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External Articles | Posted: May 7, 2011

Out of the Porn Darkness

By Austin Ruse
The Catholic Thing, May 6, 2011

If you watch a pornographic video, you are watching mentally ill and physically diseased people having sex. So says former porn-star Shelley Lubben in the riveting new documentary, "Out of Darkness".

Lubben tells her life story which began in a home that was an emotional shambles. Her father worked constantly. Even at home, he ignored her. Her mother was "cold and distant." Lubben was starved for love and attention. She said she would have "burned the house down to get attention." This alone was a recipe for disaster. But then she was molested by two classmates at age nine and she "discovered" her body was her ticket to what she thought was love. Her teen years were spent in drinking, drugs, and sex. Kicked out of the house by her father at eighteen, Lubben resorted to prostitution, turning her first trick for $35.

She plied her trade for six years, but after seeing many of her prostitute friends get hurt by customers, she switched to pornographic films: "The most attractive quality about that was that someone told me it was legal." That and it paid $2500 per film: "Back in those days, you could actually make money making porn."

Lubben says the awful life of a prostitute is nothing compared to what she experienced in the world of hard-core pornography. Certainly there is danger in prostitution, but what may be counterintuitive to the rest of us is the prostitute has a modicum of control. In porn, Lubben says, you have no control; there is a room full of people and a director calling the shots "and you can never say stop."

Lubben was in the filmmaking world for only a short time, but long enough to make thirty "films." During this period, she caught herpes and human papillomavirus.

Lubben's is not the only voice in the "Out of Darkness" documentary. There are three others.

Dr. Judith Reisman tells the history of the sexual revolution in America, starting with Alfred Kinsey. Reisman deserves a huge audience for her work and insights into the sexual revolution, particularly Kinsey's work. Kinsey was lauded as a conservative Republican, a scientist who finally revealed long-kept secrets of our sexual lives. Thanks to Reisman, we now know that he was actually a deviant who supervised the sexual torture of infants. Yet this man was the father of much that came afterwards, including the unhappy tale of Shelley Lubben.

Dr. Judith Reisman

Reisman tells the maddening story of the rape of her own ten-year-old daughter by the boy upstairs. Afterwards, Reisman called her aunt looking for advice, and this straight-laced Marylander told her not to worry, that children are "sexual from birth," that her daughter wanted "It," and sent out signals the boy picked up on. Her daughter would be fine unless Reisman got excited and overreacted. Frustrated, Reisman called a friend, a left-winger from Berkeley, who eerily repeated the exact same thing. Reisman regards this as straight out of Kinsey and points out how fast, far, and wide the Kinsey ethos traveled. It swept all before it.

Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist from Philadelphia, explains how all this has come about through a "sexual utilitarian philosophy" that says life is all about our own pleasure, and that we may use others for this end. As a working psychiatrist, he feels like a battlefield medic treating "kids devastated by divorce, young people not knowing how to relate, young women being used as sexual objects, very depressed, not trusting men, getting involved with substance abuse. It is because people are using other people as sexual objects and no one is talking about this."

Perhaps the least effective part of the film involves Mark Houck, a single man who was deep into pornography for years, but eventually gave it up with what appears to be little collateral damage. There are far more harrowing stories, however. Men whose families and careers are destroyed by pornography addiction, or whose obsession starts with the milder varieties of porn and escalates to the ever more deviant and dangerous, and eventually to acting out on an unwilling victim.

By far the most effective voice in the film is Lubben who eventually found redemption and a strong Christian faith. She is not without her enemies: all the right ones. A gruesome gaggle of smut merchants and prostitutes have struck back with their own "documentary," which purports to tell the truth about the "industry" and Lubben. Where Lubben charges that there is drug use in the porn industry, they say: Heavens no! They have never even heard of it or ever seen it. In fact, they say, if drugs were brought onto the set of a porn movie, or if someone came in high, that person would be asked to leave. No one really expects these folks to tell the truth, but such whoppers?

One problem with Lubben's important testimony is that, while there is plenty of blame to go around - her father, her mother, the directors, the johns and pimps, even the devil - she neglects to acknowledge any responsibility for her own actions. For instance, she talks about how she looked in the mirror after her first porn scene and "realized what happened to me," rather than what she did. Alas, we live in the age of the victim, and no one would deny that Ms. Lubben was victimized, but a little mea culpa would go a long way.

One thing is abundantly clear. There are thousands more Shelley Lubbens out there, girls hungry for love and not getting it at home. We see an epidemic of absent fathers, either through work, divorce, or never marrying mom. And an explosion of pornography, which fuels early sexual abuse. And here is Shelley, like Lazarus, back from the dead, here to tell us all. If we would only listen.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washinton, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse's alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.

This article first appeared on The Catholic Thing, ©2011 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved.