By Luke Gilkerson
A little over a week ago Covenant Eyes was invited to be a part of the Convergence Summit outside Baltimore, Maryland, which united hundreds of leaders from around the country to talk about the rapid sexualization of our culture. Many speakers took to the stage to talk about how pornography is impacting our kids, our marriages, our brains and bodies, and even current trends in crime—specifically sex trafficking.
It was a highly emotional experience for all the conference attendees. Overwhelmed with expert testimonies and statistics, it was hard to walk away not wondering how our society has come this far. How is it that 82% of guys in college today saw porn by the age of 14? How is it that 8 out of 10 boys and nearly 6 out of 10 girls have seen “group sex” online before the age of 18? How is it that nearly a third of teens have received a nude or semi-nude picture or video from someone else? How did child pornography become a $3 billion business? How is it that a quarter of a million American kids—not including internationals—are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the U.S.?
In short, how is it that we have sexualized youth so much in this country?
It wasn’t always this way. Western culture has undergone dramatic changes in the last 70 years. Sexual media has gone from being a largely underground industry to impacting every corner of our society. How has this happened?
How Porn Got Its Start
Some say porn has been around since men were drawing on cave walls. This is only true if your definition of “porn” is so broad as to include all forms of writing that approach the subject of sexuality. A narrower definition is more fitting in this case. The word “pornography” entered the English language nearly 150 years ago, and it means “writing of or about prostitutes.” From the beginning, the definition of pornography was limited to forms of media and art that were tied, not to sex, but to commercial sex.
Pornography did not become mainstream on its own. Dr. Judith Reisman, former president of The Institute for Media Education and one of the keynote speakers at the Convergence Summit, says pornography is part of a much larger “Sexual Industrial Complex” in America—a multifaceted network of pornography makers, pharmaceutical industries, and especially the field of sexology.
Take, for instance, the landmark year of 1953: the year Playboy hit the newsstands. Playboy is the first of what would become a long series of pornographic periodicals, paving the way for a whole industry. And what fueled Hugh Hefner’s creation of his magazine? The field of sexology or Human Sexuality—more specifically the work of Dr. Alfred Kinsey. “He credits Dr. Alfred Kinsey with changing his whole perception of sex,” Dr. Reisman reports. “He read the ‘science,’ and he wrote his thesis saying we have to change all of our sex laws based on Kinsey’s findings, and he called himself ‘Kinsey’s Pamphleteer.’ And indeed, that is exactly what he became.”
Kinsey’s Mad Science
Dr. Reisman calls Kinsey “the father of Human Sexuality” in America. His landmark book, Sexual Behavior of the Human Male, was released in 1948 (the book on female behavior came out 5 years later). It fell like a bomb on the academic world, changing forever the way sexuality was discussed in intellectual circles.
Dr. Reisman (pictured here with a Covenant Eyes representative at the 2011 Convergence Summit) has spent the lion’s share of the last three decades exposing the work done by Kinsey not only as fraudulent but frightening. “Kinsey had to create—cook the data,” says Reisman, “to make our World War II generation look like a bunch of promiscuous characters.” How did he do this? Reisman reports most of his subjects were already deviant individuals—prisoners, pimps, and pedophiles. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Kinsey found that 69% of men visited prostitutes, 50% engaged in adultery, 87% of pregnant single women were having abortions, and 95% of Americans were “sexually deviant.” And this was the 1940s?
The message of Kinsey’s research was clear: We’ve all just been hiding what is actually “normal” sexuality. We’ve been promoting an abnormal and puritanical sexual ethic. Forget the Leave It to Beaver image of America. Promiscuity is the new normal.
More disturbing are Kinsey’s reports on the sexuality of children. Dr. Reisman reports that up to 2,034 children were used in Kinsey’s experiments, though many are unaccounted for in the official research documents. Some children—even those documented in his books—were as young as 4 years old.
This research put Kinsey in the spotlight for the rest of his life. Reisman says Kinsey would become the single most important individual who lobbied for the relaxing of well-established laws that protected women and children from sexual violence. He would also become a cultural icon who worked to normalize the sexualization of youth in the public eye.
From Scholars to Smut
What Kinsey did in the academic world, Hugh Hefner did for the masses. Reisman asserts, “Just as Kinsey’s statistics and graphs were all fraud and phony and lies, so were Playboy’s images.” Porn became one of the primary vehicles through which the American mind was rewired to see sexuality differently.
Dr. Reisman was the principle investigator for a study of child images in major porn magazines—Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler. After reviewing 683 issues, from as early as 1953 and as late as 1984, her team found 6,004 child images associated with sexuality, nudity, and even violence. Even more troubling is that 46% of the child photographs showed children ages 3-11.
And these images are just the ugly tip of a very large iceberg. The most massive body of evidence for the sexualizing of youth is visible all around us today, from the toys that are marketed to the clothes they wear, from the music videos they watch to the TV shows they see. Adults and children don’t even need to see pornography to get the message: youth is sexy, so flaunt it.
And in the mean time the porn industry marches on, increasing their profits and pushing the limits. With each new media format and each new technology, the porn industry is not be far behind. Damon Brown, a regular writer for Playboy, SPIN, and the New York Post, summarizes it best: “If we invent a machine, the first thing we are going to do—after making a profit—is use it to watch porn […] DVDs, the Internet, cell phones, you name it, pornography planted its big flag there first, or at least shortly thereafter.”
- Listen to the complete 30-minute interview with Dr. Judith Reisman on the Covenant Eyes blog. The subject matter is not suitable for some audiences due to graphic descriptions of sexuality and violence. Listener discretion is advised.
- Get a copy of Dr. Reisman’s latest book, Sexual Sabotage: How One Mad Scientist Unleashed a Plague of Corruption and Contagion on America