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The Racquet Investigates: Fight the New Drug

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The Racquet Investigates: Fight the New Drug

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Photo by Kelsie Edson

Photo by Kelsie Edson

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On Mar. 27 “Just Say KNOW to Pornography” will be held in the Hall of Nations at 6 p.m. Three University of Wisconsin-La Crosse professors Dr. Evan Brody, Dr. Ryan McKelley and Dr. Kate Parker will be featured for this interactive workshop. UWL’s Events Calendar states that this event hopes to, “provide a space for students to think critically about pornography as a genre and ask questions of the presenters in a safe, responsive, and non-shaming environment.”

This event is being held in response to the Nina Hartley event, a sex educator and adult film actor who presented on campus at the end of the Fall 2018 semester, and Fight the New Drug, an anti-pornography organization event, that was held on Feb. 7.  

McKelley is a licensed psychologist with a PHD in clinical and counseling psychology. McKelley specializes in health psychology and men and masculinity at UWL. McKelley commented on the dichotomy of the two previous events of Fight the New Drug, or FTND, and Nina Hartley and how they impacted UWL. “Both of the prior events come from very specific disciplines or at least, special interests,” said McKelley. 

 

The pattern 

Daniel Burgess is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Burgess was first introduced to Fight the New Drug in 2010. “[FTND] came out to our church congregation and provided their presentation,” said Burgess.  

Burgess explained that over a period of time he noticed a pattern with clients who told him that they were experiencing a pornography addiction. “I started to dig a little further into those that were concerning to me. The relapse, the lack of success they were experiencing, so as a responsible clinician, I was diving into that and trying to figure out what are the real causes of it,” Burgess went on to say, “everything led back to kind of the construct they had developed around their self-image and their use of pornography and the message that Fight the New Drug was conveying to them.” 

Burgess said that his clientele had been viewing “themselves as equivalent to a potential rapist in the future.” Burgess then explained that, “this was across a large span of population, and so it wasn’t like isolated to one or two clienteles that started seeing this common theme arising and everything that was similar to these clientele was the source of their information.”  

Burgess said that he was confused by what Fight the New Drug wanted to accomplish. “I think their message is a little confusing, what are they doing, what’s their goal?” Burgess explained, “But the message is blended and blurred, and so you’ll read one article and you’re thinking because you viewed porn, you’re on this path to becoming Ted Bundy.” 

 

Sexual violence  

FTND has published eleven articles that mention Ted Bundy. Some of these articles discuss the possible link between pornography and the serial killer. On the topic of the correlation between the convicted murderer and his porn use, one of the articles reads, “We’re only sharing what we know about the clear connection between pornography and abusive behavior, and we’ll leave you to make your own conclusions.” 

McKelly believes that this is used specifically as a business tactic because the U.S. population is fascinated by serial killers. McKelly said, “[FTND is] no different than much of entrainment and news media. We have a bias to seek out stimuli that stands out amongst others.” 

McKelley said, “Ted Bundy was a sensational story in our U.S. culture, and it is attention grabbing, however, I do not believe those folks have any background knowledge of Ted Bundy’s pornography viewing, so that is a difficult argument to make. The argument of Ted Bundy is only to get people interested.” 

Another question was raised on whether pornography increases men’s sexual violence towards others. McKelly answered this by discussing research. “Does it [porn] increase men’s sexual violence to others, specifically women is a question many people ask. We do not know other than some of the studies suggest that there is an affect shown in a laboratory setting but not necessarily in a naturalistic setting,”    

“It is possible that porn may temporarily influence men’s view of rape myths and misogynistic thinking, but other studies have shown that those particular men are already at risk for perpetuating sexual violence. It is those other risk factors that are predicting the perpetuation and then they also happen to be seeking out sexual stimulation through pornography,” said McKelley. 

 

The event 

The budget proposal began in 2018 to bring FTND to campus. Cru Area Director Luke Rickert explained that after Nina Hartley came to UWL, Chancellor Joe Gow was planning on bringing FTND to campus but there was needed discussion between student government and the Chancellor’s office. 

After having trouble reaching UWL students willing to discuss the visit from FTND, The Racquet received an anonymous tip from a student member of Cru who wanted a platform to discuss their viewpoint. The student asked to remain anonymous; they will be referred to as Adam. * 

Adam attended the FTND event with a close friend. When asked to summarize the event he said, “Honestly, it was kind of underwhelming. I think the lead up to it was like such a big deal. There was like a lot of polarizing, like people who really wanted them to be there and people who are like ‘Why are they here?’” 

Adam went on to say, “So, it felt like it was very polarizing and like leading up to it was like this huge thing that everyone talked about. And then it happened and then it just happened, and nothing happened afterwards, like crickets.” 

McKelley said, “My colleague who attended said FTND had skilled tactics in their packaging of things, but they were concerned about their selective use of research and studies and not showing the whole picture. If they pull out one variable, it changes the interpretation of the research.” 

In an email interview with a student staff member and peer health advocate, Sadie Szabelski, she commented on her experience while attending FTND and her viewpoint as an activist on campus. 

Szabelski attended the event to search for an unbiased perspective of sexual health but she felt like that was not what she received, “Coming out of the presentation, I felt less informed than I hoped and concerned for how the rest of my peer’s interpreted the presentation.” 

Throughout the presentation, Szabelski felt like the conversation surrounding choice of pornography consumption was omitted. Szabelski said, “They neglect to address that there are some people making the choice to over consume pornography, which contributes to their addiction, but that there are many others who use it in moderation and do not face these same negative effects. The generalizations and usage of extreme language [Porn Kills Love] shame all individuals who consume pornography regardless if they have an addiction or not.” 

 

Tokenism  

Szabelski believed that FTND showcased primarily dominant identities in order to induce the crowd’s attention and tokenize other marginalized identities. Through this, Szabelski noticed a trend of anecdotal evidence that did not represent all people in attendance or all porn consumers. 

“They used heteronormative relationships and men as their prime example of pornography addicts. Perhaps because they believed this would be more acceptable to the audience as a societal expectation,” said Szabelski 

Szabelski said that she was discouraged by the power dynamic presented at the event. The peer health advocate stated that the men, “were portrayed as conquering their addiction and living freely, and the only woman speaking was bashful and reluctant. The speaker even introduced the video of the woman’s story by saying that this was very hard for her to do and to give her a round of applause before we even heard her story.”  Szabelski noted that the speaker did not ask the audience to applaud after they watched the men’s stories.  

“Likewise, the one time they had a woman speak on behalf of her experience of using pornography was the first and only time a person of color was present during the presentation,” said Szabelski. 

Much of FTND’s advertising and content resonated with Szabelski as she noticed the racial tokenism that was instituted. “As a multicultural woman, I noticed the racial tokenism immediately. It felt like a last-minute tactic to seem inclusive; however, the organization excluded white women as being consumers of pornography and placed the negative perception of porn usage at the expense of women-of-color. Thus, protecting the perceptions of certain group’s identities and damaging others,” said Szabelski. 

 

Treating a symptom, not the disease  

Dr, David Ley is an award winning author and clinical psychologist who studies sexual issues. He explained to The Racquet that there may be pre-existing mental health concerns with individuals who identify as using porn in an unhealthy manner. “The huge percentage of these folks struggle with depression and anxiety and are using masturbation to pornography as a way to cope with emotional disorders,” said Ley.  

The Racquet also reached out to counseling and testing services’ Dr. Elizabeth Mullen-Houser. Mullen-Houser is a clinical psychologist who is contracted out through UWL’s Counseling and Testing Center. Mullen Houser said it is possible that individuals with pre-existing mental illnesses may be more susceptible to using porn in a problematic manner. 

Burgess mentioned the idea that pre-existing mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, may be the underlying problem. Burgess discussed the idea that focusing on porn use may be going after the symptom of a mental illness rather than addressing the actual illness. Burgess said, “there’s usually pre-existing things that’s driving that behavior and we focus on that, then the client is recovering.” 

Neuroscientist Nicole Prause also said that in about 15% of diagnosed cases of depression, there was a higher engagement with sexual activity. “People are trying to make themselves feel better,” the neuroscientist said.  

Prause then went on to say, “There’s obsessive compulsive disorder with a sexual feature. That’s existed for 50 years. They have General OCD that happens to be manifesting in the sexual domain with pornography.” 

 

A non-religious organization with religious ties 

FTND states on their website that they are a non-religious organization. When they came to UWL they were sponsored by UWL’s chapter of Cru, a religious organization on campus.  

When asked if there was any conflict of interest issues with Cru, a religious organization, sponsoring FTND, Cru Area Director Rickert initially did not understand the question. He then went on to add, “I think student groups bring in speakers all of the time, and I feel like our student group cares about human dignity, and I think FTND was a great speaker to bring in to talk about pornography.” 

FTND’s Board is composed of seven individuals. Three of them were compensated by FTND in 2017 according to their taxes: Clay Olson, Jason Carroll, and Natale McAneneyCarroll works as a professor at Brigham Young University. The school’s mission statement reads, “founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Carroll was compensated $16,350 by FTND.  

Jason Carroll, board member of FTND and Professor at BYU cited an expert on the Fortify app.

 

Form 990 of FTND taxes December 2017, ProPublica.org

Olson is a current board member for Utah Coalition Against Pornography. This organization’s LinkedIn reads, “UCAP was founded in 2000 under the direction of The Most Reverend George H. Niederauer, former Bishop of the Utah Catholic Dioceses, and Steven D. Kohlert, former Public Affairs Chairman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”  

McKelly initially believed FTND to be a religious organization after hearing feedback from his colleagues who attended the event. “A challenge for groups like FTND is if porn is bad or good, I am not going to argue with someone who says, ‘my religious commandments or beliefs tell me that this is a wrong thing to do,’ that is for you and your religion,” said McKelley 

While FTND argues that their platform is focused on non-religious rhetoric, when Adam was asked if Cru sponsoring FTND made the event have religious undertones, he said, “Yeah, yeah I think it did.” 

 

Fortify 

Fortify is described, on its website, as “science-based support” used to help individuals “Quit porn for good.” The website shows that badges can be earned for not watching porn and users can receive “Live insights from experts.” Fortify cites FTND Board Member Jason Carroll as one of their featured experts.  

In an email interview conducted with Fight New Drug Executive Director Natale McAneneyMcAneney said, “[Fortify] is now an independent company.” However, on Clay Olson’s LinkedIn account, he is still listed as ‘Founder/CEO’ of Fortify as well as the ‘Co-Founder’ of FTND. Olson is listed as currently working at both Fortify and FTND in those roles.  

Fortify is listed as an additional resource alongside Street Team which is a program ran through FTND and Bark a monitoring tool for youth’s cell phones. Street Team is mentioned in 47 articles and Bark is mentioned in four articles on the FTND website.   

Fortify is mentioned in 125 articles published on FTND’s website.  

In addition to Fortify, Olson is listed on LinkedIn as the Founder and CEO of a company that has created two other programs that use “behavior change software”: Lift which is used for depression and anxiety, and Turn which is used for substance abuse recovery. All three websites, Fortify, Lift and Turn, boast the same statistics for user’s success, although there is one difference.  

Fortify’s website says, “Over 90% reported that Fortify helped move them toward longer-term change.” Both Turn and Lift’s websites read, “Over 90% of individuals reported our platforms helped move them toward long-term change.”   

It appears that the Turn and Lift are hosting statistics from Fortify under the guise of the vague words “platforms” or “individuals we help.” 

On Fortify, the website says, “Fortify users report an 85% decrease in depressive symptoms.” However, on Turn, their statistics say, “Individuals we help report an 85% decrease in depressive symptoms.”  

Fortify’s website says, “Users report an 88% reduction in porn use.” Then, on Turn, their website says, “Individuals using our platforms report an 88% decrease in addictive/compulsive behavior.”  

When asked if he would recommend using Fight New Drug or Fortify to his clients, Burgess said, “I can’t, and in addition to that, and I think to support that overall theme that they kind of have, they cherry-pick quotes from research, they’re taken out of context.” 

When asked if Fight the New Drug engages in cherry-picking data, FTND Executive Director Natale McAneney said, “we specifically highlight the science, facts, and personal accounts that bring attention to porn’s harms.**”  

Ley encouraged students to “Sit down and think about your sexual values. What is healthy sexuality and how did you learn that, where did those ideas come from?” 

Students must question their usage and their pornography consumption Mullen-Houser said. “I would say that as with anything else, students need to stop and think if their life is being harmed by pornography,” she said. 

 

The first amendment  

Prior to FTND’s event, Adam said Cru alerted members not to speak to journalists and to send them to Cru staff. “There was just a thing before that they said, if you’re approached by anyone send them my way and stuff,” said Adam. 

“They said that about reporters?” asked Betzler. 

“Yeah,” said Adam. 

“Was it specifically The Racquet or was it reporters from anywhere?” asked Betzler 

“From anywhere,” said Adam. 

In an interview, Rickert expressed his feelings on Cru’s representation in a previous article that The Racquet published. “With being a faith-based group on campus I feel like we were pigeonholed a little bit by The Racquet. With your ‘non-biased research’ that you apparently do. Which I feel like both of you, in regard to the first article you wrote about us, I was not talked to prior to publication.” 

Rickert then questioned the previous article’s research and publication. 

“I feel like it is going to be hard for you to not have a biased opinion in your next article, based on the previous article that you had written. Yeah so, just stating my opinion there…” Rickert said in response to the ‘opinion’ categorization of the previous story. 

 

The message 

When asked for his opinion of the FTND presentation and their slogan, “Porn Kills Love,” Adam said, “It seems like they’re trying to educate, I can see that, but what are we going to do afterwards?” 

“And then, also, I think just like the whole topic of intent versus impact is like something I think they’re really struggling with.  Like, selling T-shirts that say, ‘Porn Kills Love,’ that’s a heavy thing to say,” said Adam.  

The Cru member went on to say, “And then like if you don’t have any background, but you see someone wearing that like that’s pretty shaming if you’re experiencing something like that. So, I think their intent is to like help and educate, but it’s just coming across as like very harsh and like very unaccepting.” 

  

“And we can’t forget that.” 

Burgess consults FTND to help them improve their organization. Burgess said, “You know, when I go and see Clay and he’s agreeing with me, we meet and he’s on absolutely the same page as me, ‘Yes we got to change this message,’ ‘Yes we got to improve it,’ but then when he goes to the presentations, he’s selling a product.”  

Burgess then said, “They are a business. And we can’t forget that.” 

 

*Adam is not this source’s real name. ‘ 

**Italics not added by The Racquet 

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About the Writers
Karley Betzler, Editor-in-Chief


Year at UWL: Junior
Hometown: Anoka, Minnesota
Major: Communication Studies with an emphasis in Media Studies
Minors: Criminal Justice and...

Sam Stroozas, Managing Editor


Year: Junior
Hometown: Hudson, WI
Major: English & Communication Studies
Minor: Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Other Campus Involvement: SEED...

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