The Bends

It’s been more than a week since i shared the podium with Dr. Mary Anne Layden of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania at an event speaking about the harms of pornography and its connection with human sex trafficking.

Dr. Layden gave a powerful talk, including statistics, that at times felt overwhelming.  i’m saying that as a person who is  accustomed to these sorts of discussions.

Her presentation led into a screening of the film Sex + Money, which investigates our pornified culture, its effects on society and its connection to human sex trafficking.

It was a heavy afternoon. Full of emotion.

It was, to quote Dr. Layden, “like swimming in an ocean of darkness.”

It was indeed. i have spent the last week trying to avoid The Bends.

“The Bends” is a term used in SCUBA diving which refers to what happens when a diver ascends too quickly from a deep dive. It’s the result of inadequate decompression after a diver has been exposed to increased pressure, for example, after reaching a significant depth in the ocean.

The horror of human sex trafficking and the role which pornography plays in fueling it are beyond upsetting. Dealing with its realities takes a toll. It’s a very deep part of the Ocean of Darkness.

Dr. Layden pointed out that pornography, especially internet pornography, is the perfect learning environment because pictures are “compact carriers of meaning,” and learning is deeper if we are rewarded for behavior.  In the case of pornography, the images lead to orgasm, which is very rewarding.

Learning is even deeper when we have role models who are rewarded for their behavior. For example, “porn stars” become role models. Learning is also deeper when it is connected to arousal.

Sex trafficking is just one end of what Dr. Layden referred to as “a seamless interconnected continuum” that has resulted from the commodification of sex.

To quote Dr. Layden, “if you can sell it, you can steal it.”

It was difficult to stand up and give my remarks after Dr. Layden’s presentation and the screening of the film.  For one thing, it’s tough to be a man and sit through that material knowing that men are the ones enslaving young girls — and boys — and fueling the industry.

Men create the demand. And or many years i was actively contributing to that demand by helping pornographers and traffickers get rich.

Eventually, i became aware of my culpability and i actually cared about that instead of just getting my porn fix.

Transformation is real and possible. That’s our great hope. The Good Life is a life free from porn.

It’s good for ending the demand for the atrocity of sex trafficking, and bringing more and more freedom to the victims of trafficking.

It’s good for men who finally experience the vitality of real relationships.

With porn, everybody loses. Without it, we all win.


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