Monday, January 7, 2013

To Catch a Predator

I recall a graduate school psychology professor telling the class that he watched zombie movies as a kid to help process his fears.  I started thinking of the TV shows and/or movies that I like to watch and immediately a favorite came to mind:  Law and Order SVU.  The realization dawned that I liked crime shows precisely because they helped me process my fears about my ex-husband's foray into the world of child pornography.  And even now, after all that has happened, they are still a favorite, although watching the detectives cuff a "perp" triggers me now with painful memories of my ex-husband's arrest.

So I confess to spending the evening last night watching Dateline's To Catch a Predator. 

Some painful ideas coalesced during my marathon watching session.
  1. Sexual addiction/compulsion is not a respecter of persons.  Individuals from all walks of life are snared in the trap laid by the program.
  2. Denial, minimization and blame are immediate reactions of the perpetrators to getting caught.  These defense mechanisms are universal.
  3. Pedophiles are creative and perceptive liars.  They may justify their behavior to themselves or other like-minded individuals but when caught, they intuitively know that their behavior is socially, morally and legally unacceptable so they begin to lie.
  4. Sexual compulsions are an addictive disease and if left unchecked, will escalate.  It is a progressive disease.
  5. This disease is pervasive and impacts the entire person.  Reasonable, educated and professional men are reduced to sniffling perps, unable to cognitively understand just how sick they really are.  The notion that involvement with pornography hijacks and completely changes the male brain is profound and should inform education, prevention and law enforcement strategies to protect innocent victims.
When I was a kid, TV shows routinely depicted main characters smoking and cigarette commercials were very common.  When scientists figured out how harmful this habit was to the smoker's health, laws were passed that prevented tobacco companies from advertising on television and required them to put a warning label on each package of cigarettes.  Hollywood cooperated and consequently we do not see as many main characters smoking on the big or little screen.

And yet, adult pornography is routinely depicted as a harmless and maybe even a spicy alternative to boring monogamous sex.  My ex-husband's "Christian therapist" even suggested soft porn as a way to re-energize our failing marriage.  Of course, this is the same charlatan who encouraged my ex-husband's experimentation with child pornography.  Child pornography is still considered taboo in Hollywood, although one could argue that some of the films produced do dance too close to that invisible line defining what is pornographic and what is not.  My ex was thrilled with the movie "Blue Lagoon" when it was first introduced and it was a film that pushed the limits on child sexuality.

But if we really want to protect children and women, it is time we become as progressive about the issue of pornography--adult and child--as we did about cigarette smoking.  It is time for Hollywood to stop using sex to sell movies and to stop depicting adult porn as normal and healthy.  It is time for advertisers to stop objectifying and sexualizing women and children to sell their products.  It is time for Congress to come up with a warning label that should be affixed to any product, commercial or movie that depicts pornography in a positive light.  It worked for smoking; its worth a try with porn addictions.  This needs to become a national campaign!  It is not just a personal issue--it infects every part of our society--much like cigarette smoke lingers long after the smoker has snuffed out the flame.

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