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Cultural Messages, the Power of Suggestion, and Sex Addiction

"The best thing you can spend on your children is your time."  –Louise Hart

Friday evening with temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I decided to do my scheduled run indoors on the treadmill.   To break the monotony of treadmill running, I decided to flip on the TV. I thought MTV could be music to help keep pace and the images might break the doldrums of static focus.  The MTV channel counted down the top 20 music videos of  As I ran watching images projected from the screen, my mind wandered to the several adolescents and their families that have contacted me in the recent weeks for their struggles with pornography.  As I watched I thought of the messages projected onto our youth in the form of entertainment.

I did a warm-up, 3 mile run, and a cool down.  In this time I saw the top videos counted down from 17 to 11.  In the countdown I watched  Lil’ Wayne and The Killers, numbers 17 and 16 respectively portray scantily-clad women sexually contorting, gyrating, and entertaining men  who passively watched in pleasure suggesting women were there for the sole purpose of selective enjoyment and entertainment.  In number 15, Kanye West sang from the church pulpit on the struggle of destitution, prostitution, and addiction in “Jesus Walks”.  He urged rappers to think about the messages they send.  The band Fall Out Boy, number 14, portrayed the innocence of days gone by of school dances where boys actually wore suits and girls wore pearl necklaces and corsages.  This video marked the struggle of the shy person in all of us that feels awkward to enter the dance floor and let loose.  The video highlighted the nerdy boy who struggles to get out there on the floor. He was eventually coaxed onto the floor by the new-millennium, scantily-clad, hottie as modern-day siren who  invited him alone onto the floor while the scene changed to the modern-era dirty dancing.  Justin Timberlake rang in at lucky number 13 with “Timbaland”.  Justin’s video and lyrics urged us to “get our sexy back” while showing a weird techno brothel of sorts where sordid rough sex, violence and voyeurism were mixed in fantasy.  Continuing the count Lady Gaga appeared with images and messages of sex, death, crutches, and wheelchairs….but that was just in the opening 10 seconds of her banned video Paparazzi. 

As I cooled down with Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and images of Rorschach Ink blots flashed on the screen, I wondered am I crazy for thinking how much this impacts our youth? Elvis Pronounced Obscene

Since Elvis first swiveled his hips on The Ed Sullivan show, our culture has wrestled with societal messages and the values of our youth.  As I watched the current videos on the screen I was reminded of my CSAT training where Patrick Carnes, PhD, spoke of the tsunami facing our culture.  The numbers are rising quickly for those struggling with sex and pornography addiction, due largely in part by the internet born in our technological age.  The key factors that make sex on the Internet a powerful medium have long been referred to the “3 A’s” or the Triple A Engine (Cooper, 1998).  Those 3 “A’s” are:  Affordability, Anonymity, and Accessibility. 

I know MTV is so yesterday for today’s adolescent.  Why wait for your favorite music video to come on when you can seek it on YouTube instantaneously?  Yes, in the ancient age of the 80’s we had Madonna Shock spread in her Big Book exposed, but she was on coffee tables of those who chose and not laid out in public mass media for all to see.  Woodstock harkened our youth in the 60's to the fields of New York.  The Grateful Dead had their dead heads. Dead Heads were those who gave up the path of life they were on to follow the band as their sole focus.  Just because there was a cultural movement, not everyone joined the movement.  Similarly, sex and pornography addiction will not befall everyone who is exposed to pornography. I believe Sex Addiction is a complicated and complex disease.  It is not a morality issue any more in my mind than I think that alcoholism is.  In this post I do not mean to imply there needs to be a Carrie Nation in our day to police and guard us from the evils that bombard us. Those who carry certain risk factors are at greater risk, but I have to question the increasing numbers while I sampled a random 40 minutes of cultural messages. 

When computer technology became all the rage for the masses in the 80’s there was a phrase:  Garbage in, garbage out.  Addiction and Recovery are like that.  Where we direct our mind, our thoughts follow.  Recent research points to not much difference between the addicted brain and the goal-oriented brain.  Where we go is a matter of intention and focus.  Where will you maintain your focus today?