Valley Voices

The ethics of sex – Hefner and Hustler had them half right

Since boyhood, I’ve had a strong sense of moral justice. Whether putting myself in timeout for breaking the rules, saving stray animals from the streets, or buying food for the hungry, a virtuous character was the internal compass of my younger years.

Then came the season of sex addiction. This was a time of inner turmoil, as I pursued pleasures at the expense of myself and others. Believing in what was right, I ran to what was wrong, living in the shame of an incongruent life.

In my early 20s, I pursued recovery, reconnecting with the person I always was. I learned to live in alignment again.

As a sex addiction therapist, I help others do the same. As people recover, they reconnect with their values, selves, and souls. Rather than leading their highest values away to the slaughter, living them becomes their highest aim.

As I state in my book “Life After Lust,” “In recovery, we learn to live with integrity. We are the same person in the dark that we are in the light…The more we live in alignment, the greater our inner peace.”

Whether we’re recovering or not, alignment is a worthy aspiration. It feels deeply satisfying when our beliefs match our behavior. When it comes to sexuality, these choices are significant.

How do we express ourselves sexually in ways that do not spoil our moral values? This is the key question we all wrestle with. This is the question we now face in Fresno. With Hustler’s recent move to our city, will we support their cause with our cash? Will shopping at their store be an act of alignment, or a compromise of character?

Principles of porn industry

Deciding where to shop starts with identifying ideals. What are our highest values and do they harmonize with those of a given business? In my personal opinion, porn-pioneers Hefner and Hustler had their sexual values half right. We share an apparent appreciation of sexual adventure, enjoyment, excitement, creativity, and fun.

We would also agree that sexuality is to be celebrated, not shamed. But that’s where our agreement ends. Many principles of the porn-industry wreak havoc in our world.

The porn industry is riddled with drug use and disease. Treated as commodities, “performers” are physically and psychologically harmed. Sometimes tied to sex-trafficking, the porn setting can be fraught with fraud, force, and coercion.

Consumers are another group of casualties, not always aware of the impact of their choices.

Too often, relationships are ripped apart by porn addiction, resulting in trauma to all involved parties. Children consume porn at historically high rates, unknowingly harming their brains, beliefs, and future sex lives. As a parent, I’m compelled to protect all children from this destructive drug.

Porn’s values grate against my most beloved beliefs in love, honor and human worth. So, when a porn giant like Hustler sets up shop in my city, offering gadgets and gizmos to spice up my sex life, I cannot consent with my cash. My funds will never fuel the fires of sexual exploitation.

Thank you for offering, but I’ll pass on this, Hustler. You may have a legal right to be here but not a moral right. The potential pleasures you promise are not worth those wounded in your industry’s wake. If I buy anything to bolster my sex life, it will be from businesses not tied to objectification and degradation.

Thankfully, alternatives are available ( This is my act of alignment.

Invited into alignment

We can savor a healthy sex life without stepping on our values. We can pursue sexual passion, pleasure and play without propelling the porn-industry forward.

Those of us opposed to Hustler’s presence here can peacefully protest with our pocketbooks. We can rid our lives of porn’s influence in our streets, our homes, and our hearts. We can fight for the freedom of the youngest among us. We can live in alignment with our values.

If you are pro-sex, pro-love, and pro-respect, I hope you’ll join me in an act of alignment. Support only businesses that practice these principles and we can resist the pull of porn’s morally-bankrupt mirage.

Seeking healing and self-connection, we’ll become who we most want to be. When we know who we are, we will know what to do (Greer, 2009). May we learn to live in alignment in all areas of our lives.

Forest Benedict, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in sex addiction therapy, is the author of “Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery.” He serves as the clinical director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley, a treatment program for sex addicts and their partners.