The Influence of Pornography
Craig Gross and Ron Jeremy Sound Off in The Great Porn Debate
Every second 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography. Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being created in the United States. Every day 68 million pornographic requests are searched online.i If these statistics don’t mean anything to you, let me put it in context…
Pornography is big business!
The porn industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. In 2006, the industry had ballooned to $97.06 billion dollars. ii
Aside from being extremely lucrative, how does pornography affect those who indulge? Most will agree it is wrong, or at the very least are ashamed of looking at pornography because it can become an addiction that is usually done in secret. Statistics show that pornography affects the private lives of many.
One of the most powerful testimonies I’ve ever heard regarding pornography addiction came from the serial killer Ted Bundy. This man confessed to more than 30 murders and just before he was to be executed by electric chair on January 24, 1989, he granted an interview to James Dobson, Founder and President of the organization, Focus on the Family.
Bundy went on record to say:
“I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography – deeply consumed by the addiction. The F.B.I.’s own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornographers.
I’m not blaming pornography. I’m not saying it caused me to go out and do certain things. I take full responsibility for all the things that I’ve done. That’s not the question here. The issue is how this kind of literature contributed and helped mold and shape the kinds of violent behavior.
Those of us who have been so influenced by violence in the media, particularly pornographic violence, are not some kind of inherent monsters. We are your sons and husbands. We grew up in regular families. Pornography can reach in and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago” iii
More startling is that Bundy not only grew up in a regular, loving family…he grew up in a Christian home.
So if billions of dollars are being made and millions of people are indulging, why is it so hard for people to talk about this subject?
Enter Ron Jeremy, arguably the number one porn star of all time. He has taken to the road alongside a pastor to debate the issues, struggles, and stigmas surrounding the porn industry. The pastor is Craig Gross. He founded XXX Church which offers spiritual solutions to pornography. Together they have appeared at over 50 Universities including USC, Yale, and Ohio State where they draw huge crowds on campus and greet students.
But for the first time, The Great Porn Debate left the campus setting and landed in a church. Pastor Miles McPherson recognized the need to address this topic at his mega-church, The Rock in San Diego, California which was the first to open its doors and invite Gross and Jeremy to debate.
McPherson who also moderated the event says, “I think it’s important for us to acknowledge and recognize the elephant in the room and stop acting like it’s something the church can’t talk about. The Gospel is bulletproof…and we need to have it address every issue there is. When you have half the men and 1/6 of the women in your church watching pornography and you don’t talk about it, that’s a problem. We just decided to take the issue head on.”
In an effort to capture the issues at the heart of this controversial topic, Risen sent writer Chris Ahrens to get up close and personal with the debating duo.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine at the Rock Church in San Diego, CA
Risen Magazine: Since you and Ron Jeremy are on opposite sides of the porn debate, do people expect that you don’t like each other?
Craig Gross: People will often look at the tour bus and say, “Where’s Ron’s bus?” But we travel on the same bus. You hear the word debate, and you often think that opposing sides can’t be friends. It would be awful to do this if we hated each other.
RM: Have either of you budged on their position?
CG: Well, Ron’s in a blazer and he’s in church [hard laughter all around]. I’m not on a porn set, so…We’ve agreed to disagree on certain things?
RM: How did you get started with XXX Church?
CG: I was a youth pastor. I’m 34 now, didn’t grow up around the Internet, and didn’t grow up around porn. I realized however, that kids in my youth group had been exposed to it, and I found that the average age of first exposure was eleven years old. I was listening to Howard Stern and he was saying that every year he goes to the porn convention in Vegas. I thought that was the best place to launch our website.
RM: Not many guys can go to a porn convention and talk to hot women about God.
CG: I think most people psyche themselves out and say, “I can never do what you do.” There could be some that honestly can’t go, but I think most people could do it. We’re not shopping at the shows, we’re not walking around; we’re standing in a booth with a big sign on our back. The sign actually says, “Jesus loves porn stars,” so people know why we’re there. If one of us were to somehow fall into this, it probably wouldn’t be at a porn show. When the curtain is kind of pulled back, you see that these are real people and that they have lives and you hear their stories. Many more people could work in this ministry than think they could. It’s not for everybody, but we’re just trying to meet people where they’re at.
You see that these are real people and that they have lives and you hear their stories. -CG
RM: So, you’re someplace by yourself and the hottest woman you’ve ever seen slips you her room key. Nobody will ever know; what do you do?
CG: I don’t go visit her. But I would say the temptations for me are the same as those that are in youth ministry these days. I’ve had friends that were caught up in crazy, awful things, so it’s probably no different. I don’t travel by myself. I’m not going to put myself in a situation where I can have that possibility. One of the things we try to preach at XXX Church is accountability; to have those people in our lives we can travel with, and have our backs. I’m not saying I’m immune to any of that, but we don’t take this flippantly. I believe that God’s hand has been on this ministry, but we’ve got to be really smart about the things we do. I get crap sometimes where people say, “I can’t believe you travel with a porn star.” Ron’s invited me several times to strip clubs after a debate, and I’ve yet to go with him [chuckles]. My goal in being around these people is to have an influence on them, not having them have an influence on my life.
RM: As a church ther is often a feeling of us verses them, but porn stars are not the enemy. Is there a lesson there for the church?
CG: I think there’s a huge lesson, even in having this debate for the first time at a church. We’re opponents on stage. That’s what we’re here to do and we will get paid to do that tonight. But that doesn’t define us. There’s this friendship. I care about Ron; he knows my family. My son won a turtle at Circus Circus. Ron loves turtles, and my son said, “Dad, give this to Ron.” We need to be around more people that don’t act like us and believe like us, rather than check them off on a scorecard and say, “Okay, I invited them to church and they didn’t come.” Jesus sought people like Zaccheus out of a tree. Here was a broken thief, and Jesus said, “Hey, I’m having dinner with you tonight.” I think the more we can go after people… we see that the message of Jesus doesn’t divide; it unites. I love hanging out at IHOP or someplace afterward, where some kid from the debate will see us and say, “What, you’re together?” We’ll be like, “Yeah, we’re together, come sit with us.” Ron always says, “Craig’s buying, so of course I’m here.” To me, that’s what is probably the most exciting about being able to do this debate for four years. It’s opened up a friendship. I’ve been to a lot of the premiers for Ron’s movies, not his porn movies… and last year I invited him to my church on Easter. When there’s that trust, that’s when we have influence on the most people.
RM: Is the porn industry well regulated?
Ron Jeremy: We have to show all kinds of ID, licenses, you name it, making sure they know how old the girl is. Magazines like Playboy are in trouble because of piracy. These pirates come along, take the content, put it on their sites, have no rules or regulations, no model releases, nothing, and they get away with it. Basically, they’re putting everyone else out of business. Rock ‘n’ roll has the same problem. Kids don’t buy tapes or DVDs anymore. The adult cinema industry, the music industry and soon the Hollywood film industry are going to be pirated out of existence. They worry about porn? Ha, go after the thieves and pirates. It’s disgusting, what they’ve done.
[Pulls a harmonica from his top coat pocket and plays, When The Saints Go Marching In.]
RM: When was the last time you were at a church?
RJ: [Whistles and rolls his eyes] Actually, it wasn’t that long ago. I have some friends that go to mass on Christmas, so I go with them. They’re Lutheran, Christian, and Catholic. I always tell my Christian friends, I happen to be a [fakes a sneeze,] Jew! [Laughs] I always tell my friends that we’re basically the same. Our Bible stopped, and yours just kept going. That’s it so simple! You got the old and the new; we got the old. We all agree that Christ was somebody very special. We think he was a rabbi, they think he was a rabbi and a god. Small differences; small. We should join hands, sing We Are the World, and get along.
RM: Do you consider yourself a moral person?
RJ: Yes. Because of my lifestyle, you find that interesting, huh? I don’t think it’s a problem. I think consenting adults having consenting sex for others to watch, is perfectly fine.
RM: When ministers recognize you, do you ever wonder how?
RJ: Well, I’ve done things other than porn from way back—MTV, theater, music videos and stuff. But I enjoy the differences. I think it [varying opinions] is what makes the world more colorful. Who wants to have just one type of human being out there? I’m glad they get Craig’s message as well as mine. I think sometimes porn should be kept a little bit in check. I’m into freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean you should be a total putz either, you know?
RM: Were you nervous when you went in for your first AIDS test?
RJ: A little, yeah. Chris Rock has a funny routine about that. You always get a little nervous, your first time. Then you get more used to it, and we do it every single month. After so many years have gone by, “Yeah, go ahead, take some blood.” Now it’s a routine, but it’s a little nerve wracking at first. It was more of a problem among the gay community than the heterosexual community, and that’s a fact. A lot of my friends who are gay panicked a lot more than I ever did. They were like shaking, you know? I remember how scary it was 15 years ago, 10 years ago, before they had the medication. It was a guaranteed death sentence. Now, because of Doctor Ho’s medication, you can possibly live a normal life.
RM: If you were to get married, would you be monogamous?
RJ: If my wife wanted that. I want to have kids. The girl I was seeing, Craig knows… if she wanted to have kids with me, I would probably give up the lifestyle. Some people say, “Yeah right.” But yeah, I would.
RM: Do you think there are more hypocrites in the church than elsewhere?
RJ: There are hypocrites in all walks of life, but I think the church has its fair share. Are there more? I don’t know, but it’s very unfortunate. I think God probably has a real problem with that, using his name falsely.
RM: According the Bible in John 8: 1-11, a woman was brought to Jesus by religious leaders who had caught them in adultery. By Jewish law, the woman was to be stoned to death. Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” What do you think of that?
RJ: He’s right, it’s true. The same expression as glass houses; people who live in glass houses should dress in the basement. [Laughter] No, really, that’s a very important statement. People who criticize are often making the same mistakes. We see that all the time. We’ve seen it with some of the religious leaders too, or senators, or congressmen who speak out against certain things. That kind of thing is just crazy. I’ve witnessed it a lot, in my work. People criticize my line of work, and behind closed doors they’ve got their whole porn collection.
RM: How would you describe God?
RJ: All present, omnipresent, Creator. He’s the one that knows what’s going on. It’s a very interesting thing, because… people always say, “Why does He allow such horrible things to happen?” He places us in certain situations and says, “Here humanity, get a load of this.” He’s got a great sense of humor, that’s for sure. I think I’ve absolutely felt his sense of humor.
People criticize my line of work, and behind closed doors they’ve got their whole porn collection. -RJ
RM: Like in your story with Sam Kinison?
RJ: I’ve had situations where it had to be the Lord or an angel or something, because it couldn’t be explained as coincidence. That Kinison story is certainly one of them–the car miraculously skips over trees and comes to a stop. Sam says, “Do you believe in God now, Ron?” I mean, we’re upside down in this car and I said, “You go to great lengths to prove a point.” [Laughter] Sam’s brother goes, “Sam wasn’t the one proving the point, Ron.” Pretty serious stuff – he was a Pentecostal minister too.
RM: How would God describe you?
RJ: What was I thinking? [Laughter] I’ll try again and do it better the next time. Sorry. [Laughter] No, it’s hard to say, I mean I went through school; who knows what my plan was? Did I follow it? I don’t know.
RM: Is your life anything like you thought it would be as a kid? Certainly you didn’t think you’d be speaking in a church 20 years ago.
RJ: No, no. I have nothing against church, but I never would have guessed I’d become an adult film actor. If you told me 30 years ago I’d be making adult films, I’d say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I wanted to be an actor my whole life. Even as a kid I was in plays at school. I was always the class clown, class ham, kosher, so I was always into that. So, that wouldn’t surprise me, being an entertainer.
RM: What do you expect from this debate?
RJ: I’m on the defense in these debates. I don’t have a problem with Craig; I like what he does. He has a problem with me. Honestly, there are better ways to spend your time than doing porn. But then, I don’t think you should be a Trekkie either. These kids are learning Klingonese. As a teacher, I would want to go kill myself. They don’t even know Spanish. I think anything overdone can be a bad thing.
i i 2006 Worldwide Pornography Revenues
i i i Life on the Edge, Dr. James Dobson, Copyright © 1995 Word Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.