After a series of bestselling books, the subsequent release and record-setting box office of the motion picture "Fifty Shades of Grey" seems to indicate that Americans are embracing what previous generations would have considered sexual deviancy. But after spending two years producing a hard hitting documentary film about the connections between pornography and human sex trafficking, Producer Guy Noland and Executive Producer Jim Knaggs have seen the damage up close. Knaggs, a Territorial Commander for The Salvation Army sees the impact of pornography every day in major cities across America. That's why he engaged Guy Noland and the Salvation Army's media team at SAVN.TV to produce the project. Recently, I sat down and asked them about what they discovered:
Phil Cooke: Since its beginning, The Salvation Army has reached out to disadvantaged women – particularly those suffering from domestic abuse. As the movie "50 Shades of Grey" opens across this country, are you concerned entertainment, media, and other cultural influences are trying to "normalize" sexual abuse and violence?
Guy Noland: Absolutely. A recent study published by the Hollywood Reporter found a spike in pornography consumption among women since the release of this movie. I'm the last person to blame Hollywood for all the woes of the world, but this film blatantly glamorizes violence against women under the guise of acceptable sexuality. Facts are facts. Media is an influencer.
Jim Knaggs: The currency of the media is found in consumer interest, not the interest of the consumer. As the basic nature of humankind is to be in control and to feed personal appetites, consumers are very interested in sex with increasing stimulation and gratification. The media industry has figured out they can make all kinds of money delivering these products that will normalize sexual abuse.
Cooke: What should people know about the damage this kind of activity can cause?
Jim Knaggs: It begins by diminishing human value. Once accepted, such abuse is impossible to contain. Its coattails include how we treat each other publicly, as well as how we treat our children. Eventually, the energy of our society is reduced to pleasure seeking. This is unhealthy and divergent from God's plan for us.
Guy Noland: I have spent the last two years speaking to both victims and perpetrators of violent sexual crimes against women and not once did a single person, on either side, describe their experiences as glamorous, sexy, or fun. On the contrary, descriptions were more like frightening, painful, angry, hateful, and dark. More disturbing, we have an entire generation learning the "birds and bees" from mass media. Currently, the average age of exposure to hardcore pornography is 9 years old. None of this can be good for anyone... except the sex industry.
Cooke: Currently you're in the final stages of producing a documentary film called "Hard Corps" that links pornography with global sex trafficking. During the process of making that film, what surprised you the most?
Guy Noland: It's not a Third-World problem. Most people assume sex trafficking is something that happens overseas. But the fact is, the United States, Canada, and Europe take top spots in the global sex trafficking trade. A majority of prostituted women in the U.S. were introduced into the industry by the age of 15. It's a First-World problem.
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Jim Knaggs: I agree. It's tragic how children are exposed to pornography and consequently engaged in this negative addictive behavior. It's an appetite that cannot be satisfied. In light of that, I'm surprised – really shocked - with how naive the people are living and working in these arenas, who consider themselves to be "free" and in control of themselves.
Phil Cooke: The movie doesn't pull any punches. Is addiction to pornography a more serious issue than most people believe?
Guy Noland: Without a doubt. Research shows 9 out of 10 young men and 1 out of 3 young women admit to using pornography on a regular basis. The most disturbing reality behind this statistic, according to a UCLA psychology study, is that 7% of men who use pornographic materials on regular basis have been shown to act out violently against women as a direct result of their pornography consumption.
Cooke: As Salvation Army leaders, what's the fallout you see among families that have been torn apart by pornography or domestic abuse?
Jim Knaggs: There's no question that pornography ruins the family. In our work in thousands of communities across America and around the world we see it every day. The marriage relationship is severely damaged and the overall value of life, diminished. Pornography completely changes how men look at women and how women see themselves.
Guy Noland: Again, I have to bring our children into the equation. The Sex Industry maintains an "adults only" stance and well intended parents swear by their superior methods for shielding their offspring from the dangers of the internet. In reality, you cannot stop your kids from accessing pornography. 79% of unwanted exposure to pornography occurs in the home, 9% at school, and 5% at a friends home. Simply put, pornography is prostitution for mass consumption.
Cooke: What are your plans for releasing the new film "Hard Corps?"
Guy Noland: We're developing our release strategy right now. For us, it's not about making money, it's about getting the word out. We just want people to see it. We want people to get involved and do something.
Jim Knaggs: My hope is that it can be released as soon as possible. People need to learn how pornography, prostitution and human trafficking are connected and dangerous.
Phil Cooke: For a victim of domestic abuse reading this right now, what would you recommend?
Guy Noland: First and foremost, identify the abuse. You'd be amazed and how few people recognize the cycle of abuse when they're in the midst of it. Once you've identified the abuse, GET HELP.
Jim Knaggs: Come to The Salvation Army where we will support you in a better direction for a better life. We're in your neighborhood, and we want to help. Never forget that you are precious to God and to us.