Shelley Lubben is now Palming Herself Off as a Doctor; we are officially in LaLa Land

PETERBOROUGH, Ontario — www.mykawartha.com – A former porn star is hoping to shed some light on some of the harmful and lasting effects of the pornography industry.

Dr. Shelley Lubben, now an anti-pornography activist, will host a free presentation for Peterborough residents detailing her experience as a performer and the danger pornography poses for youth, as well as how to rally together to fight against the multi-billion dollar industry.

When Dr. Lubben first got involved in pornography, she figured she was leaving prostitution behind for a safe profession, she says. After working in the sex trade for roughly six years, she’d had a number of near-death experiences, and wanted to work in a more stable environment.

“I was told it was safe and it was legal,” she says.

A year-and-a-half and 30 videos later, Dr. Lubben had contracted two sexually transmitted diseases, including Human Papillomavirus, which eventually led to cervical cancer.

She says her story isn’t very different from those of the other women she’s met in the industry. Her parents kicked her out at a young age, leaving her starving, vulnerable and on the street. It wasn’t long after that she was lured into work as a prostitute, she says.

Looking back, she says the following six years were horrific.

Since leaving the porn industry, Dr. Lubben and her husband Garrett founded the Pink Cross Foundation, which offers support to women who are also looking to get out. She’s also testified in California on the porn tax bill and has spoken about the work conditions in the industry before Los Angeles City Council, and other governing bodies.

Her activism in California is especially important, since 85 per cent of all adult content is produced there. But the work can’t stop there, she says.

In offering a behind-the-scenes look at the porn industry, she hopes to help community leaders, parents and other residents become more aware of the potential dangers of porn, especially in youth.

It’s a cyclical problem, she says, with a worldwide demand for porn spurring on the industry.

“The number one age group for viewing porn is 12 to 17,” she says, adding the availability of the internet is making porn accessible to younger viewers. “What’s it going to be like in 20 years?”

According to a 2008 study, The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth, only three per cent of boys and 17 per cent of girls have never seen porn.

The study shows 93 per cent of boys are exposed to internet porn before they turn 18. Seventy per cent of boys under 18 have spent more than 30 minutes looking at porn, and 35 per cent have done so more than 10 times.

Dr. Lubben says the numbers should be startling to parents and should encourage conversations around the topic at home.

“If kids are on the computer, parents need to talk to them about this,” she says.

Dr. Lubben hopes to see community leaders, including government representatives, teachers and parents come out to her presentation to learn more about how to watch for early signs of pornography addictions in youth.

Paul Lavergne, a local counsellor who specializes in sexually compulsive behaviours, says pornography addiction comes up often when he works with couples looking to improve their relationship.

He’s been working to bring Dr. Lubben to Peterborough for the past year.

Mr. Lavergne says porn addictions are assessed the same as other addictive behaviours.

“Not everyone that looks at porn is an addict,” he says.

He asks clients many of the same questions counsellors would ask about other addictions — have you tried to cut back and not been able to? Do you continue to engage in the behaviour despite negative consequences? Are you starting to feel like the behaviour is controlling you?

Those who build up a tolerance to porn, and need to view more of it, or more extreme versions of it, are usually developing an addiction, he says.

Mr. Lavergne says pornography should be treated similar to a bag of cocaine.

“Everyone first watched porn for the same reason — they’re curious and it’s there. But that’s not why they keep watching,” he says. “They actually develop a need for the dopamine rush. People don’t understand that hardcore porn works on the brain the same way heroin does.”

In a relationship, porn can also change perceptions of sex and intimacy, he says.

“A lot of porn today is very, very misogynistic and abusive to women,” he says, adding some porn shows illegally trafficked women and taped rape. “’Normal’ gets flipped and people think porn sex is normal and real sex isn’t…When I hear a wife or a girlfriend say (their spouse) is asking them to do things in bed they’re not comfortable with, right away I know they’re watching porn.”

The resulting emotional impact leaves women feeling as though they’re not enough, he says.

Dr. Lubben, now married with three children, says she’d like to see civil leaders, government leaders and community leaders unite to tackle issues around pornography.

“I hope everyone comes out to this,” she says. “We have to look at how we, as a community, can come together to fight the industry.”

Dr. Lubben will give her presentation on Sept. 7 at the Christian Victory Church beginning at 7 p.m. A private session for community agencies will be held at 8:30 a.m. and she’ll also speak during church services on Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

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