SPECIAL FEATURE: by Mary Anne LaydenNews Weekly
How the sex industry destroys society (Part 2)
, September 24, 2005
US psychologist Dr Mary Anne Layden recently addressed a Sexual Integrity Forum in Canberra on the rising incidence of sexual addiction and sexual violence in Western society.
In this second and concluding article, based on her Canberra talk, Dr Layden describes not only the personal trauma invariably suffered by prostitutes and strippers, but also the serious harm that pornography has on marriages and families
.For Part 1 see http://www.newsweekly.com.au/articles/2005sep10_p.htmlI have previously referred to "permission-giving beliefs" - beliefs that say, "What I'm doing is normal and fine and okay and doesn't hurt anybody, and I can keep doing what I'm doing." And so that's the core of all the kinds of violence that we see, whether it's sexual violence or whatever.
Some of the permission-giving beliefs are that children enjoy sex with adults. How do they know? "Well, I've seen it," say the perpetrators. "I've seen the smiling children. They're on the Internet. They're on the pictures in the books - whatever. I've seen children who are smiling and happy and enjoying sex with adults."
Until the United States introduced laws to keep pornography out of public libraries, the paedophiles that I would treat would say to me, "How bad can child pornography be? You can get it at the library!" So for them, if you can get it at the library, it must be okay.
I mean, a little sweet librarian wouldn't let you have anything bad, would she? So it must be okay.
So pornography distortion is a set of beliefs that come directly from pornography. Its message is: sex is not
about kindness, vulnerability, responsibility, sweetness, intimacy, communication, commitment, procreation, marriage.
It is not about any of those things, because you are not going to see any of those in pornography. They have taken procreation out of it. Nobody has a baby. Nobody gets pregnant.
What is sex about? According to pornography, it's about selfishness, violence, strangers, groups, faeces, objects, children, manipulation, body parts, casual recreation, prostitutional lingerie and using women's bodies as entertainment. Is that the message we want to send? And, remember, we're sending it in a potent way that is going to burn onto your memory. It is going to be printed on your brain forever.
Sex is not for bald men, small-breasted women, older women, kind men, large women, funny men, spiritual women, thin men, disabled women, ugly men. No, none of those people get to have sex, because in pornography none of them do. No.
Who is it for? It's just for young people - only young people, physically atypically constructed people, physically attractive people, surgically-enhanced people.Cybersex addiction
I want to talk a little bit about cybersex addiction - that is, those who are going online and looking at pornography sites. You get designer sex. Want this one? Click. Give me another one! Click. Give me some other type - different hair, click. Different body parts ...
You know, this doesn't work in real life. With a real partner, you can't just click them into another image. So it is damaging to real-life relationships.
And the Gonzo type of pornography, which is now just flooding the Internet - sex with animals, sex with faeces, sex with objects, every form of pathological sex - is abundantly represented on the Internet.
Sexual exploitation damages the performers. Prostitution is the only kind of career whose prerequisite is that you have to be raped as a child and you have to be homeless, and it would be helpful if you were a drug abuser too.
So what happens after they get into the sex industry? Well, how about these as some of the consequences of your job - depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative identity disorder, substance abuse disorder, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and traumatic re-enactment?
Dissociative identity disorder is a disorder in which a person disassociates, meaning, "I can't stay in my body psychologically. I can't be at home in my body." It typically starts when a child is being sexually abused.
So, if you rape a child, one thing a child does to tolerate that immense horror is to leave their body, go up to the ceiling and watch the child being raped from the ceiling. They say, "It's not me. It's somebody else. I'm watching it. I'm out of my body. I don't have to feel it. It's not happening to me. And when I'm an adult I can still use it as a coping strategy. Go out of my body and dissociate."
Eating disorders, low self-esteem and traumatic re-enactment follow.
When this little girl has been raped in her childhood, that visual invasion and physical invasion now seem normal. As an adult she repeats that. So she will become a stripper, a porn model or a prostitute. Those are just a repeat now, with the customer playing the role of the perpetrator. So we have the whole cycle in repeat.
When we have sexual abuse at the 65 per cent level, we get dissociation at the 35 per cent level. Thirty-five per cent of these strippers are dissociated. In the normal population, the number of people who dissociate is far below 1 per cent. With prostitution, we're talking about 35 per cent in this population who need to dissociate in order to go to work, in order to tolerate being at work.
One person said to me, "When you're a stripper and you have to be physically and visually invaded every day by many people at once, that damage is even greater than the one-to-one invasion. And, you know, the men who go to strip clubs will say to me, 'Oh, those women, they are really attracted to me, and they really like me.'
"Meanwhile, I'm thinking, 'Have you ever talked to a stripper? Have you ever heard what they say about men?' They're acting like 'I'm really excited by you. I'm really desirous of you.'
"And I'm thinking, 'I hate your guts. You're a pig. I don't want you to touch me. You disgust me. I wouldn't go out on a date with you if you had all the money in the world. You are such a horrible thing. You make me want to puke.'
"And I have to do this with many, many people who are now visually invading me, and I'm being intimate with people I'm not intimate with. And I'd better get out of my body or I will go crazy."
Many strippers say, "Well, if I can't dissociate any more, I will just have to use cocaine or alcohol to get me out of my body so that I can go to work."Damage to families
What about the relationship damage to partners and the children? I've heard this, with variations, in so many of the patients that I deal with.
The woman comes in and she says, "My husband and I are having problems in our marriage, and so we went to see this marital therapist who told us to use some pornography.
"We used the pornography together, and the initial reaction was it sort of stimulated our marriage and we were having more sex and better sex, and we were saying, 'This is pretty good', and then ... "
(I'm always waiting, as she is telling this story, because the "and then" always comes - "and then", I'll get some variation on this theme.)
"One night, I'm having sex with him and he's turning around and looking at the pornography on the TV screen while he's having sex with me. And I'm thinking, he's not having sex with me. He's having sex with her."
And then it occurs to them, this pornography actually reduced the intimacy in their marriage. It reduced the connectedness in their marriage. It reduced the commitment in their marriage.
Any time you bring anybody into your marriage, other than you and your partner - anybody, into the intimacy of that - you are going to reduce and dilute the intimacy of that marriage.
And the kids, what do the kids tell me? The kids say, "When daddy looks at me, it feels yucky."
They don't know about the sexualised gazes. They don't know the term. They don't know the term "emotional incest". They just know that "daddy gives me the creepies. He looks at me in that way and something about him is not right".
So the relationship between the parent and the child is now damaged.
Take job and educational problems. One study said that 45 per cent of those students who are capable of making it through college, flunk out because of inappropriate Internet use.
The Swedish model shows that you can do something about it. You can send the message that we are going to change the system. You can try to roll back the biggest permission-giving belief there is, which says, "It's legal."
In the United States, our legislators tried many times to enact laws to keep pornography away from our children, by blocking it in the libraries and the schools. But, every time we passed a law, the American Civil Liberties Union came up and said, "Free speech. Our Founding Fathers wanted our children to have pornography, you know."Fighting back
We finally got it through on the issue of money, because the Government said to the libraries, "If you want any Federal funding for your library Internet use, you've got to have filters on your library computers."
All those librarians who were saying, "We want to have complete unfettered access in our library and we don't want to have any limitations in our library", now said: "Oh, you are going to take our money away. Okay, put a filter on!" So now our libraries are filtered.
But, let me say this: If you sit in silence, if you do not speak up, if you know the truth and you do not speak truth to authority, your silence is complicity. So you cannot be silent.
For me, I finally got the lesson that silence was complicity when I finally grasped the fact that those psychological cannibals in the world - the pornographers, the sex traffickers, the pimps, the ones who are feeding upon the psychological vulnerabilities of others - were dependent on my silence.
And so, you can take a message from me to anybody in that realm - any pornographer, any pimp, any sex trafficker. You can tell them from me: "You will never have the comfort of my silence again."
And if that is true for you as well, you can be the kinds of heroes that this planet deeply hungers for, and I hope it is true.
- Dr Mary Anne Layden PhD is co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, USA. This article is from the second part of a talk she delivered on August 8 at the Sexual Integrity Forum, held at Parliament House, Canberra.