It’s 1979, and I am 5 years old at an evening family gathering on a farm in a small agricultural community in the Midwest where I grew up. All the children’s parents are out in a nearby barn with tables and chairs talking, eating and celebrating the beginning of the planting season and the end of another long cold winter. The children are running around playing games with each other in the sand box and on the swing set.
I walked into the farmhouse minding my own business. Then, I walked into the living room where a bunch of teenagers were watching the big old retro TV set and video player. There it was – my first exposure to hardcore pornography. In a second, my innocence was lost, and I was forever changed by what I saw. That was over 36 years ago. Internet wasn’t around. Today, if you have a smart phone, you have access to such images 24/7.
Fast forward to the present, my office phone rings. A woman introduces herself and begins to ask me questions about what we do at Transformed Hearts and the age of our youngest clients. I politely answer her questions. Then, there is a long pause. I begin to hear crying – then sobbing on the other end of the line. Through her tears, she begins to share how her 11-year-old son has been viewing pornography for a few months. She and her husband are heartbroken and have no idea how to help him. I reassure her that there is hope, and they are good parents.
Children are amazing. They have such a curiosity and desire to know and understand everything. It is this very curiosity that I believe the media intentionally targets and uses against children. For example, some pornographic websites appear due to innocent misspelled words from children or teens. There is some movement and legislation that is working toward changes, such as adult TV channels not being within the same numerical sequence order as children’s channels.
Several years ago, I was at a sex addiction conference in Boston for therapists and psychologists. One of the statistics they shared is that the third most looked up word online for children at the age of seven was the word… “porn.”
Music is one way our children can become desensitized with its powerful beat and rhythm to lyrics with sexual innuendos. Our teenagers don’t even realize what they are singing along to. Our culture is all about young and sexy.
There is a desensitization and eroding of our moral compass, not only as adults but with our children as well, around sexual images and violence on TV and in movies. Movies and television programming glorifies our youth as if children know better than their parents. Fathers are especially seen as stupid and out of touch with the “real world.” The teenage daughter or son then has to be a “parent.” The behaviors of these characters are disrespectful and intolerant of parental rules and boundaries. Contrary to popular belief, these behaviors strongly impact and influence the behaviors of children watching these television programs and movies. I have noticed movie ratings do not really mean what they meant even just 10 years ago. For example, a PG-13 rated movie today seems more like an R-rated movie from 10 years ago.
Not only has television programs and movies affected the children watching them for decades, it has also destroyed many childhood actors and actresses in the entertainment and movie industry, as they are not properly equipping children to deal with such attention and success.
Since my days of playing Atari, video games have been taken to a whole new level. With the advancement of technology has come some very vivid, violent images of characters of men and women with bulging muscles and graphic sexualized body parts that are barely covered. Now video games can be played 24/7 interactively with others from all around the world.
Social media is another item that can be harmful for our children, as it creates a false sense of security and courage, posting and saying things one would not say in person. It creates a false sense of relationships and friendships. It also creates a false sense of importance and valuing the opinion of others in the items shared and discussed. This causes a great deal of dependency of what others think of them. In addiction recovery, we all know that finding our value externally versus internally does not end well.
Pornography and many of the previous items mentioned above create a need for immediate gratification. This is what I call bad pleasure. Pornography is all about bad pleasure in that you get the pleasure first but payment comes second with shame, guilt, or addictive behaviors. A generation growing up with exposure to pornography and acting out with it creates a confusing paradigm, such as “sex is love.” Unfortunately, I predict this will not end well for anyone in that society, as violence usually increases as morality decreases. In good pleasure, payment is first and pleasure second. In a healthy relationship, two people invest in the relationship with love, vulnerability, kindness, transparency and celebration with sexual intimacy. Those with a healthy understanding of sexual pleasure and intimacy understand that “sex is a celebration of love.”
Pornography is all about fantasy; and like lust, both are about “taking.” They are self-focused and scarcity minded, believing there is never enough, and the desire for the next “high” is right around the corner. Imagination and love are about “giving,” as they are others focused and abundance minded, believing there is more than enough, and there is plenty to share.
There is hope, but we have a great deal of work ahead of us. There is nothing more important than uniting together to protect and fight for the hearts, minds, sexuality and innocence of our children. Counter to popular belief, the issue and the effects pornography is having on our children and society is black and white. (For more information, please visit this website.) It is not as grey as the world might want you to believe. Let’s continue to have a conversation, because as it has been said, “evil prevails when good men/women do nothing.”
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.