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Blaze News investigates: A serial killer's ominous death-bed warning about pornography — and why you should care about it
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Blaze News investigates: A serial killer's ominous death-bed warning about pornography — and why you should care about it

Is pornography a free-speech issue? Experts who spoke to Blaze News tell the truth about pornography.

On the eve of his execution, serial killer Ted Bundy provided a forbidding warning about pornography.

“I’ve lived in prison for a long time now,” Bundy said, “and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence, just like me.

"What's at stake is the well-being of our next generation. What's at stake is the levels of violence against women and children."

“And without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography,” he continued, “deeply influenced and consumed by an addiction to pornography. There’s no question about it.”

In the decades since that January 1989 interview, experts have repeatedly psychoanalyzed Bundy’s perspective, dismissing the connection he made between pornography and violence. This is the responsible conclusion, after all, because the vast majority of pornography consumers will never commit acts of violence against others, let alone become a serial killer.

But Dr. Gail Dines, a progressive feminist and anti-porn scholar, told Blaze News that she believes Bundy was correct.

"I would agree with him," Gines said. "And it's borne out by the literature.

"But just make it clear: Not every man who is addicted to porn is a Ted Bundy. Just be very clear on that. That's not what I'm saying," she explained. "The question is: Why would he lie? He knew he was going to be executed. ... What did he have to gain by lying? Nothing."

Dr. Donald Hilton, M.D., a Texas-based neurosurgeon, told Blaze News that he agrees that "what Ted Bundy said is likely true," adding the same caveat that most people who consume pornography will never commit violent acts.

It's been more than 35 years since Bundy's interview, and pornography consumption today looks much different than it did in the 1970s and 1980s. The advent of the internet and smartphone means that most people can access endless amounts of pornography on the small computers they carry in their pockets.

That's why experts like Hilton and Dines, founder of Culture Reframed, are warning about the dangers of pornography, and it's why they want you to care about this growing problem.

What are the statistics?

The data shows that pornography consumption in the United States, thanks to the internet and smartphone, is ubiquitous.

Here are some of the alarming statistics:

These statistics, which only scratch the surface, are not meaningless bits of data.

On the contrary, they help frame the seriousness of the issue, especially once you understand what happens to a human brain when someone consumes pornography.

Your brain on pornography

As pornography use has increased, so has our understanding of what pornography does to the human brain — and it's not good.

Dr. William Struthers, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Wheaton College in Chicago, explained to Blaze News in 2016 how pornography use mimics the effects of drugs by hijacking our brain.

"When we talk about pornography as a drug, we've really got the cart before the horse. Really, the only reason why any drugs are addictive is that they act on the brain's natural pleasure systems," he said.

"The brain has these natural pleasure circuits — these circuits that are designed to give us the feeling of closeness, of excitement, of love — and so the only reason why these drugs, like crack, morphine, methamphetamine, or any of those have any pleasurable consequences at all is because they act on these natural systems that are already there," Struthers continued. "So a better way to talk about heroin is that heroin is actually injected orgasm."

"Drugs that mimic the chemical properties already in the brain and are part of this natural pleasure circuit, those are the ones that we get addicted to," he explained. "So porn isn't crack for your eyes, crack is smoked sexual arousal."

Not only does pornography hijack brain chemicals, Hilton told Blaze News that regularly viewing pornography could change your brain structure.

“If we look back at the violin studies that were done several decades ago, they looked at structural MRI scans on violin players and they found that the part of the brain that controls the left hand or the string hand — that part of the brain gets large, and the earlier they start to learn, the more change there is in that part of the brain," Hilton said.

“Now there's really no controversy in saying that our brains change. And literally, depending on different types of learning, different areas of the brain can actually enlarge or change based on learning," he explained.

"Learning sculpts brain structure," Hilton said. "Literally, our brains are changed physically depending on what we're learning."

That powerful concept underscores the addictive nature of pornography, an assertion the porn industry and much of mainstream science reject.

Despite pushback on the "addictive" label, Hilton told Blaze News pornography is "the prototype of a natural or behavioral addiction."

Hilton explained that some people become "so focused" on pornography that it hurts their relationships, careers, and other areas of their lives, comparing it to gamblers who let gambling destroy their finances and relationships.

"People can destroy their relationships with pornography in a similar way because they become so focused on this one pleasure that everything else takes a back seat," he said. "If we understand that concept — that sexuality can be learned in such a way that it can become such a focus that everything else in life takes a back seat — that is addiction.

"That's the definition of addiction. And despite harmful consequences, the individual doesn't stop their pursuit of this pleasure — that's what an addiction is," he emphasized.

How pornography harms women and children

Pro-porn advocates argue that pornography is not a serious issue because consuming pornography is a personal decision that individuals should have the right make for themselves.

But the experts who spoke to Blaze News explained why that narrative is false.

Not only does the "massive industry" behind pornography exploit female "performers" — who, according to Dines, are often victims of childhood abuse — but she said that many women are "pimped" and "groomed" into the industry.

Just as problematic, Dines said that pornography endangers women and children because of the "sexual script" that it constructs on its users.

"It really does set a sexual script on what it means to be male, what it means to be female, and it normalizes violence against women and children," she explained.

"It increases sexual harassment, rape, bullying, sexting. It basically encourages [women] to do acts they're not comfortable with," Gines warned. "And what we found is more girls and women are going to pornography, not to use it as a masturbatory tool, but to use it to see what the men are looking at, so that they can then perform porn sex."

"It puts them more at risk of being sexually abused because it tells them, 'That's all you exist for. You are a disposable sex object, and that you're meant to whatever men do to you,'" she said.

Hilton, moreover, warned the pornography industry wants to create "lifelong consumers" — from childhood to adulthood.

"The pornography industry may give lip service and say, 'We don't want children to have access to pornography. In fact, what happens is lifelong customers are often produced by early exposure," he said. "Their brains, of course, learn quickly, but they also are imprinted deeply because when they learn something, it's new for them. And something as potent as sexuality, particularly age-inappropriate sexuality, is going to imprint them deeply."

The "sexual script" that porn constructs is concerning for two reasons.

First, most people are exposed to pornography before having real-life sexual encounters; thus pornography warps their idea about what sex is and what it should be.

Second, pornography is becoming more aggressive and more violent. In fact, Dines warned that young people who consume pornography now "are watching violence from day one."

"When you sexualize violence, you render the violence invisible," she said.

To emphasize the harm that pornography poses on society, Hilton quoted author Robert Jensen.

"What does it say about our culture that cruelty is so easy to market?" he quoted. "We accept a culture flooded with images of women who are sexual commodities. Increasingly, women in pornography are not people having sex but bodies upon which sexual activities of increasing cruelty are played out. And many men — maybe a majority of men — like it."

Is there any hope?

Because of its addictive and consuming qualities, a significant number of pornography consumers want to stop using it.

It's hard to quit — but there is hope.

Dr. Kevin Skinner, a therapist and expert in sexual addiction recovery, told Blaze News that recovery from compulsive pornography use is a "journey" that requires authentic relationships and true accountability.

"The antidote isn't just stopping a behavior," he explained. "The real answer is actually healthy relationships and healthy connections."

"Healing is relational," Skinner added. "Overcoming any challenge — the more relationships or connections you have, the easier it is to fight the battle."

While some people who compulsively consume pornography do so because they're bored, Skinner explained that most users watch it because they're looking for an escape from something difficult in their life.

"The commonality is: I'm trying to get away from something," he said. "If there's a commonality: 'I'm turning into it for a reason. I want to feel different than what I'm currently feeling.'"

For anyone stuck in the cycle of pornography use, Skinner shared practical encouragement: "You're not alone."

"We live in a culture today where there is so much isolation. People feel ashamed or embarrassed," he said. "And my core thing is: You're not alone, and there are people who understand."

"Just because you look at porn that doesn't make you a bad person. It's ultimately: Why is that the coping mechanism? Are there other ways that I could cope that would be effective?" he continued. "If anything, we need to remove the shame and the stigma of it and just, 'OK, so you've been looking at porn. How can we help? How can we support and help you find other ways to work through this?"

Should the government play a role?

For more than a decade, experts concerned about skyrocketing pornography use have warned that pornography in the digital world is the "new tobacco."

Now, states are passing age-verification laws requiring pornography websites to verify the age of users and declarations that proclaim pornography use is a public-health crisis.

There was once pushback to government regulation of the tobacco industry. But the government finally stepped in after evidence proving the harmful impact of long-term tobacco use debunked the industry's lies.

Hilton told Blaze News there should be a similar approach to pornography, especially when it comes to protecting children.

"We have a public interest in protecting children," he said. "We need to develop policies that protect those children no matter what the interests that produce pornography say.

"It's not a free speech issue. That's what the pornography industry and its apologists will say, 'Well, yes, we don't want children to be exposed, but what you're doing with this law is you're hampering the free speech of consenting adults,'" Hilton explained. "And so what they're saying is, 'We need to be able to continue to have a system that harms children until you find a system that protects children but doesn't hurt adults.' So they want to be able to continue to harm the children.

"Unless consenting adults can figure out a way to completely protect the children first, the impetus should be from that direction, not the other way around," he counseled.

Dines agreed. She said "there needs to be accountability on the porn industry" because right now, there is almost none.

"There has to be a national debate with government involved," she told Blaze News. "Is this the kind of culture we want to live in? Do we want our kids to have access to this? Do we want grown men to have access to this given what we know the effects are?"

"What's at stake is the well-being of our next generation. What's at stake is the levels of violence against women and children — sexual violence increasing — and developing a society that allows kids to flourish and to develop who they are and their own sexual templates, rather than an industry deciding the sexual template of a kid.

"In fact, the very nature of the society is what's at risk," Dines warned.

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Chris Enloe

Chris Enloe

Staff Writer

Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News
@chrisenloe →