Be encouraged: There is some surprisingly good news about porn
Jonathon Van Maren
I’ve written hundreds of pages on the porn crisis, and the number one complaint I get from readers is that my columns are too depressing. This is a fair accusation, since I cover a lot of depressing topics. But today, I’d like to share good news with you: There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis.” This is perhaps one of the most resoundingly anti-porn pieces published in a mainstream newspaper in years, replete with quotes like this:
The thing is, no matter what you think of pornography (whether it’s harmful or harmless fantasy), the science is there. After 40 years of peer-reviewed research, scholars can say with confidence that porn is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality — for the worse.…
Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure to and consumption of porn threaten the social, emotional and physical health of individuals, families and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis rather than a private matter. But just as the tobacco industry argued for decades that there was no proof of a connection between smoking and lung cancer, so, too, has the porn industry, with the help of a well-oiled public relations machine, denied the existence of empirical research on the impact of its products.The Post is not the only mainstream publication finally acknowledging the scientific consensus on pornography. TIME Magazine, too, published a front page story called “Porn and the threat to virility,” detailing the widespread evidence that compulsive porn use can lean to erectile dysfunction. “Porn,” the cover of the magazine announces, “Why young men who grew up with Internet porn are becoming advocates for turning it off.”
From FOX13, for example:
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, filed Senate Concurrent Resolution 9, which declares that pornography is creating a “public health crisis.” The resolution states that pornography is leading to hypersexualization of teens, addiction, prostitution and other problems.
“WHEREAS, because pornography treats women as objects and commodities for the viewer’s use, it teaches girls they are to be used and teaches boys to be users,” Weiler wrote. “Pornography normalizes violence and abuse of women and children; WHEREAS, pornography treats women and children as objects and often depicts rape and abuse as if they are harmless.”
“Whereas pornography use is linked to lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity,” the resolution states.
SCR9 asks the “Legislature and the Governor recognize the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation.”It’s not just Utah, either. Canadian Member of Parliament Arnold Viersen recently put forward Motion M-47, which would ask the House of Commons standing committee “to examine the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women, and men.”
The Toronto Sun reported:
Statistics suggest the average age of first exposure to Internet porn is between 10 and 12 in Canada. This makes Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen worry about how it could affect his children. "They are growing up in a world that's completely different than the one I grew up in," he said…
Health professionals have been warning about the harmful effects of violent media on children and adolescents for decades. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, thousands of studies have "associated exposure to media violence with a variety of physical and mental health problems for children and adolescents, including aggressive and violent behaviour, bullying (and) desensitization."And before you scoff and point out that Canada has a Liberal government that is sure to ignore such a motion, remember that when he was asked about violence against women, even Justin Trudeau pointed a finger at pornography, noting, “I think there’s probably an awful lot of factors that come together to shape societal behaviour — whether it’s certain types of music? There’s a lot of misogyny in, you know, certain types of music. There’s issues around pornography and its prevalence now and its accessibility, which is something I’m really wrapping my head around as a father of kids who are approaching their teen years. And there’s also just the shifting parental roles as well. There’s a lot of communities in which fathers are less present than they have been or they might be in the past, and there’s more need to have engaged positive role models.”
Great Britain has made moves against pornography, too, with some sources accusing Prime Minister David Cameron of a “war on porn.” From Fight the New Drug:
The UK government is proposing new legislation that will require all sites containing pornographic content to request age verification of visitors to their sites. Rather than porn sites putting an “18+ to enter” button that can be clicked just as easily by an 8-year old as a 28-year old, internet providers will access public information that will help to identify the age of the visitor. This is a huge step forward in protecting kids from the harmful effects of pornography.
The motivation behind this effort, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, is to keep children safe on the internet, preventing them from viewing material which is proven to be damaging to children. A press release from the Prime Minister’s Office states, “Viewing pornography at a young age can cause distress and can have a harmful effect on sexual development, beliefs, and relationships.”A “war on porn”? Bring it on!
So to those readers who review the statistics on porn use and despair, take heart. There are some in our culture who are waking up to the reality of what pornography has done to our culture, and how many have been swept away by the avalanche of sleaze that the Internet has unleashed. There are now editors and journalists willing to cover this health crisis, and even politicians willing to call it that. We have a long way to go, but for today, at least, be encouraged.
Porn proofing our kids: Emotional investment
This topic near and dear to my heart. I have 3 little boys, 2 nephews, 2 brothers, and 1 husband. And too many male friends to count.
I also have one daughter. 4 sisters. 4 nieces, and the list goes on.
Pornography isn’t “someone else’s problem;” it’s our problem. It’s my problem and your problem and the guy across the street’s problem. It’s your barista’s problem and the 2nd grade teacher’s problem, and it might just be your spouse’s problem, too.
If you don’t think it’s your problem? That’s probably because you’ve yet to have an incredibly hard conversation with someone close to you who may be, at this very moment, drowning in shame and overwhelm and addiction, unable to reach out and unsure of where to turn for help.
I was in a conference call this morning where porn was referred to as “the pandemic of our age.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
An entire generation of men (and women) enslaved spiritually, psychologically and physically to an addiction as strong as cocaine, and as readily available as sugar.
It’s a strange time to be raising kids, in a culture that both objectifies women (and men, but let’s call the spade by it’s given name and admit who the biggest losers in the porn game really are) while simultaneously calling for their empowerment via the shedding of all sexual and cultural norms regarding modesty.
I won’t attempt to make the case here for what’s wrong with pornography, because I’m going to assume we’re all on the same page there, whether your convictions stem from an emotional, moral, religious, or psychological perspective.
What I do want to talk about is how we best equip and instruct our children for navigating the dangerous digital jungle. And the checkout line. And prime time television. And the school bus.
The average age of first exposure to pornography is around 9 years old, as best I can tell from my online and in person research. That gives me a little over 3 years to prepare my oldest son for his first encounter with porn. Most first exposures are accidental. Something might pop up on Youtube, or in a banner ad, or even via a misspelled or poorly thought out search term.
Notice that I didn’t say “if,” but “when.”
Because our kids will be exposed to porn. And it’s not enough to cancel your Victoria’s Secret catalogue (not that it’s actually possible to do that. They’ll keep sending the damn thing no matter how long ago you shopped there, and how many times you ask their customer service department). Nope, we’ve got to be proactive and reactively tactical as parents of baby … Millennials? (What are our children, exactly?)
First and foremost, the most essential part of the porn-proofing equation is … you.
A child who is affirmed in his or her intrinsic goodness and worth and dignity by his mother and father is less likely to go seeking out pornography.
Will he be immune to the lure of it? No. Of course not. And yes, he still might come upon it if you live in a city or a suburb or a village on a mountaintop with internet access…. but on the whole, kids are less likely to go looking for it on purpose when their basic emotional and psychological needs are being met at home.
And hopefully? They’re more likely to click away when they do happen upon it.
So we love up on these kids and let them know that we’re here, that we’re safe and trustworthy, and that we’re available for spur of the moment heart to hearts and annoying butt-ins and one million questions all day long. Because that’s how these little people give their hearts. And we have to be willing and ready to receive them. As an introvert this is hard times a million. I like my space! I like my down time!
But I can’t have as much of that as I want while they’re awake. And some days I acknowledge this with more grace than others. And the other days? I pray to God for selective amnesia in my offspring so they’re not dissecting my awful parenting via group hologram sometime 20 years down the road, one-upping each other with stories of How Mom Screwed Us Up.
(Dare to dream, right?)
The fundamental health of our relationship as parent and child is critical to that child feeling secure and capable of one day coming to us with harder stuff than “I accidentally spit in my brother’s mouth.” And even when it’s hard and it’s yucky, we need to be the ones who they can come to and ask for help, for guidance, and for forgiveness.
The second piece of this looks like intentional, one-on-one engagement between opposite sex parent and child. Sons need to be loved and praised and recognized in the goodness of their masculinity by their father, yes, but also by their mother.
Boys who don’t experience a strong connection with their mother are more vulnerable to a pornography addiction as they seek out the disordered approval and love of women
And daughters? Yep, you guessed it. They need dad telling them who they are, what they were made for, and why they’re so good.
There is no way for us to prevent our kids from seeing porn, but we can lay a foundation of unconditional love that will invite them to come running when they do see it, so that we can talk it through with them.
Pray with your children and for your children, and for their sexuality, their emotional health, and their hearts. Ask their patron saint or namesake to intercede for them as you entrust that particular child to God’s mercy and providence, knowing that despite our best intentions as parents, we’re still not going to be able to protect them from everything.
But that won’t stop us from leaving it all on the field in the effort, right?
Up next: Practical resources for having “the talk” about porn, and for monitoring internet usage at home in a mentoring style, so that your kids learn to monitor it for themselves.
Fight or Die: 12 Weapons for Combatting Porn Addiction
This is an Interior war! Take no prisoners!
Porn is an epidemic. There’s no other way to put it. Sixty-eight (68) percent of young adult men say they look at porn at least once a week. Sixty-four (64) percent of Christian men say they look at porn at least once a month. There were 1.5 billion searches for pornography since the beginning of the year. Those are staggering statistics (source).
So porn is a problem. There is no doubt about it. Porn affects men of all ages and backgrounds—and it is increasingly becoming a problem for women, too. No one is immune. And tragically, it is an addiction that is destroying families, lives, and souls almost as devastatingly as drugs or alcohol.
The good news is, there is hope and help to be found. No man needs to be a victim to his addictions. Today, I want to give you 13 weapons to combat the soul-destroying evil of porn.
1. Covenant EyesAn internet filter is a must for any man wanting to stay pure. Covenant Eyes is one of the most popular filters out there. Not only does it block sites that are dangerous, it emails a regular report of your internet activity to a trusted accountability partner. Learn more about it here.
2. K9 Web ProtectionIf you’re looking for basic, free internet filtering without too many bells and whistles, K9 may be what you are looking for. It’s free, easy to set up, and has a lot of customizable options, such as strictness levels and reporting. They also have an iPhone app that can bring basic filtering to your phone. Download K9 Web Protection here.
3. X3 Watch Accountability SoftwareAccountability can be one of the most effective antidotes to pornography addiction. While there’s other software choices out there, X3 Watch is one of the best and simplest to use. It has apps for desktop and mobile, and it’s relatively affordable. It will send a daily report of any visits to questionable websites to the accountability partner of your choice. It can’t be uninstalled or deactivated without your partner knowing, either. Download X3 Watch here.
4. The Victory AppSome of the keys to overcoming any addiction are having a plan of attack, knowing your triggers, and tracking your progress. The Victory App, produced by LifeTeen, can help you do just that. The Victory App is a free battle tracker that helps your journal your progress, and it includes motivational wisdom from chastity speakers Matt Fradd and Mark Hart. Download The Victory App for iPhone and Android.
5. Battle TrackerBattle Tracker is based on the same concept as The Victory App—it helps you track and journal your progress in your fight against addiction. The only difference is that is an analog book instead of a digital app. Buy a copy of Battle Tracker here.
6. The Angelic Warfare ConfraternityThe fight against porn is ultimately a battle for your soul, and a spiritual battle calls for spiritual weapons. Thousands of men attest that they have been helped towards chastity by enrolling in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. The Angelic Warfare Confraternity consists of daily prayers calling on the intercession of Our Lady and St. Thomas Aquinas for the grace of chastity. Learn more about it here.
7. St. Joseph CordThe Church refers to St. Joseph as Mary’s “most chaste spouse,” and the saints tell us that purity was one of St. Joseph’s special virtues. Accordingly, the St. Joseph Cord, or cincture, has been a popular sacramental worn in honor of St. Joseph and as a silent prayer to obtain the special grace of chastity. Learn more about this devotion here or buy one here.
8. Reclaim Sexual HealthReclaim Sexual Health is a faith-based ministry using both modern brain science and Catholic teaching to help men overcome sexual addictions. The program combines brain training exercises, prayer, community support, and more, and it is both interactive and completely anonymous. Learn more here.
9. The Fortify ProgramThe Fortify Program is produced by the anti-porn organization Fight the New Drug. It’s similar to Reclaim Sexual Health in that it uses brain science to fight porn. The main difference is that it is not faith based. It includes video lessons, digital apps, personalized strategies and more. Learn about it here.
10. ConfessionWhen we sin, it is easy to be ashamed and to want to keep our sin a secret. But this is very dangerous. Confession is the sacrament of healing. It not only frees us from our sin and guilt, it also gives us the grace we need to live a holy life. When you fall, confess your sins as soon as possible.
11. The EucharistThe Eucharist is a powerhouse of strength. That’s because it is God himself. Thousands of saints attest that there is no remedy for sin more powerful than frequent reception of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Receive often, receive with devotion and it can change your life.
12. Marian ConsecrationTo be holy, we need grace, and the channel of all grace is Mary, the Mediatrix of all graces. When you are close to her, you are close to both the Holy Spirit and all the graces you need to overcome in the struggle against sin. Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoke her often, and you will overcome. I can attest that Marian consecration has changed my life. Learn more about Marian consecration here.
ConclusionNo one is immune from temptations to pornography, but no one need be a victim, either. I hope these tools can help you achieve victory in the battle for chastity.
But above all, realize that the key to freedom from addiction is the will to fight without letup. The minute you quit fighting, you lose—perhaps forever. In the words of the author of the spiritual class, The Spiritual Combat, “You either fight or die.” Your soul is worth the struggle.