THE BLOG
07/20/2006 03:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Internet Porn Isn't Hurting Anybody... Is It?

A good story has the power to make us understand things in a way that even the most graphic facts cannot. With The Venus Fix, the third book in her compelling Butterfield Institute series, M.J. Rose has done something remarkable. She's written a thriller which gives us not only a momentary scare--an intake of breath--but a lasting one.

What, she asks, is internet pornography doing to our souls?

The answer isn't pretty. And the book's butterfly motif is a perfect reminder of how fragile our psyches truly are.

The promise of technology was that it would improve communication and bring us closer together. It's obvious by now that the opposite has happened. People are more more isolated and lonelier than ever. Yet online communication creates a strange illusion of intimacy.

Live internet pornography pushes that illusion one step further, and it doesn't only impact adults. Teenagers are becoming addicted. Really, did you think that "Yes, I swear I'm 18" button stopped anybody?

The sex workers who perform online present an image of women so rarified, so hyper-sexualized, so compliant, that no woman with normal human desires and a normal body can compete.

But teenage girls, feeling the desperate, nervous pull of the boyfriend quest, are trying.

Sex therapist Morgan Snow of the Butterfield Institute usually treats adults. In The Venus Fix, she has a middleaged patient, Bob, who's addicted to internet porn and whose marriage is suffering terribly because of it. Bob's story is pathetic and sad, but the real scare comes from Morgan's new challenge of working with a group of teenagers: boys addicted to internet porn and the girls who've attempted relationships with them. Dr. Snow becomes drawn into a search for the killer when women performing sex acts online mysteriously start dying right in front of their audiences. Has the dangerous obsession of one of her patients turned deadly?

This is easily the most disturbing book in the series thus far, not for its ingeniously grisly implements of death but for the unique way it in which explores the implications of internet porn.

Nobody's talking about this, but it's happening and its impact on human relationships will reverberate for years to come. The live action, by-request, constant nature of internet porn cuts a much deeper gash through the psyche than a few furtive peeks at Dad's Playboys ever could.

But this is only a novel, right? Yes, but inspired by a conversation with a young fan at a book signing, author M.J. Rose did extensive primary research for the book, honing in on the secret lives of dozens of teenagers--the story that isn't being talked about in the media.

The impact of her findings hits home--and hits hard--in The Venus Fix because she's crafted characters who are so deeply grounded in reality. These are not the glib cardboard cutouts found in most suspense novels. Morgan Snow's character takes on new facets with each book and she feels like a real woman, one you'd swear you could meet if you could only find the Butterfield Institute building in New York City.

Morgan doesn't ditch her real life responsibilities to flit off on a grownup Nancy Drew hunt for the bad guy. She keeps her appointments and guards her professional ethics. She's skittish about her growing relationship with police detective Noah Jordain (which could too easily become an obvious Cinderella love story, but doesn't). She gives in to her inability to cook and picks up takeout for dinner, over which she and her teenage daughter Dulcie engage in weary power struggles. She tries her hand at sculpting stone to free her mind of the demons she encounters every day at work.

Always concerned with moral choices, with emotional vulnerability and with humanity, Morgan Snow is a perfect guide into a very real nether world most of us rarely consider.

M.J. Rose's fearless, insightful works are among the best suspense novels on the shelf. Don't miss them. The Venus Fix is unique for more reasons than its touch of erotica. Offering no easy answers, either to the mystery or to the larger issues, it will keep you guessing. Each book in the series is beautifully plotted and paced and better than the last, and The Venus Fix is positively unforgettable.

It's a great introduction to the Butterfield Institute.

Take the Venus Fix Internet Sex Quiz!

Do you think....
- your life has been affected in any way by internet porn?
- you are competing with internet porn stars?
- internet porn is ok - hey, it's a healthy outlet!