By Biz Gainey
Last week, Erin Andrews was awarded 55 million dollars in her lawsuit against a stalker and hotel chain. She filed the suit after she was secretly videotaped naked several times in the privacy of her hotel room.
She asked for 75 million[i].
In his deposition, stalker Michael Barrett explains how he got the footage of Andrews naked.[ii] To convey the amount of stealth and subterfuge to which this guy sank, I will provide the timeline of his attack:
1. Attacker, Michael Barrett, while on a business trip in Nashville (though I couldn’t trace down the type of trip he was on or the company for which he worked), discovered that Erin Andrews, ESPN sports personality, was in town at the same time covering a sporting event.
2. Attacker, Michael Barrett attempted to book a room in Andrews’ hotel but was told that no rooms were available. The details are a bit fuzzy at this point, but he was refused a room in the hotel due to overbooking, or he was denied the room he specifically requested because it was occupied.
3. Attacker, Michael Barrett found a table at the hotel restaurant and ate dinner. After which (or during which) he called the hotel operator and asked to be patched through to Erin Andrews room. The house phone, from which he called, identified Andrews’ room number.
4. Attacker, Michael Barrett went to the room number indicated on the house phone and saw a maid cleaning the room next to Andrews’.
5. Attacker, Michael Barrett slunk down the elevator and attempted to book the room adjacent Andrews’. Guess what? The adjacent room was open, and he was able to book it.
6. Attacker, Michael Barrett settled into his room. Per his testimony he could hear her as she talked on the phone. He patiently waited until he heard her leave the room.
7. Attacker, Michael Barrett took a hacksaw and cut through the peephole. He then rigged it so that he could peep into her room. Yeah, you read that right! Who the hell brings a hacksaw on a business trip? I travel fairly often. I have never, not one time, said to my wife as she helped me pack, “Honey, could you grab the hacksaw for me? And, while you’re at it, why not toss in my ball pen hammer?”
8. Attacker, Michael Barrett waited for Andrews’ to return. He assumed, after hearing the sound of running water, Andrews was in the shower. He then went to the previously hacksawed peephole and recorded over four minutes of footage of Andrews, while naked.
For the remainder of the post I am going to attempt to answer a question I have which reveals an assumption I am making:
Does Barrett’s behavior indicate that he may have been a porn addict before he was a stalker?
In the interest of fairness, I have found no empirical evidence that indicates Michael Barrett had a problem with porn. When asked why he attacked (recorded) Andrews, his response revolved around his personal debt and his need to generate some cash. When asked why he decided – after realizing he couldn’t sell the video – to post the clips on the Internet, he replied:
“That is a great question, and I really have thought about it over the years, and I don’t have a good answer for it. I don’t know.”[iii]
I, however, as a man who has struggled with porn for most of my life and found freedom from porn during the last 15 years, would bet my life that Michael Barrett may have a porn problem. Before you run off screaming at the screen, take a minute and read the following reasons why I believe he may have had a porn problem that contributed to his stalking. Though this may or may not be the case, I am convinced that America has a porn problem that's contributing to stalking, raping and the sweeping destruction of our women, children, and society as a whole.
10 Reasons I Believe Stalking is A Natural Outcome of Pornography
1. Erin Andrews’ experience is not an anomaly. Barrett himself confessed to attempting to secretly record other women again and again. Women everywhere are experiencing this. They fight it in public restrooms, at work, at church, in their neighborhoods, etc. If this were an anomaly, perhaps we could write it off to one nut case who just snapped under stress. The truth is, however, that porn is engendering and cultivating a peepshow mentality.
2. Porn often depicts the very thing Barrett attempted to do. The porn catalogue is littered with hotel scenes and the like that feature deception, stealth, intrigue, and invasion. In other words, the porn industry thrives on the very thing Barrett did!
3. Most porn clips are less than the time frame of Barrett’s video. Anyone who has ever visited porn sites knows that you can access thousands of videos that are similar to the video Barrett captured. Many sites even have an amateur and or voyeur tags featuring and encouraging such footage.
4. Porn addiction can control the addict and cause irrational and personally destructive behavior. Barrett confessed that he didn’t know why he did what he did. He even mentioned regret, shame, embarrassment, etc. Any porn addict understands and can relate to his words.
5. Porn consumption and viewing rewires the brain. This point flows from the previous one, but it’s important to note the neurological research supporting the fact that pornography changes the biochemical structure of the brain. When changes like this occur and disrupt the normative way our brains assimilate and process input, destructive behavior follows suit.
6. Porn is violent and the most popular scenes display terrorizing violence. Research indicates that over 80% of the porn catalogue contains scenes that depict abuse against women.[iv] Viewing porn contributes to aggressive behavior. Many who view porn testify that they have trouble seeing women as people. Rather, they see women as objects. When this takes hold, then valuing things like privacy and decency are no longer options the addict has from which he can choose.
7. Porn consumption leads to relational detachment, distortion, and destruction. Anyone who has every struggled with porn knows that its outcomes are relationally toxic. The porn addict detaches himself from relationships and, as such, reality. As this ‘way of life’ grows, the more preoccupied the user becomes. He gets lost in the world of fantasy: the realm of that which is not real. Simply put: why wouldn’t a porn addict hacksaw an eye hole in a hotel room door? Porn reframes reality and makes us believe that what’s false is real and that what’s real is false.
8. Porn consumption leads to ‘leery-eyed leeches’ lurking around every corner. As I a read through the articles related to the Andrews case, I noticed a recurring theme: women in the sportscasting field are learning to avoid the guy who glares and stares as they pass by or linger just on the fringe. Guys who glare and stare are prevalent beyond the sporting industry. I see the glare and stare all the time. I have a mobile office, so I often work from local coffee shops and cafes. Many times, as women enter the café, men glare and stare, and women know it. Such leery-eyed leeching is rampant in our world. Just pay attention the next time you go out and grab a burger.
9. Porn profits from sexual exploitation. Porn cannot exist apart from the exploitation of personhood! The naked body is beautiful. Porn takes the beauty of the naked body and exploits it in a way that exposes the world to its destructive outcomes. Michael Barrett fell victim to this exploitation and then became an accomplice in its crime. The minute he filmed Andrews, he said yes to exploitation and confessed his imprisonment.
10. Porn marches on. Sadly - in all of the news coverage related to this despicable act of exploitation, invasion, and sexual deviancy - the porn industry remains unscathed. I am appalled by our lack of attention to the monster behind the madness. Indeed, the porn industry has become the proverbial elephant in the room. Yes, Michael Barrett is a criminal and – in my mind – he should have served more than two years in prison. Yes, the hotel chain should be held accountable, and they should be made to pay. Allow me, however, to emphasize this overlooked reality: if porn addiction weren’t a multi-billion dollar economic engine, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. The porn industry's prolific reach is causing an epidemic that is quickly reaching pandemic levels. As we carve our culture to pieces, the industry marches on: stealing our souls in exchange for our citizens. We all lose when porn gains!
Let me say something to the correlation-doesn’t-equal-causation crowd. I hear you. I understand what you are saying and the sentiment you’re expressing. I urge, you, however, to do the research for yourself. In many (though admittedly not all) instances of conflict, strife, rape, murder and suicide, we can draw a straight line to the porn industry. As porn proliferates, perversity grows. As perversity grows, exploitation, suffering, and shame, become norms rather than anomalies.
Yes, I believe that Michael Barrett may have had a porn problem before he ever had a stalking problem. Even if he didn’t, I am confident that the natural outcome of a pornographic culture is the type of irrational behavior we see in people like Michael Barrett.
I am pleased with the result of Erin Andrews’ case. Though I know she will not get all the money promised, she deserves every bit and more. But don’t be fooled, this is not the end. This episode will haunt her for the rest of her life.
Don’t be fooled; she is not alone!
For every Andrews, dozens more women and girls are being exploited and abused in a similar fashion. We remain – amazingly and shamefully – silent. Where are the voices calling for a class action lawsuit against the porn industry? Porn is, after all, a multi-billion dollar industry. Perhaps if we hit them with a billion dollar suit, they will take notice.
I know that such or similar actions can only happen if we, the men in our world, step up and stand together.
The first step is to reach out for help. I understand your struggle!! My story is one of constant struggle with the porn industry and freedom from porn addiction. Your addiction has you scared. You wish you didn't have this problem. I get it!
Just know this: you are not alone, and you don't need to remain where you are! There is hope! I don’t condemn you.
Men Against Porn welcomes you! We hope with you! We hope for better days ahead! Freedom, even amidst struggle, is possible! We can help!
The second step is to stand with us as we develop an army of millions willing to battle the people responsible for moments like the one Andrews’ publicly suffered and many other women privately suffer every day! As we come together, we may just cultivate a world in which such an experience never has to be endured by anyone ever again.
Will you join us?