We're just a tad late with this one, but sometimes better late than never. On Wednesday, Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Kirk Franklin appeared on Oprah to come clean about his double life in an interesting show on pornography addiction. The intro was fairly straightforward and not too sensational—"40 million people regularly visit porn sites, mostly men. ... It's affecting relationships, more men than women, of course, families and possibly you.
This was a great show. It was strong, powerful, and compelling. The show didn't condemn porn or people who read, watch or look at the images. But after watching the show, it was obvious that the celebrated gospel singer had a problem, often devoting up to eight hours a day watching porn and withdrawing from his wife, friends, and family. Thankfully, Oprah and the producers chose not to sugarcoat Kirk his story: "It's always a shock when someone famous is caught living a lie," she said, introducing her first guest. "Kirk Franklin has three Grammy Awards and twenty number one hits. He was once voted by People magazine as one of the sexiest men alive. He and his wife Tammy have 4 beautiful children and live outside Dallas. But he's been living a lie."
Video clip TBA.
More on Kirk Franklin's story below.
"I spent many years feeling like a hypocrite, like a fake," the multi-talented gospel singer began. He admitted to being consumed with pornography for almost the past thirty years. The duration may seem awfully long, but Kirk said that his obsession began quite early in life. "Since I was 8 years old. Everybody has that friend who has that uncle or big brother with that stash of porn under his bed. From my first look I was hooked."
Some of you may tease, but, we're actually starting to come 'round the Oprah bandwagon. She was very sensitive. "Isn't looking at porn or Playboy a rite of passage for young men?"
Kirk agreed: "That's the danger. Plus, coming from a broken home, there were a lot of insecurities and low self esteem, I looked at magazines for the fantasy."
The Gospel singer said that his obsession started to escalate into his teen years, which, ironically, was around the time that he became active in the church. "I started playing the piano when I was 11 and was about 14 years old when I discovered sex. I would have sex with several women and still want to watch porn." He recalls going to his reverend for help. "I was about 15 years old and told my pastor that I wanted to live right. I am struggling with sex and pornography." Kirk said that his pastor said that it was a phase. "He said, 'Oh boy, you are young, you will grow out of it.' But I didn't, I grew into it."
The singer said that at the height of his addiction, he looked at porn daily, up to seven or eight hours at a time. Then, he tried to recreate the fantasies with many women. "What made it worst was making the type of music that I made."
Oprah: Would it affect how you treated women?
Kirk: One was feeding the other. The more pornography, the more sex with girls, it was never ending cycle.
Kirk said that in the neighborhood where he grew up, and with the friends that he had, "it was totally accepted by men. I never saw a man faithful to his wife. Even in the church growing up, I never saw that type of commitment."
This was interesting to watch, it was like a televised 12-step meeting. You never know who you can find identification with. Personally, we come from a similar family and neighborhood structure, and he's right; often in the absence or supervision and motivation, little boys are left to their own devices. One of our own very good friends is battling sex- and porn-addiction, and some of us within the community tend to downplay the significance.
One minor issue: a sex addiction expert was not introduced until much later in the show, during the second personal story. We would have liked just a little input from an expert in the special audience, even if it were just a brief affirmation or explanation. But from a (former talk show) television producer's POV, you never want to interrupt momentum.
Kirk's beautiful wife Tammy was introduced in segment three. Tammy said that Kirk had recently confessed his secret. She had no idea—it's fairly common for porn- or sex-addicts (actually, for most addicts) to lead a double life. "He came and told me one day in Los Angeles. He sat me down and said 'Babe, I want to talk to you about a problem that I've been struggling with.' "
Even though this was a show about pornography, Oprah, Kirk and Tammy were somewhat uncomfortable talking about sex. "Porn" was only discussed clinically—we got the impression that Kirk liked magazines and movies, never used the internet and liked to watch porn while having sex. No one really talked about sex per se; after some probing, Franklin only hinted that he j/o'd while watching porn. (Which is standard operating procedure, right?) But the message wasn't lost, the show's topic was sensational but the show itself was not.
Oprah: My producers say that you told them ... his sexual expectations of you were somewhat unrealistic.
Tammy: Yes, definitely. He wanted to do ... lots of things.
Kirk Franklin said that he thought marriage would help him, but it made his obsession grow even stronger. "About six months into the marriage, I tried to bring [porn] into the bedroom. Trying to watch it with her, trying to make her like these video girls. Those video girls are performers. Marriage is not a performance." Eventually, he began sneaking out of the house late at night in search of more porn. Video clip here of Kirk admitting that he often fantasizes about other women.
Like many recovering addicts, he had to hit a low before recognizing the problem. The gospel singer said that his moment of clarity was one night after taking boxes—yes, boxes—of porn to a local dump to trash them. Later that night he was strongly craving a fix. Kirk said that he drove back to the dump, wearing only a bathrobe and his boxers, and went through the garbage to find his porn stash. If we weren't convinced before, that definitely sounds like an addict.
Kirk Franklin said that after admitting his problem to his wife, they've been working it out. They stay in phone contact when he's traveling, he's in counseling, and, like most addictions, the fight is day-by-day. "I've had my relapses, but it's behind me now." We love recovery topics and this was a great show—strong, inspirational and entertaining.