The first time I was exposed to pornography was quite by accident. In 1987 I was a college student spending the summer modeling in New York City. The agency I was booked through had an apartment on Park Avenue which I shared with five other models. We were all from small American or Canadian towns; and one night we got whip-lashed by what was on late-night-television in The Big Apple. A woman named Robin Byrd, if I remember correctly, was prancing around in a crocheted bikini–talking naughty, dancing dirty and singing nasty. We sheltered young ladies pondered: Was this type of show really allowed in the good ol’ United States?
Today more than 80% of pornographic images on the web are from America. Since the days that I lived in NYC, the use of porn has grown exponentially.
I believe it is because pornography is “in our face” and readily available. Remember the Janet Jackson costume malfunction? (How could anyone forget!) I was serving my husband and children chili while they were innocently watching the Super Bowl game. I gave up TV after that.
“Porn will be available at the touch of our fingertips”
A few years ago, when I worked for the Office of Marriage, Family and Life, I participated in an Archdiocesan meeting in which the subject of pornography came up. “It will be available at the touch of our fingertips wherever we are,” one of the priests stated. We looked at him quizzically, and then he mimicked someone using a cell phone. “Very soon we will have access to the internet through our phones.” He went on to discuss how most people will have laptop computers and be able to take them into the privacy of their rooms, or even upload images in a public place (like someone recently did on an airplane).
Today, many schools give their students iPads to use in the classrooms and at their homes. I’ve heard that some districts are not putting parameters on these tempting devices; placing an opportunity for porn at kids’ fingertips 24/7.
Unfortunately, that priest predicted correctly.
Not long after that meeting I saw my first Blackberry and had a panic attack just thinking of what Father had said. A few months later, I sat at my computer searching YouTube videos on ‘How to breast feed twins,’ and I had another panic attack over the junk that assaulted my eyes. Here I was, an inquisitive mommy-to-be merely seeking practical information, and I ended up having that stuff thrown in my face! Of course my husband walked in at just that moment and shrieked, “What in the world are you doing?” And all I could say was, “This is what Father had warned us about.”
What is pornography doing to us?
It’s hard to escape X-rated pictures, videos, programs and music these days. Even while I do my Christmas shopping–trying to keep focused on the “reason for the season,” an innocent babe “born that we may be free”–I feel shackled by the window displays of “soft porn” at the Mall of America which demean the dignity of the human person. I have to tell my children to turn away when we walk by the silicon-enhanced bosoms screaming at us in front of Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch. How can we expect our youth and other loved ones to be chaste and not sucked in by the sin of porn when they are bombarded with images like these daily? Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote: “Those who give themselves over to pornography find themselves alone with their images and an insatiable appetite for more.”
Yes, pornography is not just a bad habit–it can be addicting. One estimate puts the number of churchgoing men at 50%. A different study found that one in six females is struggling with a porn addiction. Fr. Jeffrey Huard told me:
“The pornographic is designed to be addictive, and experts say it can easily become like a cocaine or heroin addiction. The effects are that women and men are objectified, hours of love are lost to the Lord and family and friends.”
Mark Houck, who gives talks to teens about chastity and pro-life issues, rose above his addiction to pornography. After pursuing his dreams to become a professional football player, he co-founded a lay apostolate called The Kings Men (http://www.thekingsmen.org). Its mission is to help males rise above the lustful pandemic of porn. Mark is the subject of a powerful documentary titled, Out of the Darkness, and wrote the following in a pamphlet for the USCCB:
“Within marriage, addiction to pornography can destroy intimacy. Eventually, the husband or wife who views pornography can lose the ability to relate on a personal and intimate level with the real person of his or her spouse.”
According to Mark Houck, many of the social ills and behavior disorders in our world today–teenage sexual promiscuity, crisis pregnancy, adultery, abortion, divorce, sexual abuse, sexual deviancy, rape and incest–can be linked to the spread of pornography.
Porn does not bring real joy
C.S. Lewis says there is no joy in what is not real.
The Book of Proverbs tells us that lust which is indulged starves the soul.
Fr. Huard adds, “The pull of pornography is a pull into a virtual world that takes us away from the real and brings deep sadness not joy.”
Back all those years ago, when I was in New York, my path crossed with the porn-star, Ms. Byrd’s, one dark evening on the subway. She was with a bodyguard and looked miserable and unhappy; which is understandable, because, as Fr. Huard pointed out: No one can truly live a joyful life girdled by porn. And compared to the pornography plague that is threatening the well-being of society today, Robin was a tame bird. But, we can hope and pray for that phoenix–a bird that consumes itself by fire and rises renewed from its ashes. Perhaps one day our society will embrace a life full of goodness and rise from the dark poison of pornography.