Disarming the power of porn and human sex trafficking
I was one of those men who loved my wife and family, but was secretly enslaved to an addiction to pornography and sex clubs. I was afraid to tell anyone that I was masturbating to images that were to the normal person disgusting and very strange. I was afraid of rejection, that if anyone saw what I was consuming and doing in secret, they would walk out of my life, I would lose respect, and no one would love me. This fear kept me from getting help. So, for several years, no one knew—not even my wife.
I was a youth pastor, married with three children. I was respected in the church as a man who was alive, but inside I was dying. Dying for someone to know and love me for who I really was, wishing that I could tell someone, but the shame and the fear was greater. Each time I would hear someone say how evil porn was I would agree, and be outspoken against porn and the sex industry, but all the while I felt deep shame that I was still struggling with it myself.
The messages about porn’s harm drove me deeper in secrecy because I was afraid of what people would think of me if they knew what I was doing. My addiction to porn and sex increased, requiring more graphic, more shameful, and more disgusting materials to achieve the same high. I finally came to a crossroad where I needed help and being arrested brought my shame into the open. I started my recovery in 1983.
Since that time, I’ve helped countless people in the journey to healing and freedom through my organization Authentic Relationships International. You see, I believe that if we want to gain ground in this battle against commercial sexual exploitation, in all its forms, we need to change the hearts of the consumers. I know based on my personal experience, and the experience of so many men that I have helped along the way, that shame is one of the greatest barriers to bringing about change. Shame, is a belief about oneself as being defective, inadequate, unworthy, and unlovable.
Shame says that not only had something bad happen to them, or have done something bad, they ARE bad. It is this feeling that keeps many consumers stuck in a cycle of perpetration because they feel that they can’t get help. As long as the shadow of shame is looming, everything stays in the dark. It is only when shame is removed that the problems of addiction, compulsion, sexual trauma and sexual deviance can come out from secret corners and into the light of day where real help and healing can take place.
My personal crusade against child exploitation, pornography and the sex industry started after I recovered from my own addiction back in the 1980’s. I spent years testifying before legislative bodies about the harms of sexually oriented businesses, helping get stronger laws in place, picketing, debating porn producers, boycotting businesses that displayed openly harmful matter to minors, the list goes on and on. I was awarded and recognized by local leaders and law enforcement in Los Angeles for going after and shutting down porn distributors in droves. I even helped build anti-pornography coalitions all over the U.S.
But after a decade of working tirelessly, I looked back on my work and felt the weight of discouragement as I faced that fact that despite my unrelenting efforts aimed at impacting the production and distribution side of the industry, it continued to flourish unabated. All that hard work and all of those victories were only short lived.
But I didn’t stop fighting the problem, I simply shifted my focus to what I discovered was the real root of the problem – the demand side. Because the sad reality is no matter how hard I, or anyone else works to rid our society of pornography, prostitution and sex trafficking, it will be here to stay as long as there are those who demand it.
The long-term win will come from not only dealing with legislation, law enforcement and awareness, (all of those no-doubt have their place), but in also putting large amounts of attention on addressing why men and women have an appetite for exploiting and using women and children.
For every news article about someone getting arrested for trafficking or purchasing sex, there are countless others you will never know about. This issue is so big, our law enforcement can barely scratch the surface. The reason why is there will never be a shortage of people who are wounded or experience brokenness in their lives. Many of these individuals use porn, child porn and prostitution in attempts to fill emptiness or numb pain in their life.
And the issue of shame is holding so many people back from being able to get the help they so desperately need.
Some of you may be thinking that they should feel shame about what they are doing–that if you can make a person feel bad enough about their consumption, they will stop. But in my experience all this proves to do is confirm the shame messages that are already inside a person and perpetuate the cycle. Many people confuse the concept of shame with that of conviction. Conviction that comes from God is good, it helps people to repent from destructive behaviors and take a new path. Shame however, is a tool of darkness that keeps sin hidden from view so that it can’t ever be dealt with.
Shame is a tricky thing to say the least. Some may be wondering how it is possible to prevent shame without condoning the behavior of consumers. In the coming weeks I want to help unpack it a little more for you. I have some very practical ways that we can take action against shame to help those enslaved by sex addiction come into the light of recovery, so stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series!
You can also go to www.authenticrelationshipsint.com for more information.
Authentic Relationships International