Addiction to pornography has exploded in epidemic proportions, infiltrating churches and holding our pastors, friends, and family members prisoner. But no one – not even the Church – is talking about this dangerous and destructive addiction.
DIRTY LITTLE SECRET follows Pastor Craig Gross as he breaks the silence and begins his ministry, XXXchurch.com, a website devoted to fighting pornography. As he meets people in the industry and those addicted to porn, Craig exposes the very real human face of pornography and the destructive physical, emotional, and spiritual toll it takes. DIRTY LITTLE SECRET plainly reveals the addictive lure of pornography, explores the pain and brokenness it causes, and challenges us as individuals and as the Church to talk about and openly fight pornography. Its thesis: Don’t be tempted to keep this secret any longer, but roll up your sleeves and do something about it … to help at least one person break free.
Craig Gross takes the time to tell his story and display the very human face of porn addicts and the stars they idolize. He does an excellent job of laying out the growing problems facing our culture without being overly dramatic, preachy, or needlessly graphic. The book effectively communicates an important message: The suffocating prison of pornography can only be battled by the hard, frustrating work of genuinely loving people.
Many will say porn is harmless … I always knew it was not, but Craig Gross makes a most powerful anecdotal case for its poisonous grip on our entire culture. I suspect that many if not most Americans will at least admit that our society is one in which we are constantly bombarded with sex. Many will say porn stars have made their own choice, but Gross gets into the nuances of an aggressive industry that hunts unwitting victims. Most pastors wouldn’t venture where Pastor Gross has, but he and his XXX Church embrace this devastation to keep grace and hope alive for the victims of the porn pandemic.
Having once had a major issue with pornography, I am sadly familiar with much of the subject matter of this book. Gross writes about the harm of the porn industry in a matter-of-fact way, which cuts through all the stereotypes of the business and its workers and shows the raw truth of how horrible the world on the inside can be. The big glitzy stars in this world exist in only the top ten percent, and age is their biggest enemy. The countless other actors usually will do anything to just pay the bills. Drugs are a way of life to help most of these people get through a day on the set; women in particular are often treated like cheap cuts of rotting meat
Don't get me wrong. Admittedly this book is very one-sided and focuses on the worst-case scenarios to emphasize the author’s point. However, it is also directed at those who know, at least to some degree, that they have a problem with porn. This is the dousing of cold water these people need to understand – that even when it seems as if no victims exist, they certainly do.
The strength of DIRTY LITTLE SECRET is the moving behind-the-scenes stories it contains - many tragic, and others ultimately triumphant. It strips the glamour away and perfectly captures the horror that the porn industry inflicts on its own. For example, I will never forget the mental image of a porn actress curled up in the fetal position, sucking her thumb in anguish at the end of a video shoot. It is the revelation of these inside glimpses that make the book a must read for anyone concerned about the porn industry, and also for everyone dismayed with the sexualization of our society.
The author is the first to admit how hard this kind of education can be. He knows the criticism of his annual visits to porn conventions. He's aware of the hype around his unorthodox witness to a shady world that even many Christians condemn in public but enjoy in private. This isn't a book about how to stop porn addiction or all its scary statistics. It isn't even a book that pits good against bad. It simply exposes the worst parts of the industry and how badly it hurts countless everyday people.
I am encouraged that this author does not avoid the truth. Some critics say he only discusses the extreme cases. But every porn star and porn addict is an extreme case waiting to happen, or for whom it is already too late. The most heartbreaking chapter of the book involves Carter, a young journalist who is allowed on set to watch twenty-one year old Ariana film a porno scene so he can write a feature story. Carter and she are the same age. Things begin almost innocently enough as he meets the porn stars before the shoot in an almost normal atmosphere, but they go downhill quickly. Carter cannot finish watching. He drives home, pulls over, and bursts into tears about what he has seen …even imagining what it would be like if he were Ariana. He will never be the same again. Reading this chapter, I felt depressed about Carter and Ariana, both broken by the selfish desires of a cruel inhuman business.
Gross also shares a story about a Christian involved in top ministry who started looking at porn, then went to strip clubs where he became involved in private dances with the dancers, and ultimately moved on to escorts. He began to seek more and more illicit satisfaction, developing darker cravings, exposing himself to disease, the perverse, the painful, sinking deeper into a vortex of unbelievable depravity. He has spent over $20,000, and is terrified of being exposed. And it all started with that first porn experience.
“If I had just one person to confide in, this would all stop tomorrow,” he says. “I know it because I don’t want to do this any longer. I have kids now. I have a ministry. I have people who look up to me, and I feel like they don’t know me. Sin has controlled me and it sucks.”
Gross asks why this man and others like him just don’t tell someone and try to get help. The answer is almost always the same – the fear and shame of exposure, loss of employment and respect, the pain of hurting those who love him most and the emptiness of life without them
I have read many books about the destructive effects of pornography, and I found this one to be concise and straight-forward. What I especially like about Craig Gross and XXXChurch is their approach of love and grace, and their invitation to healing conversation about the taboo topic of porn, a topic that has touched most of us one way or another.
Gross goes on to write:
“Christians and other religious establishments send a cold message to sexual addicts. Sexual addicts are left with the options of accepting their behaviors and facing the emptiness or dealing with being pegged as a freak. From the point of view of a sexual addict, they only see judgment and harsh punishments when confronted with the options of confessing everything and changing. They fear being ostracized – like once they come clean, they need to knock on their neighbors’ doors or get up in front of a congregation and admit they look at porn and be forever branded a sexual deviant. What has happened to grace?”
Indeed, what HAS happened to grace? For instance, is it appropriate to fire pastors and youth pastors when they confess to looking at pornography as some churches have done? Does that help or hurt? Would we treat other types of harmful behavior this way?
Gross is writing to help the Church talk about a subject she by which she is ravaged, but thinks too embarrassing or dangerous to discuss. Christians, through fear, self-righteousness or ignorance, often demonize those touched by porn. Gross shows them (rightfully so in my opinion) as people made in the image of God—but also as hopeless and undone humans who, through their own inappropriate choices, now need His redemption.
DIRTY LITTLE SECRET reveals the personal stories of several actors in the business, emphasizing a strong conclusion that many want out, but feel trapped and helpless. (Would you or I befriend a porn star with the intent of helping her/him to leave the industry? Are you or I willing to put our own reputations on the line to rescue another human that most people see as the scum of the earth?) Unless at least the Church is a safe place to at least talk about the problem of porn and its solutions, those affected in any way by pornography will most likely continue to be enslaved.
To educate his readers, Gross takes us to the porn set, to the porn convention, to the erotic museum, and to “porn prison” (a live-in treatment facility). The people are portrayed as unusually complex and needy human beings. And after 160 pages, we are left with the conviction that as God’s people we all need to be more approachable, kinder, and gracious to those trapped by porn. At the same time, we must be more proactive and aggressive in dealing with this devouring giant. This is the giant of giants who promises everything but gives only living or actual death in return. This is the giant who preys on the innocent and jaded alike. This is the giant who is at the core of a currently annual thirteen-billion dollar industry in our country alone.
Why did Craig Gross write a book that is certain to offend, yet hopefully enlighten? In his own words:
“My hope and prayer is that we keep love out in front of people as we expose America’s dirty little secret. God didn’t ask me to create definitions or long drawn-out dissertations on the porn problem. He wanted one thing: honest conversation, getting to know those who have been affected by porn. So understand that you have made choices with your life, about what you think and what you do. If your definition of porn finds itself on a sliding gray scale, chances are you need to get up and start talking to someone about your own dirty little secret. Or, if you can’t see the hurting individuals trapped in porn, it’s time to at least love them and encourage them to talk about their secrets.”