Rage and Reason: It’s Time to Talk

I’ve been avoiding writing about some very important topics well within the realm of this blog for a long time.  Why?  Because every time I start to put the words down, I have the most sickening feeling inside.  Tears turn into sulfuric acid and when I try not to let them out they drip into my stomach and rip at my guts.

I keep thinking surely it’s about to stop.  Someone is going to stop it.  But no one is stopping it, it is only ramping up into a greater frenzy.  These are a few headlines and signs that told me I have to write about this:

I am not about to stand up for prostitution.  I am not one of those people who views it like the overly-made up saloon workers from Gunsmoke just exercising their right to operate an atypical business.  If that is your image of prostitution, you need a wake up call.  Read the link to the last bullet point above, and you will have a nauseating insight into what prostitution is today.  If you think joking about pimps is funny, you have no idea what you are talking about.  None.

It’s past time for some frank talk about denial.  Men receive and appear to deserve the preponderance of blame for what is happening all around us, but no one is immune.  Plenty of women confess to using Internet pornography and there have been some high profile stories that became criminal cases of women putting their own children on the Internet and selling them to strangers for sex.

This is not about whether or not using pornography to manage your sex life is right or wrong.  That is a very complicated subject beyond this blog with so many twists and turns one could devote his or her entire life to it and never be done.  This is about facing the consequences of going down this road and dealing with it.

Being fascinated with looking at other people naked is pretty much ancient news.  It’s human, it’s normal, it’s no big deal.  Looking at other people having sex, while it’s not for everyone, is also something that is an established attraction for many human beings.  So far, nothing is really way out there, right?  It used to be that this interest had a fairly limited range of opportunity that kept it in check, so becoming obsessed with it was unlikely.  It had a place, that place was limited, and while it was omnipresent as a lurking interest it was a controlled if powerful instinct.

Enter the Internet.

What if a common but heretofore controlled human instinct were entirely unleashed in terms of access and frequency?  And what if that instinct could be harnessed to fuel an insatiable appetite that would drive an economic engine so powerful and lucrative that it would be limited only by your imagination and willingness to take new risks?

Wonder no more.  Welcome to the brave new world of online sex for money.

The “brain on sex” has been compared by neurologists to the brain on cocaine.  We are due for a serious conversation about what is happening to people’s minds in this new equation.  People on cocaine are not renowned for their thoughtful philanthropy and intimate relationships.  They are marked by paranoia, aggression, and singular focus on their addiction, usually to the exclusion of any concern for or awareness of the destruction they are wreaking on themselves and others.

The sex we are dealing with here is not Hugh Hefner’s sex.  There are no cute bunny ears and people over 18 years of age.  Frankly, one of the reasons I have not written about this is I do not really want to get into it.  It’s too upsetting.  As generally as possible I will say that I’m not sure I can even call it sex.  It is pornography.  It is self-gratification by the violent degradation of and dominance over, and in some cases killing of, submissive others.  And there is no more available “submissive other” than a child.

Right about now, you are thinking, whoa, slow down there lady.  I just pleasure to “porn.”  I’m not hurting anyone.  You are crazy.

What is crazy is the refusal to step out of a compartmentalized way of thinking in order to see what is as plain as day.  We aren’t just on the slippery slope, we are on a slope covered in grease wearing Olympic skis.

There is an old joke, “Everyone who drives faster than I do is a maniac, and everyone who drives slower than I do is an idiot.”  That attitude applies in many areas of life, not just driving.  We all look to our own “normal” to judge other people’s behavior.  But the trouble with this is that there will always be drivers going faster and slower than you do.  Don’t look to the outlying extremes, just look at yourself.

Believe me when I say, I am a typical person.  I am no better than anyone else and I am keenly aware of that.  Because I have lived in denial at certain points in my life, I recognize its reliable hallmarks easily in others.  They look something like this:

  • I can’t tell my partner about that because he/she would freak out.
  • I’m not doing anything wrong, no one is getting hurt.
  • It’s not illegal, so leave me alone.
  • What I do is my business.
  • I wish everyone would stop being so judgmental and irrational.

My call today is for all of us to step outside of the bubble and look critically at the roles we have in why selling children on the Internet is now an everyday occurrence — and by officers of the court at that.  We need to be more open about how we have allowed a generally safe and productive human interest to be twisted into a cash machine that grinds up marriages, partnerships, careers, and children’s lives.  It starts with doing one of the most difficult things to do — admitting that our choices are not necessarily benign just because we didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

We need to embrace the reality that what we intend to do really has nothing to do with what is happening.  You can be religious, or atheist, or agnostic about it, but we need to stop talking about intentions and start talking about results.  The result of what is going on now is an utter nightmare barreling along at an alarming rate.  It is screaming in the headlines.

Will we listen?

12 thoughts on “Rage and Reason: It’s Time to Talk

  1. Absolutely spot on blog post!!! How true this is, I live on the East End of Charleston and trust me, there are no “gunsmoke saloon” prostitutes there…I also see how the industry feeds on itself and in most ways tends to perpetuate the narcissism in our culture and the ego driven nightmare fueled strangeness that is occuring. And trust me I am not someone who moralizes, but i have a strong compass of what is acceptable and what is not…thank you for this post!!! As always thought provoking and timely.

    • Thank you, Gabriella. You know, it amazes me how many people still live in a stereotyped world of jokes about prostitution. Good, decent, nice people will still crack a pimp or whore joke like it is just a world of hilarity. Spend a day in that world and then laugh yourself silly. My belief is they are trying to sound worldly when they have no clue, or they do have a clue and are so jaded and bitter they have lost all feeling about it. Either way, not good.

      My grandmother lived on the East End for most of her life. It has a lot of potential and needs people who can envision the future, and I see a lot of that happening. We need to stop making human misery a sex joke, and it starts by speaking out. Thank you for being willing to do that.

  2. Good morning! I have a blog, which was began with the sole purpose of using it as a “scrapbook” for my children. However, I have a degree in journalism and a career in politics, so it is almost impossible for me not to write about certain current issues that I feel passionate about. I follow your blog faithfully and think you are an amazingly beautiful writer. When I began reading this post, my mouth dropped open, because I too have started to blog on this same subject several times lately, and stopped because of the sick feeling it gave me. I tell you all this to say…thank you. Thank you for your beautiful words and for shedding some very much needed light on this topic. Thank you.

    • Kristin, you are very kind. Thank you for reading the blog and for expressing your understanding of how hard it is sometimes to talk about and write about the things we are most concerned with.

      The depression and distrust that can set in when one gets involved in this topic is very real, so do pace yourself. The dynamic of some of us not wanting to get involved is legitimate; it’s very scary. Some things you just want to leave buried. But a consequence is even safer space for those who carry out dishonest, violating, and sometimes criminal activity against other people — especially children. I don’t see anything getting buried so much as getting stronger by our looking away.

      I truly appreciate your kind words and your connection. Thank you!

  3. I have danced around writing about this stuff for a while now, too. Mostly my personal experiences with, and reactions to, the objectification of women on the whole and pornography in particular. It’s a painful enough topic to write about, at least for me, and to think about the young victims of sexual slavery/child porn, etc. is almost more than I can bear.

    Ugh. See? I can’t even coherently complete this comment.

    I look forward to reading more of what you have to say about all this…

    • Thanks, Karan. I deliberately downplayed that element (objectification of women) because it is so entrenched and so rationalized now that I’m not sure people even see it anymore, which is tragic. I also think if people read the latest link to the Gazette piece there is a chance that the child being sold for sex was male may wake some people up. It is all connected, and a refusal to admit that is a huge part of the problem.

      We don’t even see what we are doing anymore. Little girls are now teens, teens are now women, and women’s bodies are commodities. It’s all for sale, and it’s all driving a huge portion of the economy. Every hollow thrill wears out, and we are already seeing seeing law enforcement officers retire on mental health benefits because they cannot bear another case of sexual assault on an infant, sold over the Internet to anonymous buyers internationally. As the saying goes, “This ain’t your grandpappy’s centerfold.”

      I don’t enjoy this. Not one bit. But there comes a point when you can’t be silent anymore. It’s too deadly and the silence is not helping anything. I will do some follow up posts on this issue and some of its related concerns. I expect I will take some heat for it, but that’s part of the deal, so that’s fine.

      I think it is possible to distance oneself so much from one’s fellow human beings as valuable, spiritual, precious lives that you no longer see anything as unacceptable. We are cruising close to that altitude.

  4. I reserve judgement on the court official until he is tried in court but if he did what he is accused of his punishment should be harsh. I worry for my grand and great grand children, I am not there all the time, other people come in contact with them, people I don’ know. I can imagine I might commit capital punishment if they are sexually used, abused. I get plenty angry just knowing of psychological abuse of children.

  5. Thank you for having the courage to address this. “Courage” is the wrong word, of course. How could courage possibly be necessary to denounce something that is obviously destructive and dead serious? I guess I use the word because I am afraid to talk about these things in public. I don’t know why. Men, decent men (as you noted), make a joke out of this stuff all the time. When they do so I feel like I’m a kid again in a middle school locker room having to listen to the idiotic banter (about women and girls then, too, of course) of his adolescent peers, too scared to say anything to contradict them. This fear and the silence that issues from it is clearly part of the whole problem. Unless I missed something, only women responded to this post. That in itself doesn’t make all men bad or anything, but… I don’t know.

    • Thanks for stepping out there, yourself. Julian Martin is a man, in every sense of the word, so I am happy to tell you that you are not alone.

      BUT…….I know exactly what you are saying. There is too much male silence in general on important issues like this, and it is terribly unfortunate. My guess is that most don’t want to be hypocrites by denouncing something they are engaging. I’m not sure. It IS very difficult to address. It’s a very sensitive subject no matter how you feel about it (almost).

      I found this article on CNN that I thought has some relevance: http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/22/social.history.cocaine/index.html

      “It’s amazing what people will do to deny the dangers of the things they tend to like.”

      One thing I think about is we need to do more to separate the attraction from the consequences in our ability to talk about it. It seems a bit far-fetched to ask people to deny sexual attractions. But I hardly think it’s too much to ask for a rational acknowledgement that everything we want to do is not a good idea, and that consequences can be far worse than politically incorrect. They can be socially devastating and even deadly.

      • Oh dear! I’m sorry Julian. Obviously I didn’t read the comments carefully enough!

        Anyway, I like your approach, Elizabeth. You’re always so good about seeking out the constructive way of addressing problems.

    • By the way, just wait until I develop actual courage and write about my years as a sexuality educator. For example, did you know that if you want to be effective helping a man avoid HIV you should never ask him if he’s gay? Just ask him if he has sex with other men. Oh yes…..I know a bit more than I let on around here. 😉

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