Pornography and the Slippery Slope of Ted Bundy

This is a reposting of chapter 8 of the online book Porn Again Christian by Mark Driscoll. I highly reccomend this book. It is free and online. This is a discussion between Dr. James Dobson and the serial killer, Ted Bundy.


chapter 8

pornography and the slippery slope of ted bundy

If you are guy who at this point somehow still considers himself the exception to every rule who’s able to manage his sexual sin, this next section should get your attention. Former Seattleite and graduate of the University of Washington, Ted Bundy became one of the nation’s most notorious and feared serial killers for beating, raping, and then murdering at least thirty girls and women between the ages of twelve and twenty-six. Shortly before he was executed, Bundy was interviewed by Christian leader James Dobson. Shockingly, Bundy admitted that he possessed none of the normal triggers for such sinful behavior, as he was raised in a loving Christian home with five siblings and did not experience any sexual abuse growing up. Rather, he confessed in clear detail how as a young boy he began, as most boys do, viewing common pornography, which grew into increasingly harder and more deviant forms of pornography that eventually led to his acting out his evil fantasies. Quoted below is an edited transcript of the conversation that occurred just seventeen hours before Ted was led to the electric chair. I trust that it will be a sobering reminder to my Christian brothers that the sin of lust is an insatiable parasite that you must not feed, lest it grow and lead to death.

James C. Dobson: It is about 2:30 in the afternoon. You are scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning at 7:00, if you don’t receive another stay. What is going through your mind? What thoughts have you had in these last few days?

Ted: I won’t kid you to say it is something I feel I’m in control of or have come to terms with. It’s a moment-by-moment thing. Sometimes I feel very tranquil and other times I don’t feel tranquil at all. What’s going through my mind right now is to use the minutes and hours I have left as fruitfully as possible. It helps to live in the moment, in the essence that we use it productively. Right now I’m feeling calm, in large part because I’m here with you.

JCD: For the record, you are guilty of killing many women and girls.

Ted: Yes, that’s true.

JCD: How did it happen? Take me back. What are the antecedents of the behavior that we’ve seen? You were raised in what you consider to be a healthy home. You were not physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

Ted: No. And that’s part of the tragedy of this whole situation. I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents, as one of 5 brothers and sisters. We, as children, were the focus of my parent’s lives. We regularly attended church. My parents did not drink or smoke or gamble. There was no physical abuse or fighting in the home. I’m not saying it was “Leave it to Beaver”, but it was a fine, solid Christian home. I hope no one will try to take the easy way out of this and accuse my family of contributing to this. I know, and I’m trying to tell you as honestly as I know how, what happened.

As a young boy of 12 or 13, I encountered, outside the home, in the local grocery and drug stores, softcore pornography. Young boys explore the sideways and byways of their neighborhoods, and in our neighborhood, people would dump the garbage. From time to time, we would come across books of a harder nature – more graphic. This also included detective magazines, etc., and I want to emphasize this. The most damaging kind of pornography – and I’m talking from hard, real, personal experience – is that that involves violence and sexual violence. The wedding of those two forces – as I know only too well – brings about behavior that is too terrible to describe.

JCD: Walk me through that. What was going on in your mind at that time?

Ted: Before we go any further, it is important to me that people believe what I’m saying. I’m not blaming pornography. I’m not saying it caused me to go out and do certain things. I take full responsibility for all the things that I’ve done. That’s not the question here. The issue is how this kind of literature contributed and helped mold and shape the kinds of violent behavior.

JCD: It fueled your fantasies.

Ted: In the beginning, it fuels this kind of thought process. Then, at a certain time, it is instrumental in crystallizing it, making it into something that is almost a separate entity inside.

JCD: You had gone about as far as you could go in your own fantasy life, with printed material, photos, videos, etc., and then there was the urge to take that step over to a physical event.

Ted: Once you become addicted to it, and I look at this as a kind of addiction, you look for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Like an addiction, you keep craving something which is harder and gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far – that jumping off point where you begin to think maybe actually doing it will give you that which is just beyond reading about it and looking at it.

JCD: How long did you stay at that point before you actually assaulted someone?

Ted: A couple of years. I was dealing with very strong inhibitions against criminal and violent behavior. That had been conditioned and bred into me from my neighborhood, environment, church, and schools.

I knew it was wrong to think about it, and certainly, to do it was wrong. I was on the edge, and the last vestiges of restraint were being tested constantly, and assailed through the kind of fantasy life that was fueled, largely, by pornography.

JCD: Do you remember what pushed you over that edge? Do you remember the decision to “go for it”? Do you remember where you decided to throw caution to the wind?

Ted: It’s a very difficult thing to describe – the sensation of reaching that point where I knew I couldn’t control it anymore. The barriers I had learned as a child were not enough to hold me back from seeking out and harming somebody.

JCD: Would it be accurate to call that a sexual frenzy?

Ted: That’s one way to describe it – a compulsion, a building up of this destructive energy. Another fact I haven’t mentioned is the use of alcohol. In conjunction with my exposure to pornography, alcohol reduced my inhibitions and pornography eroded them further.

JCD: After you committed your first murder, what was the emotional effect? What happened in the days after that?

Ted: Even all these years later, it is difficult to talk about. Reliving it through talking about it is difficult to say the least, but I want you to understand what happened. It was like coming out of some horrible trance or dream. I can only liken it to (and I don’t want to overdramatize it) being possessed by something so awful and alien, and the next morning waking up and remembering what happened and realizing that, in the eyes of the law, and certainly in the eyes of God, you’re responsible. To wake up in the morning and realize what I had done with a clear mind, with all my essential moral and ethical feelings intact, absolutely horrified me.

JCD: You hadn’t known you were capable of that before?

Ted: There is no way to describe the brutal urge to do that, and once it has been satisfied, or spent, and that energy level recedes, I became myself again. Basically, I was a normal person. I wasn’t some guy hanging out in bars, or a bum. I wasn’t a pervert in the sense that people look at somebody and say, “I know there’s something wrong with him.” I was a normal person. I had good friends. I led a normal life, except for this one, small but very potent and destructive segment that I kept very secret and close to myself. Those of us who have been so influenced by violence in the media, particularly pornographic violence, are not some kind of inherent monsters. We are your sons and husbands. We grew up in regular families. Pornography can reach in and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago. As diligent as my parents were, and they were diligent in protecting their children, and as good a Christian home as we had, there is no protection against the kinds of influences that are loose in a society that tolerates….

JCD: Outside these walls, there are several hundred reporters that wanted to talk to you, and you asked me to come because you had something you wanted to say. You feel that hardcore pornography, and the door to it, softcore pornography, is doing untold damage to other people and causing other women to be abused and killed the way you did.

Ted: I’m no social scientist, and I don’t pretend to believe what John Q. Citizen thinks about this, but I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography – deeply consumed by the addiction. The F.B.I.’s own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography. It’s true.

JCD: What would your life have been like without that influence?

Ted: I know it would have been far better, not just for me, but for a lot of other people – victims and families. There’s no question that it would have been a better life. I’m absolutely certain it would not have involved this kind of violence.

JCD: If I were able to ask the kind of questions that are being asked, one would be, “Are you thinking about all those victims and their families that are so wounded? Years later, their lives aren’t normal. They will never be normal. Is there remorse?”

Ted: I know people will accuse me of being self-serving, but through God’s help, I have been able to come to the point, much too late, where I can feel the hurt and the pain I am responsible for. Yes. Absolutely! During the past few days, myself and a number of investigators have been talking about unsolved cases – murders I was involved in. It’s hard to talk about all these years later, because it revives all the terrible feelings and thoughts that I have steadfastly and diligently dealt with – I think successfully. It has been reopened and I have felt the pain and the horror of that. I hope that those who I have caused so much grief, even if they don’t believe my expression of sorrow, will believe what I’m saying now; there are those loose in their towns and communities, like me, whose dangerous impulses are being fueled, day in and day out, by violence in the media in its various forms – particularly sexualized violence. What scares me is when I see what’s on cable T.V. Some of the violence in the movies that come into homes today is stuff they wouldn’t show in X-rated adult theatres 30 years ago.

JCD: The slasher movies?

Ted: That is the most graphic violence on screen, especially when children are unattended or unaware that they could be a Ted Bundy; that they could have a predisposition to that kind of behavior.

JCD: One of the final murders you committed was 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. I think the public outcry is greater there because an innocent child was taken from a playground. What did you feel after that? Were they the normal emotions after that?

Ted: I can’t really talk about that right now. It’s too painful. I would like to be able to convey to you what that experience is like, but I won’t be able to talk about that. I can’t begin to understand the pain that the parents of these children and young women that I have harmed feel. And I can’t restore much to them, if anything. I won’t pretend to, and I don’t even expect them to forgive me. I’m not asking for it. That kind of forgiveness is of God; if they have it, they have it, and if they don’t, maybe they’ll find it someday.

JCD: Do you deserve the punishment the state has inflicted upon you?

Ted: That’s a very good question. I don’t want to die; I won’t kid you. I deserve, certainly, the most extreme punishment society has. And I think society deserves to be protected from me and from others like me. That’s for sure. What I hope will come of our discussion is that I think society deserves to be protected from itself. As we have been talking, there are forces at loose in this country, especially this kind of violent pornography, where, on one hand, well-meaning people will condemn the behavior of a Ted Bundy while they’re walking past a magazine rack full of the very kinds of things that send young kids down the road to being Ted Bundys. That’s the irony. I’m talking about going beyond retribution, which is what people want with me. There is no way in the world that killing me is going to restore those beautiful children to their parents and correct and soothe the pain. But there are lots of other kids playing in streets around the country today who are going to be dead tomorrow, and the next day, because other young people are reading and seeing the kinds of things that are available in the media today.

JCD: There is tremendous cynicism about you on the outside, I suppose, for good reason. I’m not sure there’s anything you could say that people would believe, yet you told me (and I have heard this through our mutual friend, John Tanner) that you have accepted the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and are a follower and believer in Him. Do you draw strength from that as you approach these final hours?

Ted: I do. I can’t say that being in the Valley of the Shadow of Death is something I’ve become all that accustomed to, and that I’m strong and nothing’s bothering me. It’s no fun. It gets kind of lonely, yet I have to remind myself that every one of us will go through this someday in one way or another.

JCD: It’s appointed unto man.

Ted: Countless millions who have walked this earth before us have gone through this, so this is just an experience we all share.

Ted Bundy was executed at 7:15 am the day after this conversation was recorded.

In closing, sin leads to death. Jesus died for your sin. You are in a war. Be a man. Put your sin to death.

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 1 My Story

One of the upsides of being a sinner is that when I have talked about my sin with others, I have found that they feel more comfortable discussing their own sin with me. There is a real grace to when we “confess our faults one to another.” I have many times talked about my struggles with pornography with people as the occasion permitted, but I have been reluctant to go public with my sin.

This has changed now. This is not a story of unbridled victory. It is the story of a foolish man who knows that porn is chocolate covered death. You know that dog that returns to his vomit, that’s me.

But this is not really my story alone. This is my wife’s story as a victim of my sin. It is my family’s story of not being really loved by me because I was too distracted by my sin. But most of all, it is Jesus’ story. I have often reflected that Jesus may love me, but only because he must have very poor taste. Praise God for God’s poor taste. I would be screwed otherwise.

I was an awkward teenager. I remember watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and I had a crush on Deanna Troy. It was innocent enough, but I started masturbating to thoughts of her. This was the middle 90s so the internet was really spreading throughout the US and became affordable for us living in East Tennessee. It turns out that the pornography industry had jumped on the web faster than just about anyone else and I accidentally discovered it.

Back then, there were no content controls on the web. To be honest, the ones that are there now are terribly ineffective. So I somehow knew I should hide what I had found. I kept looking on the web whenever I had the opportunity. I learned to be careful as well. There are ways of viewing a web page that made it not show up on the drop-down history in Internet Explorer. At times, I would have to panic when I saw an explicit site show up in the history and I would have to visit ten or fifteen legitimate sites to move it out of view. Even then, I was always nervous that someone would check further down the history and find the site I had visited.

Then, one day, disaster struck. Our internet stopped working. When my parents called the ISP they were told that we were “attacking sites.” My trying to hide a web history had caused our internet to get shut down. My conscience was killing me. Eventually, I fessed up to my parents what I had done. I’m not sure why I did, but I am thankful for it. That decision that the Holy Spirit pressed me to make was very possibly the difference between a life of secret sin and a life of living in grace. God was kind to me that day.

Problem solved. I learned my lesson and never looked at porn again! Not quite. This began a journey of sin, compulsive sin  repentance followed immediately by compulsive sin. There were breaks. I spent several summers on Teen Missions International working overseas. there was victory there. It helped not to have a computer. It helped even more to have a mandatory Bible time every morning. I would come home refreshed and ready to overcome my pornography problem at home only to have nearly certain defeat within a few months.

It amazes me how creative i can be when I want to hide porn from the people I care about. One time I recorded a movie on HBO (ironically, one of the Star Trek movies) with the purpose of recording the porn that would come on after the movie. Another time, I downloaded an erotic story to the computer and put it in some deep file in the computer for future retrieval. imagine if all of this creative energy had been spent at work or school.

But it was never worth it. I was paranoid and anxious about being discovered. I would enjoy it for a short time and then become afraid that where I kept it would be discovered. Then I would delete it or throw it away. I would repent. I would go back to the porn.

The toll on my spiritual life was profound. When I wanted the porn so bad, it comes to a point where life would be easier if God didn’t exist: if rules didn’t exist. I could do what i wanted with no guilt. I am convinced that many atheists are atheists because God told them when and who they can have sex with. It is easier to not believe in God and do what I want. In addition to this, when i would pray I felt an angry face looking down at me. My prayers may have made it past the ceiling, but I was sure they reached a God who was very, very angry at me.

One of the counter-intuitive parts of my journey is that I had to become the prodigal to understand the prodigal son. It is easy to say, “God will forgive anything if you bring it to him.” It is very hard to bring it to him. Does God really look down on me in my profound, compulsive, repeated, and ongoing sin and smile? Does he really love me in that moment?

To be sure, God was angry at my sin. my sin was not just an affront to him, it was me sticking my hand in the air and flipping God the bird! I stuck out my chest and stared into Heaven and said, “You don’t know how to make me happy. You don’t love me enough to give me what would really satisfy. If you really loved me, you would have naked women available for me to ogle when I want to.” I’m sure God was both angry and hurt deeply.

What is astonishing is not just the gravity of the sin, but that the cross is that much bigger. We have a habit as Christians of minimizing the sin to make the sinner feel better. It is a very bad habit. We need to say that the sinner was evil beyond words…and that God loved us enough to give us a rescue that more than overcomes that evil. What I meant for evil, God meant to teach me more about the cross.

My struggle continued for years. I got married and the problem went away for about a year. it helps to have a hot girl to look at and touch. But the hunger inside me returned. I remember my humiliation when Sam caught me looking at porn in our living room once. It was terrible not just because I knew it was wrong, but now it communicated to her that she was lacking somehow. God had given me a lovely and tender lady and now I was crushing her too.

After my struggle continued and I failed several times, Sam suggested that I go to a group for guys that struggle with porn. This was, of course, a ridiculous idea. I wasn’t that sick. Seriously, it’s not like I am a compulsive user of pornography that can’t ever seem to get it under control.

But that was me!

So I started attending a group of guys that meet at Ebenezer Counseling in Knoxville, Tennessee. If grace was a group, it would be in that small group of men. They were like me. They struggled compulsively with pornagraphy (and worse!). They were firm that I should not look at porn and gracious and redeeming when I did. The debt I owe to those men is profound.

For the first time in my life, I was beginning to experience some type of success in resisting porn. What was a times only going hours between looking at porn went to weeks between failures, then months. I was not just involved in helping my own porn problem, I was supporting other guys in their struggle. Finally, some hope.

The years since have involved failures and successes. I write this not as a man who has arrived. I will die as a man who is still weak against temptation to porn. In fact, I write this story in response to a failure. I looked at porn last on Monday, 9/9/13, at around 7 AM. Please, don’t regard me as a success story. Hopefully that will be the last time I look at porn in my life. John Newton said it well:

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”

In conclusion, I want to publicly thank some people who have not been thanked publicly for their help and support.

Jesus, you forgave me. I’m not sure why you keep me around, but as long as you’re willing to have me, I am glad to stay with you!

Sam, I really couldn’t have asked for a better wife. You have suffered the most to my porn problems and have always been gracious to me. My debt to you is immeasurable. I love you.

Mom and Dad, parents don’t get the flashiest thank yous because the foundation of a person is not easy to see. Almost all the good in me was built on a foundation that lays hidden under what was built on top of it. The conscience that drove me to Jesus through those many years of struggle, you taught me that. The deep felt desire to honor the women in my life, you taught me that. Thank you….thank you.

Pastor James, you deserve a special Thank You as well. That boy that pestered you with questions. The one you went to lunch with at the Gondolier. That kid that probably irritated the crap out of you. He was paying attention. Behind Mom and Dad, you were the most influential person in my life. I once complained that I was a Timothy with no Paul, only to realize that I had a Paul all along. Thank you.

One final Thank You goes to the guys at the group at Ebenezer Counseling. Without them, I don’t know where I would be. God bless you guys. You changed my life. I don’t take your support for granted.


For the sequel to My Story, see The Rest of the Story.

Up Next: Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 2 How Did We get Here?