Interviews Justice

INTERVIEW: Over 18 – a new documentary on the harmful effects of pornography

On Saturday, October 8th, Jared Brock and the team from Canadian not-for-profit Hope for the Sold had the first screening of their documentary Over 18. They’ve described the documentary as “a clear-eyed examination of modern pornography and its effects on kids, teens, parents, and porn stars.”
They are currently on tour promoting their film to raise awareness of the damaging effects of the current state of pornography in our society. They are also involved with motion 47, a movement in Canadian parliament to examine the effect of pornography on youth.

Converge sat down with Jared back in October to hear more about the project. Here’s a sampling from our conversation.

Pornography has become a huge monster in our society. What are some of the unprecedented facts about where we are right now with pornography that makes our society different than it was even 10 years ago.
In 1953 the very first issue of real pornography was released in the United States, it was the very first issue of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy and it had a topless picture of Marilynne Monroe in it and that was considered pornography. Today porn is in HD and 4K, available on a cell phone for free. It is violent and degrading on a scale we have never seen before and parents have no idea.

Does the documentary get into changes in brain chemistry?
Basically what happens when you look at porn is that you get a hit of dopamine to an area of your brain near the crown called the Nucleus Accumbens and basically it’s about a 200% dopamine spike which is about the equivalent of a shot of morphine. What interesting is the average boy is seeing porn at 12 years old but the Cerebral Cortex which is your frontal lobe near your forehead, your forward thinking, reasoning, wisdom area of your brain doesn’t develop in males until 20-22 and so there’s potentially a 10 year gap where kids are looking at and getting addicted to porn before they have the ability to protect themselves.

So 12 years old, that’s the average.
Yeah. So 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls see porn before the age of 18. For males specifically the average age of exposure is 12 years old. Kids today have tablets and cell phones in their bedrooms 24 hours a day, they have internet access at McDonalds, at school, and then library, and everywhere. Even if a parent really tries to protect their family home with filters, and monitoring (which is very rare, let’s be honest, 71% of teens hide their online behaviour from their parents) it actually wouldn’t matter because kids can see it on a cell phone at school which means we need to look at a way broader solution.

Right now the only thing that porn sites have to do is have a little pop-up that says “are you over 18? Yes or No” and any 10 year old can get through that. So basically what we want is something similar to the gambling industry. We want meaningful age verification whether that’s a credit card, or a third party system that strips your ID but gives you a code to prove you are over 18. I don’t care how it’s done, it obviously has to pass privacy and censorship standards, but we’ve got to find a way to make sure kids can’t access it. Kids need to be at least 18 years old before they see violent and degrading content.

So if I understand correctly that’s the main mission aspect of this documentary?
Yeah, first step in Canada is there’s a motion being presented in Canada called motion 47 and it’s to study the affect of online harmful content on kids and report back to the house. So if that passes in December and is adopted then parliament will have to study it, and if they find what we know they’re going to find, they are going to be forced to go forward with meaningful age verification, so that’s what we’re pushing for. We actually have a parliamentary screening coming up in October 24th and it’s actually being co-sponsored by a liberal, a conservative, Elizabeth May of the Green Party and an NDPer. To me, this is a no-brainer, and I hope that our politicians get on board because kids matter. As Christians, we believe that humans are made in the image of God and are worthy of respect. In the broader culture I think we can agree that human beings shouldn’t be commodified and even if they are we shouldn’t be looking at it.

I love that aspect of this issue, that it crosses all barriers, This a Christian issue, but also a feminist issue too.
Absolutely. They did a study of the 300 most popular porn films last year and 80% of them depicted aggression toward women. The industry’s excuse is “the women make more than the men do” but we’ve interviewed women. They say “I got paid $500, I got paid $1000, etc. But they continue to make money off me to this day.” There was a woman we spoke to who got out of the industry now, she’s a Christian, she married, and they still own and make thousands of dollars a year and she has no legal right to it.

And it’s Corporate too. There’s a big monolithic industry behind this all.
Yeah, I always ask in general “who profits?” And the fact is, in pornography there’s a lot of people who profit. And it’s not just people making pornography. It’s the distributors, it’s the ISPs making a boatload off of service charges, it’s the advertisers who are making a percentage every time someone buys porn. There are people making billions and billions of dollars off this.

How will you enforce age-verification? If you pass this bill in Canada, what are the chances we would be able to force a Swedish website to provide meaningful age-verification?
Yeah, so there’s a couple of different things at play. The first one is with Canada, 8 out of 10 of the biggest porn sites in the world actually are Canadian. It’s a company called MindGeek. Founded by three young men when they went to McGill together and they basically were stealing VHS pornos and putting them up on a youtube-type site and making tons of money through ads. They started tons of tube sites like that. They popularized porn as we know it. They own PornHub, RedTube, Xvideos, Xhamster, they own so many of the major porn sites. If you go on MindGeek’s website there’s nothing about pornography. It’s all about “click-through rates” and “customer relation tools” and “appeal” because it’s actually not about sex, this is all about money and power.
They’ve all fled Canada now, and the company is officially based out of Luxembourg now for tax reasons however they still have their headquarters in Montreal.
So the fact that the biggest 8 are based here is a big thing. We have trade deals with most countries so it’s an easy enforcement of simply saying to Sweden “we have a new law on the books your companies need to abide by.” Then you could go after the Internet Service Providers, say “you are allowing hosting in our nation, but are letting through these adult sites that kids can see, could you please either block them on the servers or get them to provide meaningful age verification.”

I think what’s very interesting is that some porn companies are already on board with meaningful age verification. Reason number one, It is illegal to show porn to anyone under the age of 18. You cannot hand a Hustler to a 6 year old, that is illegal. So they’re actually breaking the law every single time a kid visits their porn sit. The second thing is, anecdotally we’ve heard that some porn sites, up to 60% of their bandwidth is people under the age of 18, but they don’t have a credit card so it’s actually costing them a ton of money and it’s not a profitable business model. Of course no one wants to go first because then they’re at a competitive disadvantage which is why it needs to be a broad-marketplace solution to protect kids from seeing online solutions.

So there’s a political aspect to your documentary, but you’re also speaking at churches and community groups. Could you talk about that?
So we’re doing a 60-city tour between October 1st and Christmas but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’re encouraging people to host screenings in their local communities and their local church. We don’t have to be present for those they can get in touch with us through our website and arrange that. But when we do live events we bring a ton of resources with us to help equip both parents and teenagers and kids. So there’s a bunch of different options, but we’re encourage people to check out Sexaholics Anonymous, Strength to Fight, Kids Wifi, Covenant Eyes, Celebrate Recovery, there are so many different things people can do to protect themselves, protect their kids, and start this conversation in their communities. It would be great to have a porn-free church but at the very least we should be honest that it is happening in our churches. Only 7% of churches are willing to tackle pornography, that number is way too low, we should be thought leaders on this issue.

Are there strong theological reasons for this mission?
Well we don’t present the four spiritual laws. [laughs] We try to tackle one issue at a time. We want to show the film in high schools and parliaments and we can’t do that if we are proselytizing. That said, people who watch our film often come up to us afterwards and say “are you guys Christians? Because that language is very redemptive.” It’s kingdom language all over the place. And that’s not just us, it’s porn-stars that have come to faith that are using this language. So, our idea is “here is a resource that can help the local church engage their community.” They get to position themselves as thought leaders on an issue that is affecting basically every parent in their community. So it’s a great opportunity to get parents that wouldn’t show up to a normal Sunday service at church to eat popcorn, watch a movie, and learn how to protect their kids. So we see this as a really good opportunity for churches to engage their communities.
Theologically, I believe people are made in the image of God and that every person is worthy of respect and honour, especially the most vulnerable of these which are our kids and our women. All these women have a story. But we live in a culture that exploits its vulnerable. There is lots of exploitation in the adult sex industry and I don’t like the idea that we as a culture have said it’s okay to watch videotaped sex of women. Yet that’s what we’ve done. It’s called that “porn paradox.” Porn is more popular that it’s ever been, but it’s also more degrading, violent, and racist than it’s ever been—so maybe we’re not as progressive in society as think we are.

For more information about this film, movement, or to attend a screening near you visit