This morning I read your post on the NYT porn-ed article, and a lot of the comments. I thought I would share with you a personal story I recently experienced that’s directly related to the subject matter.
I was working out of a public library a few weeks ago, when at the table right behind me settled two young ladies, one of them slightly older than the other (guessing late 20s/early 30s), let’s call her Ms. O, the other (I think) in her early to mid-20s, to whom I’ll refer as Ms. Y.
Much as I was trying to focus on my work, given their proximity and volume of conversation I could not help overhearing virtually everything they were talking about, and it quickly became clear that they were both state social workers, Ms. O more experienced, mentoring Ms. Y and giving her advice on some of her cases.
At one point, they began talking about one family in Ms. Y’s caseload where, from what I gathered from the conversation, there was a 15-year-old boy involved, and a mother who, from the context, seemed to be single and struggling. The mom had recently caught her son watching the filth online, and was very hurt and distraught, not knowing how to intervene or effectively put a stop to it. This was one of the situations that Ms. Y was unsure how to handle and sought Ms. O’s advice.
Ms. Y was clearly uncomfortable and had a natural sense of shame about discussing the whole matter. Ms. O quickly took over the conversation and started lecturing about how the mother (and implicitly, Ms. Y) needs to realize that “teen boys watching the stuff is absolutely inevitable,” so she needs to “get over it” and give up any pretense of trying to stop it.
Instead, she suggested that Ms. Y have a private conversation (!) with the boy (!!) and “tell him about more respectable sites” (!!!!) so he doesn’t “stumble into the crazier stuff.”
Ms Y immediately made it clear that she was very uncomfortable with the idea of talking to a 15-year-old boy, obviously from a troubled background (since state social services are involved), privately about his p**n use. (Who on earth would blame her?!) She was also flabbergasted at Ms. O’s assumption that she (Ms. Y) would have extensive knowledge about supposedly “respectable” sites. But, despite her protestations and her obvious discomfort with the situation (and likely sympathy for the mother’s pain), Ms. O just got more aggressive, dismissive, and authoritative in her pronouncements. It turned into nothing short of a formal Sexual Revolution indoctrination session.
Rod, it was absolutely awful having to sit there and listen to it, with a sense of creeping dread and despair for both Ms. Y, the rightly suffering mother, and the boy. It reminded me of the scene from Spotlight you quoted recently… “So this is how it happens.” An older social worker leans on a younger one, and everyone looks the other way while a struggling mother’s love and hope for her wayward child is mercilessly quashed, the child is “reassured” that their slavery to this filth is “unavoidable,” and the young social worker loses whatever natural sense of dignity, shame, and propriety she once had, and becomes complicit in the system.
I didn’t know what I could or should do. I had such an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. I finally took a little piece of notepad paper and wrote down the URLs of NCOSE, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and X3Watch, one of the filtering/accountability software out there that first put me on the path of healing many years ago when a young priest recommended it to me by name in the confessional (may God reward him amply for it, and I hope more priests follow his lead!).
Then I thought, “I can’t do this. I just don’t have it in me, it’s not my place to intervene, and it won’t do any good anyway…” so I packed up my things and walked away feeling angry and cowardly.
Then, thank God, I suddenly had a certain knowledge that I just could not walk away like this. In one of the most dreadfully awkward moments of my life, I walked back up to their table, and their eyes were fixed on me, obviously realizing that I must have heard everything they said and had something to say about it. The younger one had an expression of curious puzzlement in her eyes. The older’s gaze I can only describe as cold, steely hate.
All I could get out in a shaking voice was, “I’m sorry for interrupting you, but I couldn’t help overhearing some of your conversation. I am 30 years old, and I just wanted to tell you that there is nothing I wish for more than that when I was 15, someone had told me that porn is NOT unavoidable.” I then gave them the piece of paper and told them these resources were personally helpful for me, and they could do with it whatever they wanted. Ms. O thanked me very coldly and curtly, making it clear from her tone and posture that the conversation was over (not that I wanted it to continue myself!).
I have no idea, Rod, what God could, has, or will accomplish with that awkward intervention. I certainly don’t feel like it was my own doing or merit, as I would much rather had walked away and I am convinced that it was only by a thin lifeline that the Holy Spirit enabled (if not made) me to turn back and talk to them. But ever since then I have hoped and prayed that it might provide whatever glimmer of hope for Ms. Y, the mother, and the son, and God willing, work on Ms O’s heart. If nothing else, I don’t think either of them will ever forget the interaction… at least I know I probably never will!
Thanks for bearing with me through my story. It really shook me up and I have been thinking about it almost every day since then. I hope you will say a prayer or two for the people involved!
I have just prayed for them, and for you, thanking God for your bravery. You knew from what Egyptian slavery you were delivered, and you had the guts not to let it happen to somebody else, if you had anything to say about it. You, sir, are an inspiration.
Readers, this is what a brave soul does to fight the power. I hope I have the courage of that young man. I hope you do too. Live not by lies.
Please forward this to everyone you know. People need the encouragement to stand up and do right.