Teen Culture: The Elephant in Our Living Room

In 1989, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed by the state of Florida for raping and killing 30 women. Countless column inches and hours of video have been devoted to discussing and analyzing his life. In my younger mind, I envisioned him as a terrifying monster. He died when I was 12 years old so he was the unknown terror in my youthful imagination and I relegated him to the weird, unusual, and evil realm of humanity – neatly compartmentalized, where he remained until last year.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one afternoon and caught a still frame of a video. It featured a normal looking American male in an orange prison jumpsuit. It was Ted Bundy. The caption above the video said “Say no to porn” and it took my social media numbed mind a moment to connect the dots. Oh, I get it. Bundy was perv. Of course he was into porn. I scrolled past and on second thought… went back and pressed play. What I heard next has been on my mind ever since and has kept me up praying for my children more than usual. 

The video interview of Bundy was filmed only a few hours before his execution. He spoke candidly about his healthy and happy upbringing and his loving and “diligent” Christian parents. He looked like any upstanding American father. He spoke with intelligence. And he had a message for parents…

The message was that there was only one secret element that separated him from normal: Pornography. He wanted us to know that. And he wanted us to know that pornography is always present at the core of the lives of violent criminals. He knew that first hand since he was in prison for ten years with the most hardened among them. And hours before his death, he wanted us to know. Bundy was a manipulative psychopath capable of lying about everything up to the very end... but these words of his ring true in any context. An honest person knows they are at least partially true. 

Everyone knows that there is something inherently yucky about porn. But as a culture, we tolerate it because we are secretly, and more often now, openly consuming it. In fact, it has become so mainstream that the pornography industry reportedly brings in more money than that made from professional football and hockey combined. We know from extensive research that it destroys marriages, mental health, a healthy view and function of sexuality, and that it can be as addictive as hard drugs. What we don’t know is how to stop it. And frankly, most people simply don’t seem to care to.

Mainstream feminists brush aside concerns about porn and even defend it, but as a woman who cherishes my femininity and the beautiful purpose for which I have been created... I hate it. It has wounded me and it will wound my children. Barring a cultural metanoia, it forms who we are...

As a high school student, I found my Catholic co-ed institution to be a place of violence to my feminine mind, body, and spirit. It was a prison for me – and one of the primary reasons was that I was “incarcerated” with a population of teenage males who objectified me and constantly pushed the limits of reasonable and respectful behavior. They were born into a porn culture, drank it in,  and swam in it. Without understanding the root of it, I was afraid and longed to escape from the prying eyes and filthy talk. They told me they knew the color of my underwear and other things about their desires that I won't repeat here. They touched me accidentally in intimate ways and joked about gang rape. They asked me intimate questions and laughed at my embarrassment. They categorized me, whispered to me and about me, and made me feel ashamed of my femininity. It wasn’t just one. It wasn’t just three. It was a whole community of young men who understood to some degree that they had power over the girls in school. … and yes, it frightened me. 

I never fully understood those feelings until I heard Bundy speak on that video. Dead for almost 30 years now, he had a message: Pornography begets violence.

Anytime someone participates in the dehumanization of another, objectifies a unique human being created in the image of a loving God, looks at a woman as a vehicle for pleasure instead of a person worthy of authentic love… they participate in a pornographic culture that profanes the sacred and desecrates true beauty. It is an act of violence against women everywhere. I saw it in the eyes of my male peers. I saw that they were capable of harming me and that they didn’t mind engaging in a little game of terrorism.

The elephant in the living room of our teen culture is that we tolerate speech and actions in our youth that we find reprehensible in a man of thirty. Words and behaviors that girls must allow every day in school are the same words and behaviors that will get a man fired for harassment or subject to a restraining order. And yet we not only tolerate it, but we accept it. By our silence, we show our approval. 

As girls, we are trained to allow it, accept it, even seek it... because we are never taught our true value outside of the sight of leering eyes. We do not know who we are even in our Catholic schools because we are not permitted to know and to be free of such abuse.

There will be no real cultural advancement of women’s true rights as human beings until the culture rejects those things which beget violence against them. As it stands now, we must remain on the defensive. Instead of spending our time helping our daughters to flourish, we must spend a disproportionate amount of time making sure that they are not subject to abuse. And there are increasingly few places which are truly safe. There are many reasons why we homeschool. For me, this is among my top three: That not one of my daughters will be forced to go through her formative years sitting next to young predators.

When Bundy spoke, I was shaken because I knew he spoke the truth. I have seen it in the eyes of enough boys and men to know it. But his final point chilled me to the bone. He said that even though a parent exercises diligence with their children, there is no chance to truly keep our children away from the clutches of porn unless the culture refuses to allow it. I understand why I’ve never seen this video. Because there are countless people out there who engage in pornography and I doubt many (if any) wish to be associated with a serial killer. But there’s no time for sparing egos and feelings. It’s time to expose the lie that porn is harmless. Past time. If you watch nothing else today, watch Bundy’s last interview HERE and consider sharing it on behalf of every silenced victim of sexual violence. And then start asking this question:

How can we help the next generation of men and women to be free from the bondage of pornography?

We must expose the secret to the light so that our children have a hope for freedom. And we must tirelessly share the truth that each person has a dignity and inherent worth that demands reverence. Rise up, men and women of valor! No more porn. No more violence. Let us build a Culture of Life.

Watch Ted Bundy's final interview before his execution HERE.

Posted on July 13, 2015 and filed under Womanhood, parenting.