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"Porn School": Not Just About Porn

The director of Oxbow Academy tells The Fix that his facility for teenage boys has been misrepresented.

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Oxbow addresses a range of behaviors.
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By Bryan Le

06/25/12

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A rehab for porn-addled adolescents might sound like a setup for a joke—and when numerous media outlets caught wind of Utah's Oxbow Academy recently, it was widely dubbed “Porn School,” a “boot camp” for young online porn-addicts. Boys aged 13-17 spend their days here in counseling, schoolwork and chores, as well as activities like horse-riding and music; the internet and cell phones are banned. A puritanical impression isn't easy to shake when every article quotes Oxbow Academy's director, Stephen Schultz, on society's problems: “Sex is everywhere. When I was growing up if someone said they were bisexual it was shocking,” he says. “Now threesomes and depraved sexual behavior is all over the internet and children see those images before they develop into adolescents.”

But despite such statements, Schultz tells The Fix he's not here to judge: “All media, the amount of sexual content is much different today than when I was a kid. I'm not making a statement that it's good or bad—there are just consequences,” he says. “As kids are sexualized at an earlier age, there shouldn't be surprise that there's experimentation or interest or that kind of thing.” And his facility's goals and motivations are subtler than the press portrayal: Oxbow seeks to resolve boys' behavioral issues—not just excessive porn use—which can manifest in self-harm, eating disorders, inappropriate touching of others, poor grades and depression. It's just that pornography is the one issue all the students share. “Every student who's come through Oxbow has had unhealthy porn use,” Schultz confirms. “I wouldn't go far as to say porn causes kids to act out in certain ways, but it's a common thread.” He says he doesn't know why the "Porn School" moniker was applied: in his original interview for the Mirror, he only spoke about the school's treatments, schedules and procedures. “Never once was 'porn school' or boot camp even uttered,” he complains.

One of his students had run up $100,000 on his dad's credit card buying escorts, tearing up the bills to cover his tracks. Schultz wants to help boys like this develop healthy sexuality. “Kids are going to see porn; they're teenagers. That really isn't the issue," he says. "It's helping these kids learn and develop resilience around pornography." Stigma is part of the problem: "General society tends to see kids with sexual issues like the people on Dateline's Catch a Predator thing. These kids are just teenagers that are caught up in behaviors they don't want to be in, with lots of guilt and shame.”

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