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Yes, Porn Harms

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Governments can be rather schizophrenic when it comes to looking after the wellbeing of the community. It may crack down on, restrict, or even ban certain things which are in fact perhaps not such a big deal, while allowing other things which are known to have serious negative consequences for individuals and communities.

Take the issue of pornography for example. Much of the West today has an open slather policy on porn, in which almost anything goes. Folks are afraid to do anything about it for fear of being called prudish, censorial, and so on. Incredibly we now even have entire political parties devoted to pushing their sleazy and smutty agendas.

But we have reams of information and research telling us about the very real harmful effects of porn consumption. The truth is, porn hurts people and it hurts our culture. Thus it is pleasing to see that a new Senate inquiry has just been announced on the matter.

pornWhile it is long overdue, and while it is rather restrictive in what it is focusing on, at least it is a start. Its rather narrow focus is seen in its title: “Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet”.

The Senate website says this about this inquiry: “The harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet including trends in children’s consumption of pornography, the impact of this on the development of health and respectful relationships, harm minimisation methods used in other jurisdictions and possible measures to be implemented in Australia.”

It is my conviction that it is certainly not jut children who are harmed by porn. Adults are also being adversely affected by it, so I find this inquiry too limiting. However, it is there, and it is a first step, so it is well worth getting involved in. Full details about this inquiry and how to put in a submission can be found here:

www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Online_access_to_porn

Relationship damage

Let me here focus on just one aspect of the harm that pornography inflicts, that of damage to relationships. The simple truth is, addiction to porn often spells disaster for relationships. Both common sense and anecdotal evidence bear this out. As but one story, a married man recently told a Canberra gathering on this issue that his addiction to Internet pornography nearly cost him his marriage.

Such stories could be multiplied many times over. Indeed, one counsellor who works with men struggling with porn said it has become “the leading factor in divorce”. If a person is continually lured by the unreal world of pornographic pin ups, and fantasises about these always perfect and ever compliant sexual playmates, then reality will look very dull in comparison.

That is, the air-brushed and/or surgically enhanced porn star not only looks perfect in every way, but obviously never gets into an argument with you, and never has relationship difficulties with you. But in the real world, one’s partner will never be as physically perfect as in pornography, and in a real relationship, there will be difficulties, friction, arguments and relationship problems.

As two academics put it: “In the pornographic world, sex is divorced from intimacy, loving affection, and human connection; all women are constantly available for sex and have insatiable sexual appetites; and all women are sexually satisfied by whatever the men in the film do.”

It is not surprising therefore that marriage counsellors report that a major source of relationship difficulty and marriage breakdown is pornography. Usually men, involved in porn, soon tire of their wives, and marriages dissolve. As an example, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has found that Net surfers are putting their marriages at risk.

Their survey shows that 56 per cent of aggrieved spouses claim an obsession with Internet porn ruined their relationships. And 68 per cent of unfaithful partners found their new lover via the Internet. As one divorce lawyer said, “The computer is the fastest-growing threat to marriage I have seen in 34 years”.

As an English writer, Edward Marriott, puts it in his eye-opening expose of the sordid world of porn addiction: “Lost in a world of pornographic fantasy, men can become less inclined, as well as increasingly less able, to form lasting relationships. In part, this is due to the underlying message of pornography. Ray Wyre, a specialist in sexual crime, says pornography ‘encourages transience, experimentation and moving between partners’.”

Marriott continues, “Pornography, in other words, is a lie. It peddles falsehoods about men, women and human relationships. In the name of titillation, it seduces vulnerable, lonely men – and a small number of women – with the promise of intimacy, and delivers only a transitory masturbatory fix.”

It is not hard to see why relationships are destroyed because of porn. Pornography by definition is anti-relationship: it is a fixation on self, instead of the other person. As one American commentator put it:

Pornography is fraudulent because it depicts “love” without love. Since the other person is not loved, pornography requires depersonalization and anonymity. With pornographic sex, substitution is not only acceptable, it is essential. As theologian Josef Pieper said, pornography removes the fig leaf from the genitals and places it over the human face.

Pornography strips its participants of more than their clothes; it strips them of their humanity. The central act of civilization is the recognition of another person as a human being. Pornography suspends – if not ends – that act of recognition because it dehumanizes both its object and its subject.

English philosopher Roger Scruton concurs:

Pornography has a function, which is precisely to relieve us of commitments. Life in the actual world is difficult and embarrassing. Most of all is it difficult and embarrassing in our confrontation with other people who, by their very existence, make demands that we may be unwilling to meet. It requires a great force, a desire that fixes upon an individual, and sees that individual as unique and irreplaceable, if people are to make the sacrifices upon which the community depends for its longevity. It is far easier to take refuge in surrogates, which neither embarrass us nor resist our cravings. The habit grows of creating a compliant world of desire, in which the erotic force is dissipated and the needs of love denied.

He continues:

The effect of pornographic fantasy is therefore to “commodify” the object of desire, and to replace love and its vestigial sacraments with the law of exchange. When sex becomes a commodity, the most important sanctuary of human ideals becomes a market, and value is reduced to price. That is what has happened in the last few decades, and it is the root fact of post-modern culture, the ultimate explanation of what is observed and commented upon on every side – namely, that our culture has become not just shameless, but loveless. For the human body has been downgraded in our perception from subject to object, from self to tool.

Busted and dysfunctional relationships are of course just one small part of the harm that pornography consumption produces. Many other very real problems can be mentioned. But if we care at all about our society, our families, and our children, we will start taking seriously this very real threat.

Porn harms everyone, and it certainly harms our children.



 

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