Last year we told you about a guy named Bill who we met in Cleveland, who was at the end of Porn Blvd. Here is his story. Rob Supan, Brandon, and Du headed out to Boston this past weekend and spent Friday with Bill and then attended a conference on Porn. Here is the recap from Rob and and Brandon check out the pics from the trip.
“Do you have permission to do that here!?” The trip to visit Bill at Devens started out pretty rocky with the confiscation of a video tape and a stern lecture by a federal prison guard. Apparently they are NOT cool with the idea of videotaping in front of the razor wire.There was no question that this was prison… real prison, not a Fox drama or an episode of Law and Order. The visitation room was a large, cold, cement room, filled with blue plastic chairs and vending machines. As we waited for Bill, you couldn’t help notice the others around us; young couples, old men, families; and wonder what brought them there, but you tried not to make eye contact. Bill appeared from a door on the other side of the room dressed in his beige prison-issue uniform and escorted by a guard. He smiled and I looked for an indication that it was OK to give him a hug (We’d already had one run in with the guards and that was enough).
It was great to see Bill and be face to face. We’ve written often and I get the occasional phone call that comes up ‘UNKNOWN’ on my caller ID, but to sit across from each other and kick back a Mountain Dew was really fantastic. The next three hours went by quickly, catching up on how things were going, his job in the kitchen, the guys in his block. We talked about the meetings and studies he goes to and the opportunities he’s had to share with guys around him. “It’s different, guys are here and then they’re gone, so you are careful about who you tell and what you tell them,” Bill said. “But there are guys that I’ve told my story to, and there are groups where it’s safe to talk.” We encouraged him that his story gets told in our circles a lot and that the emails we get talk about the impact that his story has on guys. I know it means a lot to him. It makes the time doable.
Bill has his low points. He recognizes that the facility he’s in, as a medical detention center, is easier time than in many other federal facilities, but it’s still prison. Fist fights over the tv, guys having sex in the bathrooms, searches and lock downs are not uncommon, but he’s also very aware of God’s hand in his life and he continues to hold to the fact that this has been a blessing… his word not mine. He continues to attend meetings – all of them from the sound of it. He’s got a great chaplain. And he’s going to be teaching a couple of classes coming up to other inmates. “I do whatever I can do,” He said.
As excited as I was about the visit, I was bummed driving away knowing that it would be a while until we would see Bill again, but he said the time was passing quickly inside and that if all went well, he would be released to a halfway house in April 2010. In the meantime keep praying for Bill and for the guys he comes in contact with, and if you can, drop him a note… but whatever you do, don’t videotape on federal property!
I’m not certain, but I think I’ve become a feminist.
We were invite to attend a conference at Wheelock college in Boston called Pornography and Pop Culture: Reframing Theory and Re-thinking Activism put on by the Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement, the first of its kind in more than a decade, they said. This was totally new ground for us and I had no idea what to expect… no idea. Much of the information wasn’t new – porn is degrading to women, the culture has become increasingly pornified – we get it. I guess what I really took away with me were two things. One, that large numbers of women increasingly feel unsafe in their everyday life due to the attitudes about women portrayed in porn. And two, that we could work together.
I admit, I frame the porn issue as a guy thing. It’s a guy problem, guys are the consumers, guys are the audience. So hearing another perspective was great. And having daughters, it made me consider another side of the porn problem from a woman’s perspective. The idea that porn is so prominent in the culture, how do woman know whether their coworker, neighbor, professor, boyfriend, whoever, is viewing porn. And with that uncertainty, how do they not have a feeling of insecurity about the men around them and whether or not they will be victimized by the attitudes that porn conveys. If I’m honest, I hadn’t spent much thought about how it affects woman personally, individually.
There was a part of this audience – a large part – that wants nothing to due with us. After all, I’m a man… a white man, and worse, a white christian, right wing, narrow-minded man who is part of the capitalistic, oppressive patriarchal hierarchy (Yeah, I had to look much of that up, too. Trust me, none of it is good). But we also met people who were glad we were there. Including a guy named John that Brandon met in line for coffee who, we found out later over lunch, turns out to be a significant author in the movement and who was the long-time companion of one of the founding members of the feminist anti-pornography movement. He was really impressed with the work that X3 does and made the statement “I think meeting you guys is why I’m here.” Total God-story.
I don’t know if I’ll be attending any marches soon, but I ‘m sure this is not my last feminist event… and I’m looking forward to that.
Alright, I’m out. I’m meeting some friends to go rock climbing in Second Life
Two things were on the agenda in Boston this weekend: Visiting Bill and attending an anti-pornography conference at a local college. Bill is a friend of the ministry who was charged with the distribution and possession of child pornography about a year ago. Bill shared his story with us and since we have come alongside him to help in any way we could. Rob and JR attended his sentencing and later Craig and JR visited him in Federal Prison. Rob and Du have been in contact with Bill regularly throughout year through phone calls and letters. This weekend we were excited to pay Bill visit.
â€œThis is the best thing that happened to me.â€ I will not forget these words that Bill said in the prison visiting room outside of Boston this weekend. Bill is a guy who is working on himself, to change who he is, taking his junk head on. I asked Bill what he would say to those who are dabbling in porn, once or twice or twice a week. He answered, â€œIt started when I was twelve years old when I would steal my friendâ€™s magazinesâ€¦it starts somewhere and from there it gets to be more and more and more.â€ I admire Bill, his courage and his fight to change. The three hours we spent with Bill were truly a powerful experience.
Next we headed to the conference in the heart Boston. Titledâ€”Pornography and Pop Culture: Reframing Theory and Rethinking Activism. The anti-pornography feminist movement was unfamiliar to us all, but no worries we received a crash course this weekend. The mission of the weekend was to show the systemic exploitation of women by pornography and offer strategic ways to address to this. The direct linkage of pornography to violence toward women, rape, sex trafficking and protestation was shown brilliantly this weekend. My thought has been challenged and I walk away from the conference with a better understanding of how pornography affects women directly in non-simplistic, complex ways. I leave you with my favorite quote from the weekend: â€œMcDonalds is to food as pornography is to sex. A cheap, overly reproduced, lucrative, non-creative, substitute for the real thing.â€
Bill Hartman visit
With one year of Bill’s sentence completed, it seemed fitting for us to visit him. As we waited for Bill to be brought out to the visiting area, I looked around at all of the other people visiting their friends, fiances, husbands, brothers, and sons. My heart began to break for these people and the inmates. I saw a great amount of pain in all of their eyes. But along with that great pain I saw an even greater love for the person that they were visiting. Bill had this same look in his eyes while he was with us. You could see the joy in his eyes for our being there, but you also saw the pain of separation. We had a wonderful visit with Bill. We chatted about prison life and how he was doing in FMC Devens. Although he said it reminded him of day camp, he assured us it was not an easy life. He talked about how the inmates would physically fight over who got to decide what to watch on television. He also told us he misses the personal relationships he had before he went to prison. He said one of the hardest things is not waking up next to his wife. I understood what he meant. I had only been away from my wife for thirteen hours and I already missed her very much. I cannot imagine going a whole year without my wife, let alone five and a half years. We talked about what we were up to and about how our computers are such a huge part of our lives. He told us in no uncertain terms that he did not need a computer or want one ever again. Bill is a man who is changing his life to align himself with what is needed to stay sober and Godly. I see God doing a lot in Bill’s life right now. Bill’s total dependence is on God. He said “he takes it one day at a time and will do whatever it takes.” I am excited for Bill’s release in April of 2010. I can hardly wait for the party we are going to throw him. It will be a time of rejoicing as Bill starts a new life outside of the prison walls with a renewed walk with God. We ended our visit with Bill after about three hours when we were informed that visiting time was over. Bill left us with some encouraging words, “Just think, as you are leaving, I am being stripped searched.” A sense of humor that only God can give a man with four and a half years to go.
Pornography and Pop Culture: Reframing Theory, Re-thinking Activism
What a weekend. I was stretched mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As a Christian male going to an Anti-Pornography conference which was arranged and put on by feminists, I did not know what to expect. What I received was life changing. Like most American males, I have seen pornography. I believe that women are exploited, abused, and taken advantage of by the pornography industry. I did not realize how that industry exploited, abused, and took advantage of everybody else too. I am a father of two wonderful and beautiful daughters. I have a beautiful wife who loves me and takes care of me. I have always thought that society was trying to make my girls grow up too fast with the immodest clothing, the scantily clad dolls, and the content of most music, movies, and advertisements in general. I now see how pornography has invaded so much of our daily lives and influenced society that I am more frightened than ever before. I do not believe a person has to see actual “pornography” to be influenced by it. As I looked through a computer magazine on the flight home I saw women used in provocative poses to sell computer gear and I see now that pornography is present in most things we see. It frightens me of the effect this has on the unsuspecting public. The influence on women and girls, men and boys is huge. It affects our views of how women are to look and act and how men are to respond to these women. Pornography is not just on the top shelf at the book store or in the back room at the video store anymore. It is on our televisions, in our magazines, in our toy stores, and department stores. The question I posed at the end of this conference was how to attack this monster that has its tentacles wrapped around so many things. I know personally I have begun to reevaluate the music I listen to, movies I view, websites I visit, and how I view women. I do not want to add in any way to the monster. I know that as we degrade something or someone, their value is lost. I do not want to ever make my girls and my wife worthless. I feel it is our duty as Christians to take a stand against pornography and fight. Not like we did in years past by boycotting stores or amusement parks, but by helping the people that are ensnared by the monster of pornography, whether they are actors and directors in the industry, regular people viewing pornography in their own homes, or the unsuspecting person being influenced by covert pornography in the media. By loving on these people and showing them they have worth. By getting the people, the general public to realize how the pornography industry has invaded their lives. By setting aside our own personal agenda to work with groups that we usually are diametrically opposed to. Or as an example, by being a Christian male attending a feminist conference on pornography.