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January 11, 2012

Overcoming the Porn Problem

New documentary wisely shines a light on personal stories, rather than just the 'experts'

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When filmmaker Sean Finnegan first considered doing a documentary on the problem of pornography, he knew he didn’t want to merely cite facts and figures interwoven with sound bites from experts. He thought the best way to tell this story was to, well, tell a story – and in the case of Out of the Darkness, now available on DVD, he found a powerful one in former porn actress Shelley Lubben, who now runs a ministry helping others to escape the sex industry and find hope and healing in Christ.

“Stories matter,” says Finnegan. “Most of the work done on pornography revolves around the issues of free speech and legislation, or the science behind addiction. But films are not essays or treatises. Films, like novels and poems and plays, are here to tell stories. And that is enough. If that is done well, we will, as Conrad said, gain a glimpse into the truth for which we forgot to ask.

“What stories can do for us is put faces on their topics. No matter how intense the debate around pornography becomes, the debate is really about human beings.”

Finnegan aims his camera at four such humans, including two who have come out of the darkness themselves, Lubben (don't worry; this website is safe) and recovered sex addict Mark Houck. Finnegan also interviews family therapist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons and sexual revolution historian Dr. Judith Reisman, who are much more than mere “talking heads” here; Fitzgibbons and Reisman also tell stories, including one Reisman shares about a daughter who was raped. While Lubben and Houck focus more on their personal testimonies, the other two describe the culture and societal breakdown that got America into this mess – and yes, it’s presented as chiefly an American problem. After all, almost 90 percent of all porn sites originate in the U.S.

Reisman gives some fascinating background about how Dr. Albert Kinsey’s post-WWII sex research – including the infamous “Kinsey Reports” – sparked America’s sexual revolution. She disputes Kinsey’s “science” as fraudulent, but says academia, the media, and the general population accepted it as true, including the notion that we’re all just basically sexual animals, so why not just go for it? Fitzgibbons adds that many of us have embraced what he calls a “sexual utilitarian philosophy,” resulting in a breakdown of the family, a collapse of morality, and on a personal level, profound loneliness, sadness, and narcissism. It’s all a recipe for the porn industry to flourish.

But most compelling are the stories from Lubben and Houck. The latter tells how he grew up a “normal” guy, but how, shortly after his father died when he was just 11, he became a loner. He discovered his first Playboy as a pre-teen and got hooked on the magazines, and later on Internet porn, to the point where he was spending up to four hours a day on his habit. Houck struggled with his addiction for 16 years before finally realizing how destructive it was and making the decision to break free. He did so mainly by recommitting to his Christian faith, and while that story isn’t told in great detail here, Houck makes it clear that his disciplined pursuit of righteousness that made the difference – more than his decision to simply avoid the temptation. It was the pursuit of the good more than the mere fleeing of the bad that helped him win the battle.

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Lubben’s (pictured at left) devastating-but-ultimately-redeeming story is told in much greater detail. Neglected by her parents as a child and sexually molested by a teen neighbor when she was just 9, Lubben desperately sought love in all the wrong places. When her father kicked her out of the house at age 18, a pimp offered her solace and quick $35 – if she’d turn a trick. She ended up as a full-time prostitute and stripper, later transitioning to porn films. All along, she says, she was driven by her anger at her parents, her loathing of herself, and her desire to prove her value – worth she found from the johns who hired her and, later, the film directors who praised her. She ended up getting herpes and attempting suicide. When she finally met a man who fell in love with her, and not merely her body and what she could do with it, she was confused. But eventually the love was requited, she left the porn industry, they were married, and started attending church. As she grew in faith – and, like Houck, in her pursuit of righteousness – the old demons began to fall away, literally and figuratively. (Lubben believes that Satan has a field day with people in the porn industry, which she calls “a cult.”)

The film’s most moving comments come, not surprisingly, from Lubben, but this one was perhaps the most powerful: “When people view porn, they are really watching mentally ill and physically diseased people having sex.” Puts quite a perspective on it.

Since Lubben has left the porn industry, she has founded the Pink Cross Foundation, a ministry to reach out to porn stars and sex workers. She has helped more than 50 people leave those fields and find hope and healing.

There’s a lot of hope and healing in this documentary too. While made from a Christian perspective, it’s not preachy. It’s matter-of-fact and story-driven, striking just the right tone. Highly recommended; buy it here. Here’s the trailer:

Comments

Wow this is really inspiring. The more awareness this problem gets the better. So many people need help.

I am constantly amazed at the continued growth of the porn industry and more than that - how much it has invaded the church. Looks like this movie might be an intelligent approach to getting folks to take a look at the problem and deal with it. I pray that is so.

The Porn industry is just about money. Christians need to fully dedicate their lives to Christ and this takes the power out of porn to pull them out of being viewers.

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