I first met Shelley Lubben at the Exxxotica convention in New Jersey in 2009 when I went as part of the WHACK! Magazine crew. We watched her heckling people as they went by and somehow obsequiously pandering to all the big stars there as well, and we thought, this woman is a nutter. We’ve got to get her on camera. So we stuck our camera in her face and let her rant about how porn exploits women and makes them into prostitutes, how everyone in porn is diseased and ruined emotionally, and how she’s going to save them all by shutting down the entire industry by herself. The footage of the raving, sadly, is lost. But the article I wrote about it remains. I was incredulous then that a woman of her obvious psychiatric instability could get a booth at such a large event, but then, I figured, porn conventions are kind of a whole other world, so who was I to judge?
The rest of the crew and I walked away from that thinking it would be a miracle if anyone ever took such an obvious case of hysterical, possibly-schizophrenic, self-aggrandizement seriously. But the miracle has occurred, apparently, all over the world, at various speaking engagements that Lubben has somehow managed to book for herself. Including Cambridge University (where, gods be praised, the forces of reason and pro-pornhood largely prevailed).
In case you’re not aware of the Shelley Lubben Limited (which is what I like to call her, as it implies a train schedule, which therefore implies a train wreck… I really need to work on my naming skills), let me give you a very brief bit of background: Shelley Lubben was a prostitute for some years in her teens and early twenties, during which time she decided to have a go at making porn. She appeared as “Roxy” in somewhere around seventeen documented films before disappearing back into prostitution and drug addiction. In recent years, she has resurfaced as a born-again Christian on a mission to not only save porn stars from themselves because she is certain, after her traumatic porn experiences, that all porn stars are really trafficked women (she doesn’t seem to feel as much sympathy for the men in the industry, as, given her typically holey line of reasoning, they are probably part of the machinery that oppresses all women in the adult industry), but also to shut down the porn industry entirely because it systematically breaks women by luring them in with the promise of money, only to rape them repeatedly and force illicit substances down their throats so it’s easier for the pimps running the whole show to manipulate them. The only way back to the light of self-esteem and redemption is, of course, through Shelley’s “Pink Cross Foundation” and the love our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has been speaking privately to Shelley since she was a child.
…yeah. Anyone else hear cuckoo clock noises in their heads?
See, here’s the thing about Shelley. She’s obvious got a screw (or several, or maybe all of them) loose, and in some ways I kind of feel bad pointing out her apparent crazitude. From the fervor with which she regularly verbally attacks the industry and the desperation in her eyes, from the depths of ridiculousness she’s willing to dive to in her rants about the porn industry and her willingness to blame her own miscarriages, abortions, and subsequent health problems on her two-year stint in porn rather than her years and years of prostitution… It seems obvious to me that this woman needs her soapbox to stand on to avoid drowning a sea of self-doubt, regret, and shame about her past. Sure, Shelley is willing to admit that she made a whole lot of bad decisions in her life, from falling into drug and alcohol abuse patterns to prostitution to acting in adult films she was apparently not entirely mentally stable enough to handle. But she’s only willing to admit these things in a context in which she was not the one responsible for the decisions that were made: it was either the drugs, the alcohol, the pimps, or the producers. Never Shelley. Rather than facing her own regrets about her past, Shelley has decided to blame her actions and indeed most of the trajectory of her life on other people. Those people, she’s now convinced, are hoodlums and degenerates out to rape and pillage every woman who crosses their path in the most devious imaginable ways. Those people all work in the porn industry.
Given her long-term, first-name-basis relationship with the Almighty, who in Shelley’s opinion seems to be loving and forgiving, but still not so big on the sex and drugs, her past is full of big-time sins that she’s going to have to either own up to… or spend her life running away from. It’s a shame. Because there’s no shame in admitting you regret things you’ve done; redemption lies just on the other side of forgiving yourself. But to forgive yourself, you have to admit to some degree, however small, of culpability. And it’s easier to keep running from your own judgment by flinging it outward at other people than it is to take a long, honest, loving look inward. And the scariest thing about that last sentence isn’t necessarily that Shelley is flinging her judgment around; it’s that, from what I’ve seen, she can’t look inside herself and love what she sees. She can be self-righteous. She can be angry. She can be the broken result of an industry that chewed her up and spat her out. She can tell crowds of strangers about the degrading things she was put through and the most intimate details of her experiences with Johns. But look inward and feel worthy of her own respect and love? I don’t think she can.
This is sad, and upsetting. And I sincerely want to leave this woman alone to her own despair and hope that she’ll someday be able to forgive herself and leave the porn industry alone in due time. But, the thing is… Shelley is not just hurting herself here. Shelley is going after an already beleaguered, belittled, and besmirched industry that’s been losing profits and public respect for years now. She’s using sex and drugs as catchphrases to get people to look at her. She’s making wild accusations about an industry that she hasn’t worked in for well over a decade, spouting racist slurs, making statements that are blatantly untrue and unfounded, contradicting herself at every turn, and yet, bizarrely enough, actually getting people to listen to her because she’s targeting the most villainized, blamed, and easy-to-take-pot-shots-at industry in America by saying exactly what every conservative, anti-sex, anti-porn rhetorician has ever wanted to hear about it. According to her, sex is bad. Drugs are bad. Porn is bad. Everyone in porn is either hurting someone or being hurt. The industry needs to be shut down to save lives and souls.
The last thing the porn industry needs right now, in the face of dwindling revenue and the constant media barrage of anti-porn sentiment, is one of its own turning against it and being listened to because it’s so much more juicy and tabloid-worthy to hear that all the disgusting details you ever imagined about drug-addled sex addicts are so much more interesting than learning that a lot of people who make porn are intelligent, educated, sober, and disease-free. Shelley is hurting a lot of people and helping very, very few through The Pink Cross. And it pisses me off.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one out there who’s pointing out that Shelley is not only full of shit but also wildly irresponsible with her accusations. She was schooled at her Cambridge debate by the forces of pro-porn rationality, and has been taken to task in blogs across the internet. And now she’s being exposed via an online documentary by Lydia Lee and Michael Whiteacre called “The Devil and Shelley Lubben.” So far only parts one and two have been released, but parts three and four are on their way, and they are doing a very, very good job of presenting a coherent argument against her anti-porn rhetoric, using mostly Shelley’s own words. Check it out and see if you feel as enraged and yet somewhat sad about the situation as I do.