Pornography is all around us; on the internet, within pages of magazines, displayed in store windows, popping up on search engines, sung about in music, and touted in best selling novels like 50 Shades of Grey. (Please read my blog, Pornography in our Face.) It’s a scourge that commits violence against the dignity of the human person, causing the user to view people as commodities or instruments for their own pleasure. It draws focus away from one’s family life and relationship with God and sets a destructive example to children. It leaves a void in the soul of the viewer, and gnaws at the family, causing deep wounds.
“Okay,” you might say, “I know porn is bad, but do very many people get hooked?”
Yes. Some estimates put porn use among churchgoing men at 50 percent, a figure that differs little from use among the adult male population at large. The Family Research Council’s summary on the effects of pornography states that men and women use porn differently. Men are more than six times as likely to view pornography as females, and more likely to spend more time looking at it. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) states in an article called Women and Online Pornography that one-third of all visitors to adult websites are female, and 17 percent of women are addicted to porn.
Fr. Michael Miller, pastor of the Church of St. Michael and St. Mary’s Catholic Church–both in Stillwater, Minnesota–told me:
“Pornography is really a crisis. The ease of availability makes this problem far greater than ever before.”
Dr. Patrick Carnes, who in 1983 first advanced the idea that a person could become addicted to sex, calls the addiction to Internet pornography “the crack cocaine of sexual addiction.” Like crack, it doesn’t take long for an Internet porn user to become hooked–often a matter of just a few weeks. And like crack, habitual viewing of online porn creates an intense cycle of addiction that is extremely difficult to break without expert assistance. There are no age controls for X-rated websites, and no need to register a credit card. Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality (2010), argues that boys access pornography on average at age 11. Often, the first time a child sees this disturbing stuff is by accident.
Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger has warned that on his popular site porn comes up automatically on some searches, even if the search topics are apparently unrelated. For example, a search for “clothespins” or “jumping ball” reveals explicit sexual images. “I will continue to raise enough noise on the issue that we will, I hope, force them to make a choice,” he told LifeSiteNews. “Either they will explain very clearly that they are not for children, or, alternatively, they will install a filter.” Sanger warns that one of the site’s primary uses is actually for viewing pornography, and despite the outcry for content filters, none have been implemented. According to Wikipedia traffic statistics, the majority of the site’s most frequently viewed pages are explicitly pornographic.
(Gosh, kids are surrounded by so much smut these days, that unfortunately it’s becoming acceptable in many circles. Before we know it, a young man will ask a porn star to prom. Oh–wait! That has already happened here in Minnesota.)
Horrendously hurting marriages
Pornography undermines marriage and is one of the factors that threaten social stability. It distorts an individual’s concept of the nature of conjugal relations. Fr. Miller explained:
“Pornography is hurting families in so many ways. Husbands become withdrawn and add new and unrealistic expectations on their wives after committing adultery in their hearts with other women. They also become very discouraged with themselves because of their inability to stop the pattern. Even if they get away from the actual pornography, it is still in their memories and imaginations and this can take a very long time to get under control.”
A friend of mine who was going through a divorce told me, “Pornography ruined our marriage. Kevin’s addiction (name changed) made it impossible for me to please him. I was never good enough.” According to Dr. Patrick F. Fagan, author of The Family Research Council’s summary on the effects of pornography:
“The wives of pornography users also develop deep psychological wounds, commonly reporting feelings of betrayal, loss, mistrust, devastation, and anger in response to the discovery or disclosure of a partner’s pornographic online sexual activity. Wives can begin to feel unattractive or sexually inadequate and may become severely depressed when they realize their husbands view pornography. The distress level in wives may be so high as to require clinical treatment for trauma.”
Often, people who view such vulgarity on a regular basis believe marriage is sexually confining; have diminished belief in the importance of marital faithfulness; and have increasing doubts about the value of marriage as an essential social institution. This depreciates the importance they place on having good relationships within their own families.
In a Pastoral Letter by Bishop Paul S. Loverde titled, Bought with a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God, he states:
“When family members turn to pornography in a distorted thirst for intimacy, they turn against and in some measure reject their commitment to their family. By doing this, they commit violence against the relationships which define their own vocation.”
How does porn injure children?
Pornography use among parents often causes young ones to face challenges of a broken home among other threats.
Many kids are traumatized when they walk in on a parent who is viewing perverted content, or they become disgusted with Daddy or Mommy for having it in his or her life. Kids who are around pornographic content are more sensual. Teens who use porn themselves have significantly increased sexual intercourse with non-romantic friends, and are more likely to take part in the so-called “hook-up” culture. Exposure to pornography can also be a significant factor in teenage pregnancy.
And I’d be remiss not to mention that children often are at danger if they are around people who use pornographic material. Law enforcement authorities have noted that many adult porn consumers will eventually move to child pornography–putting children in their midst at risk.
Fr. Miller told me:
“Pornography is especially damaging to young men whose images of sexuality are perverted [after viewing pornography] and are not in conformity with God’s will, thus damaging their ability to become good fathers and husbands, even for those who are truly trying to break this with confession, prayer, and practical means, it is very difficult and takes perseverance.”
But there is healing and freedom for those caught in the snare of pornography addiction.
Recovery and help:
Many professionals believe that because porn addiction has a number of the same causes and effects as adultery, the treatment and counseling are pretty much the same. Where there is a spiritual component to the recovery, there is great success. The King’s Men, a lay apostolate whose mission is to help males rise above the lustful pandemic of porn, teaches that through humility, accountability and sacramental grace a man can find freedom from sexual sin and addiction.
Bishop Loverde says:
“We stand at a threshold – either we can continue to allow this plague to spread with fewer and fewer checks, or we can take concrete steps to uproot it in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods and our culture. A free people can combat the tremendous moral, social and spiritual danger of pornography with great courage. My fervent prayer is that Catholics, other Christians, and all people of good will understand this threat, confront it and facilitate true healing.”
Please refer to:
- My blog, Pornography in our Face, for more information
- USCCB’s marriage website: http://www.foryourmarriage.org (a great resource for marriage help, including information for male and female porn addiction)
- The King’s Men (help for males with addiction to pornography–a Catholic apostolate): http://www.thekingsmen.us
- Refer to this wonderful list compiled by The King’s Men of helpful websites for porn addiction!
- Retrouvaille–a program to help couples repair their marriages
- Please talk to your parish priest for more assistance