What's so wrong with pornography?

scrambled tvQ: A young man asks “What’s so wrong with pornography? How does looking at a few pictures hurt anyone?”

A: First of all, I want to let you know that your question is very typical for many guys I know. Pornography seems to be such a normal part of life for some Americans…it’s no big deal, right? Well, as you know, I don’t believe its not a big deal, and neither does the Church. There are many reasons why pornography is dangerous and damaging, but I’ll just list a few.

To begin, I’m going to start with the more typical cases of pornography that I’ve seen in the lives of people around me. Pornography has been addictive to MANY normal guys and women (more guys than girls). Most people won’t ever call it addiction, but it is. I know many friends who resort to checking out the Spice channel, clicking on the Internet, or looking through pictures when they are simply bored or want arousal. Problem is that once the idea gets into their minds, especially if they are alone, they resort to pornography—they can’t often control the desire. Why is this so bad? I’ll give you a few true stories (of the many I know), from my friends:

  1. Sara and Phil have only been married two years—these should be their “honeymoon” years as they become physically and spiritually closer as a couple. However, Phil was used to pornography during his teen and young adult years, so he often goes back to it as a married man. Sara has noticed him checking out sites on the Internet, and 900# phone calls billed on special days in their marriage (even times after they had intercourse). For Sara, it is devastating that her husband is looking for “more”, when she always thought marriage is a private place to share sexuality. It is tearing their marriage apart and is very damaging to Sara’s self esteem. She may never have a perfect body—will her husband always be disappointed since there are more beautiful bodies offered on the Internet?

  2. Will and Maria used to just watch a little porn or check out some web sites to add a different element to their married sex life. They found that this was stimulating for their sex life. However, they soon were not as aroused with the normal porn. In fact, the more “hard core” and violent, the more aroused they could become. Without the hard-core movies, they had difficulties becoming intimate with each other at all. Sex is not the private, sacred and beautiful event it began as in their marriage. Pornography is classically very progressive. Once you start, simply pictures don’t do as much for you…you need more and more graphic and violent to get simulated.

  3. Todd has a relationship with God, however, every time he tries to pray, visual images of pornographic material come into his mind. He can’t get through Mass without seeing so many sexual pictures in his mind. This is truly hurting his relationship with Christ. These images don’t disappear easily.

  4. A lot of guys that I know are much more strongly tempted to masturbate when they view pornography. To be most blunt, God’s plan for our sexuality is NOT for anyone to have sex with himself/herself. Masturbation is a great struggle for lots of people, and God is merciful and patient with us, but he wants to bring people freedom from such a selfish expression of sexuality. God desires that sexual expression be a total gift of self to another—that gift is difficult to discover and live if masturbation, or the temptation to masturbate, is present in our lives. For me information see our section on Masturbation.

This last story is not about a friend of mine, but it is a serious consequence of viewing pornography. You can easily blow this off as an exaggerated situation, but it had to start somewhere. Have you heard of Ted Bundy? Yep, he was a serial murderer, killing at least 36 women. Instantaneously, I assume this guy must have had a messed up childhood or something major happened to him. But, he was raised in a normal, Christian home. So, what brought him to do what he did? Ted attributes his violent behavior to pornography. He claims that it innocently started in his teens, when he just started looking at pictures. But, then he started getting bored (not aroused enough) by pictures and moved into “harder” pornography, where women willingly subjected themselves to violence for sexual pleasure. Remember, he dated during this time, was an honor student, etc. However, his exposure to pornography became addictive and progressive. It is Ted, not anyone else, who attributes his progression from light pornography to “harder” stuff as subconscious encouragement to move into violent behavior. While in jail, Ted asked other violent criminals about their use of pornography, and almost 80% claimed to have an addiction.

Research has repeatedly found that pornography is progressive and/or addictive. You might be one of the few in which this does not occur, but are you willing to risk it? Is it worth it for a few glances at “fake” women or men?

Focusing on guys using pornography for now (72% of all pornography is viewed by men, but all of this still applies to women as well):

On a societal level (being that I was a sociology minor in college), pornography teaches a culture (you are included) that viewing women as objects is fine, as long as they agree to it. If you met someone who wanted you to push him off a bridge to commit suicide, would you do it, simply because he offered it to you? I hope not. Just because these women pose, does not make it right. Also, remember that these women are someone’s daughter, good friend or sister. How would you feel if your daughter or sister chose to pose pornographically? What do you think pushed these women to choose posing or acting in videos—low self-esteem or the need for attention, prostitution, being un-loved, or could they be forced? No matter how they got there, is it really worth a cheap thrill to encourage them (by purchasing or viewing)? From a female perspective, I can’t stand it when guys look at me or treat me like an object—there is truly nothing more degrading. I know sweet, good guys that want to treat women well and look upon them with respect, but struggle a great deal in doing so. Many have unconsciously trained themselves through pornography to view women inappropriately—so when they want to treat women well, they can’t.

It breaks my heart that women enjoy attention strictly for their body, because it feeds into our cultural mentality, that their worth comes from their “shell.” Please don’t help perpetuate this among your friends, the girls you know, and in your future family to come. Would you really like your daughter to believe she needs to be sexually stimulating men’s eyes to be valued? If you spend your time looking at women in pictures, what do you expect her to learn? True beauty comes from the inside—the integrity and character of a woman. But how can we even begin to evaluate such qualities when so much focus is put on the body? Equality of respect does not come when women agree to be viewed as objects for personal satisfaction—it only comes when both sides encourage this to end. Even if its just in your own life, that’s a great start.

On a personal level, pornography now or in the future will affect your marital intimacy unless you purposely stop it and pray for healing from the images. One very wise guy told me that starting young with pornography is a great way to shoot the intimacy of your future marriage in the foot. Pornography teaches you that women are for your pleasure and that sex is about taking something from another for your pleasure—not being a gift to your spouse. That mentality will carry into your marriage. You will never achieve intimacy if you, even in a little way, view your wife’s sexuality as a mean for your pleasure. If you want a strong marriage someday, keep the sex private in your marriage, as a gift, sacred, without comparisons and without images of something so disrespectful to your wife and women in general.

By Heather Gallagher
The REAP Team

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