Dr. Mark Laaser knows both sides of sexual addiction. For 25 years, beginning as a college student and continuing through his career as a pastor and counselor, he lived a secret life that included pornography, affairs, and encounters with prostitutes. Today, 12 years into recovery and a healed marriage, Laaser heads the Christian Alliance for Sexual Recovery, lecturing and conducting workshops around the world. He has worked with hundreds of addicts and their families and has consulted with many church congregations and pastors after their clerics' sexual sins were exposed.
Laaser received his doctorate in religion and psychology from the University of Iowa. He serves on several boards, including the Inter faith Sexual Trauma Institute and the National Council on Sexual Addiction/Compulsivity. His books include, Faithful and True: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addictions (Zondervan), Before the Fall: Preventing Pastoral Sexual Abuse (Liturgical Press), and Talking to Your Kids about Sex (WaterBrook).
He first published Faithful and True in 1992, when the Internet was still in its infancy. Since then, he has watched "cybersex"—pictures, videos, chat rooms, clubs, and more—become the number one issue in sexual addiction.
You have referred to pornography as a building block to sexual addiction. Obviously the Internet fits very well with that.
The scary part about the Internet is, first, there are forms of perversion available there that almost defy description. The second and the most powerful problem with the Internet is that it's available in the privacy of your home. In the "old days," you had to go to various red-light areas. You had to drive; you had to expose yourself to public humiliation.
Would you call Internet sex an appetizer for the more public expressions?
I think your average person who gets hooked into it will be on a downward spiral. It's going to feed the appetite for sexual expression. If you're left untreated, left unhealed of a pornography addiction, eventually your mind is going to want to express sexuality in some fashion.
Does the Internet attract and make sex addicts out of people who otherwise might not have been addicts?
There might be some people who have kind of drifted along at a very low level that have the vulnerability factors, but then the immediate access of the Internet comes along and hooks a lot of people who might not otherwise have degenerated so rapidly.