly pulled out of print.

In fact, I’m not sure that a good book or resource on the subject of pornography is the answer. What might be better is a book written by a young person on the pain and hurt they went through after their parents broke up. Or an article on the link between pornography addiction and divorce and how many wish they had never left their original partner – or fell into habits that caused their partner to leave them.

Which brings us to Porn Nation by Michael Leahy. This book was released after most of the manuscript for this had already been written. Think of it as this book on steroids. There’s a lot more depth here that can only result from Michael’s ten long years spent as a sex addict. If you want to read more along these lines, this is the title to read next.

Then there’s the Every Man series by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker , which includes Every Man’s Battle, Every Young Man’s Battle, Every Woman’s Battle, Every Young Woman’s Battle, Preparing Your Son For Every Man’s Battle, and Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle, along with several related books such as Every Heart Restored, Every Man’s Marriage and study guides for groups or individuals (and a couple of titles that are available as DVDs). These books deal with the fundamental situation that perplexes us as human beings: We were created with certain desires which mean that we are prone to certain types of temptation. But these books contain the anecdotal approach I mentioned above, and may not be the best choice to recommend to someone who is in the middle of the battle; unless they have demonstrated a strong desire to break free.

Speaking of breaking free, I can’t omit to mention the work done over the years by Neil Anderson. Victory Over The Darkness and The Bondage Breaker are two of his signature titles, and often recommended in a variety of situations. I know many people who have read both.

James Dobson is considered a key spokesperson for Christian family issues. While I haven’t read his books – he is somewhat ubiquitous on radio – I can personally recommend his video curriculum series Bringing Up Boys which was also released a while ago on home DVD. It deals with the unique challenges of raising boys and the importance of having fathers who are not only strong physically, mentally, socially or emotionally, but are also strong spiritually.

I mentioned “accountability software” earlier. You need to have a willing and responsible partner to do this; someone who is committed to the highest goals for the one being monitored. Two pastors I know well use Covenant Eyes, which you can find online.

We also discussed the sexual confusion that can result when men cross the gender line and start looking at same-sex sites. Joe Dallas is probably the foremost Christian writer on this subject, and has too many titles to list here.

If you know someone who has entered into all this more deeply and is involved in the porn industry itself, you should check out Craig Gross and his ministry XXXChurch. His book Dirty Little Secret tells the story of his ministry to those who actually make the movies; it’s not generally recommended for everyone going through addiction (rather, see the list below) but it details how some people are committed to dealing with this challenge at its source.

Finally, I can’t leave this without mentioning the importance of local Christian counselors. Even medium sized towns have access to a professional and caring Christian counselor. There are also pastors who are prepared to walk you through this issue, if you and your spouse (or son, brother, father, etc.) are willing to do whatever it takes to break the destructive habits. Even if the person dealing with addiction doesn’t initially want to go, you might want to by yourself; and again, if you’re the person with the addiction who is reading this, you could go alone or with your wife, girlfriend, sister, etc. if they are willing.

Which brings me to mention again the program Celebrate Recovery which originated with Rick Warren’s church in Saddleback, CA. I am most impressed with the detail in which volunteers go through the program before it is launched in local communities. It deals with all manner of addictions, as well as the hurts and hang-ups that often follow us. People often bring someone with them for support. You shouldn’t have to travel far to find a church that is hosting a CR group.

Here are some resources that I haven’t checked out personally, but I think are worth knowing about because I know the companies who released these titles. As someone who works in the Christian publishing industry, I’ve tried to limit this to publishers I really trust, and to titles written in the last five years. This meant eliminating some good books, but as internet technology changes and society shifts, I think that on this subject, apart from the Bible itself, you need to be reading materials that are less than five years old.

Pure Desire: How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free From Sexual Temptation – Ted Roberts

Winning The Battle Within: Realistic Steps to Overcoming Sexual Strongholds
– Neil Anderson

Breaking Everyday Addictions: Finding Freedom from the Things that Trip Us Up
– David Hawkins

Last Addiction: Own Your Desire, Live Beyond Recover, Find Lasting Freedom – Sharon Hersh

Desire and Deceit:  The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance
– R. Albert Mohler

Virtual Integrity: Navigating The Brave New Web – Daniel Lorhmann

When Good Men Are Tempted
(revised) – William Perkins

Sex, Food and God: Breaking Free from Temptations, Compulsions and Addictions – David Eckman

Think Before You Look: 40 Powerful Reasons to Avoid Pornography – Daniel Henderson

I Surrender All: Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography – Clay Crosse, Renee Crosse (biographical)

Healing Wounds of Sexual Addiction – Mark R. Laaser

The Anatomy of Seduction
– Jack Hayford

– this list is in addition to the books mentioned above

But after you’ve read some of the books – or even all of them – remember, the best resource in this battle is only a prayer away.


Appreciation

07/30/2008

First, I want to thank my wife Ruth, not only for her patience during rather strange weeks while I was at the computer screen at all hours; her forgiveness and understanding when I realized the trap into which I had fallen; and also for being the best copy and style editor a husband ever had. For every book I could write, Ruth has ten books percolating.

I also want to express my lifelong gratitude to my parents for pointing me towards and training me in the ways of God, without which I might not be the person I am today. If you’re reading this as a concerned parent, never give up praying and never give up modeling the character of Jesus.

Next, I want to thank the people who were more than willing to discuss this issue informally with me and the ways they’ve tried to address the issue in their personal lives. This is truly the “elephant in the room” where Christians are concerned. Open disclosure, honest discussion and transparent living will help us move one another towards living in a way that pleases Christ our Lord.

Finally, I want to thank a host of people I will never remember who taught me the value of absolute honesty and transparency. As believers we dress up real good on Sunday morning (and other times) but it takes strength and courage to admit sometimes we get knocked down, defeated and broken. But I think it’s the first, and possibly only step towards getting back on our feet again, victorious, and whole.

Oh yes, and thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph.

Paul Wilkinson

c/o Searchlight Books

884 Division Street, Suite 102

Cobourg, Ontario, Canada

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