“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22
For if you suffer your people to be ill–educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them? ~Utopia, Book 1 by Sir Thomas More
Pornography (part 3 of a 3 part series)
We have been have been conducting an ongoing discussion based on the premise “What Goes in, Must Come Out.” Thus far we have discussed profanity, violence, and gossip. I would now like to turn the discussion to our final topic: pornography. I have written before on this topic (see The Pornified Culture) but it merits much more discussion. In the scope of our discussion here today, we are still coming from the premise of “What Goes in, Must Come Out.” In other words, in a culture that consumes pornography on an epidemic scale, it should not surprise us that the culture sexualizes and pornifies everything and everybody, and that sexual assaults, child molestation, and most especially, ephepophilia, on are the rise.
Let us consider some statistics:
70% of 18 to 24 year old men visit pornographic sites in a typical month. 66% of men in their 20s and 30s also report being regular users of pornography; and 1 out of every 6 women is addicted to porn. (1)
Incidents of child sexual exploitation have risen from 4,573 in 1998 to 112,083 in 2004, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (2)
National Obscenity Enforcement Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice have determine that the Rape rate has climbed 43% in the last 10 years (reported May 1988), and that the highest incidence of rape victims are teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 (7)
According to the PTC (Parents Television Council) Prime Time TV shows (Like Glee and 24 other Networked Shows): Underage female characters are shown participating in a higher percentage of sexual depictions compared to adult female characters (47 percent and 29 percent respectively).
Eighty-six percent of all the sexualized female characters depicted in the underage and young-adult category were presented as just being in high school. (Which means, even if the actress is an adult, she plays a high schooler on TV)
Ninety-three percent of the sexual incidents among underage female characters were “unhealthy” based upon a definition established by the American Psychological Association of “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” sexuality.
Ninety-eight percent of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred with partners with whom they did not have any form of committed relationship. (3)
These statistics should give any decent person pause. Why have teenagers become so sexualized? Why is the media’s vision of “female sexuality” embodied in an adolescent girl? Why are cases in which adolescents are molested (ephebophilia) rising on a huge scale? Because “what goes in, must come out.” In a society that consumes pornography to the point of excess (U.S. porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC (6.2 billion). Porn revenue is larger than all combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises. (4) ) It really shouldn’t surprise us that said society spews out garbage – the likes of which result in grossly misrepresented and sexualized “mainstream media,” leading to an increase in child molestation, child exploitation, human trafficking, rape, and the overall objectification of individuals.
In the United States pornography is legal. In fact there has been a push for sometime to mainstream it, to erase the stigma. Yet, child porn is not legal. However, it IS legal for an 18 year old to be made to look as if she was a young, barely pubescent teenager. Who are we trying to protect? Certainly it should be illegal for individuals to make and sell child pornography. I do not dispute that. What I do take issue with is that by selling “legal, looks-like-child” porn, the demand for the real thing is increased. Doesn’t this strike you as somewhat ludicrous?
According to Victor Kline, Patrick Carnes, Paul Vitz, and Mark Kastleman (some of the leading researchers and psychiatrists/psychologists in the fields of sexual and porn addiction) the addictive cycle is a downward spiral. Once an individual is “hooked” (which is the object of those who produce porn), the user becomes less and less satisfied with the same type of product. It requires more and more shocking material to maintain the level of the “high” that the user gets from the material. What happens is that the longer and more frequently a person consumes porn, the more likely he or she is to seek more and more deviant material. For example, in some cases this leads a person who never started out wanting, say, child porn, to seek it out. (The same can be said for other ‘deviant’ categories such as bestiality, gang rape, S & M etc) This same addictive process is what leads individuals to “act out.” Acting Out is the term given to behavior that is the result of viewing pornography. (Really it’s the term used to describe any form of a manifestation of addictive behavior.) The most common forms of acting out for porn users are masturbation, exhibitionism, voyeurism, frequenting strip clubs, soliciting prostitutes, and having affairs. More extreme forms of acting out are rape, molestation, ephebophilia, pedophilia, incest, and some forms of physical abuse. Why is this the case, you ask? Because what goes in, must come out.
Consider these findings:
In a study of convicted child molesters, 77 percent of those who molested boys and 87 percent of those who molested girls admitted to the habitual use of pornography in the commission of their crimes. Besides stimulating the perpetrator, pornography facilitates child molestation in several ways. For example, pedophiles use pornographic photos to demonstrate to their victims what they want them to do. They also use them to arouse a child or to lower a child’s inhibitions and communicate to the unsuspecting child that a particular sexual activity is okay: “This person is enjoying it; so will you.” (5)
A longitudinal study of 341 convicted child molesters in America found that pornography use correlated significantly with their rate of sexually re-offending. Frequency of pornography use was primarily a further risk factor for higher-risk offenders, when compared with lower-risk offenders, and use of highly deviant pornography correlated with increased recidivism risk for all groups. The majority of men who have been charged with or convicted of child pornography offenses show pedophilic profiles on phallometric testing.
According to the Mayo Clinic of the U.S.A., studies and case reports indicate that 30% to 80% of individuals who viewed child pornography and 76% of individuals who were arrested for Internet child pornography had molested a child, however they note that it is difficult to know how many people progress from computerized child pornography to physical acts against children and how many would have progressed to physical acts without the computer being involved. (6)
Dr. William Marshall found that 86% of rapists admitted regular use of pornography, with 57% admitting actual imitation of pornography scenes in commission of sex crimes. (7)
The “Addictive Cycle” that was mentioned above can be broken down, according to Victor Kline, as follows: The common pattern of progression with many pornography users:
1. addiction to hard core pornography;
2. escalation in the need for more shocking material;
3. desensitization toward initially shocking material; and
4. an increased tendency to “act out” sexual activities
Now these statistics can seem grim, and even a little mind boggling. Do all men or women who are addicted to pornography spiral rapidly down the Addictive Cycle? No. I am not insinuating that every man or woman addicted to porn will end up in jail as a sex offender. This is not to say, however, that pornography use doesn’t affect every person who comes across it. It does. Every single person. For more on how porn can change a person’s brain – rewire it! – you may want to read Mark Kastleman’s Drug of the New Millennium book. It is frighteningly fascinating. But back to the issue at hand. How do I know that porn consumption will affect every user? Because, what goes in, must come out.
Take another look at the statistics near the beginning of the post. A vicious cycle is in play. Prime Time TV is saturated with sexualized high school girls, at the same time, in the span of 6 years, incidents of child exploitation rose over 95%, and incidents of rape rose 43% in a ten year span – and that number is still on the rise, although there are many cases of incorrect and under-reporting. Are these numbers a coincidence? I think not. What goes in, must come out. Consider this scenario:
A young teenager watches a show like Glee religiously. She wants to emulate her favorite characters – they are so popular – so cool! At the same time she shops at the ‘fashionable’ stores selling clothes for young teens that resemble something that might be found in a Modern Day Incarnation of Pretty Woman. What fate awaits this girl as she seeks to culturally blend in, baring too much skin, and wearing too much tightness, armed with the knowledge of how she should act, courtesy of the cast of Glee, fueled by the covers of Cosmo and Seventeen, and urged to express her sexuality by her freshman health teacher? This girl, my dear friends, is in danger. The same TV shows that inform her as to how she should dress and behave, the same magazine covers also send a message to men – and that message is that girls who look and act like the sluttified characters on Prime Time TV, want to be treated like the characters on Prime Time TV; and just how are the girls on Prime Time TV treated? Well, glance at the above stats again – 93% of sexual incidents among underage female characters were unhealthy according to the American Psychological Association. Should we really be surprised when our poor girl ends up being used, abused, and discarded? How can we be shocked when we look at the numbers for child exploitation, abuse, and rape? What goes in, must come out.
What does this have to do with pornography? Everything. Porn has become so mainstream that it literally permeates all forms of mainstream entertainment. It’s everywhere. Remember that roughly 70% of men in their late teens to their thirties frequently visit porn sites in a typical month. Porn is the prism through which they see the world. TV shows are created to tap into the audience. Television producers know this. Sex sells! If there was a surefire way to target over half the adult male population, and at least 1 out of every six women wouldn’t any savvy business person be interested? You bet they would. Now, I am not excusing the producers of TV shows that deliberately or inadvertently encourage harmful or destructive behavior. I am, however pointing out that pornography influences what shows are on TV. It also influences how these shows – and how real people – are perceived by the consumers of pornography.
When a porn user encounters the world, as I said before, it is through the lens of pornography. Porn lies to men and women. It gives men the false idea that women are often sex-crazed maniacs. I have interviewed several porn addicts and one of them explained to me that when he sees a girl wearing what she most likely thinks is an “attractive” outfit, (perhaps hoping to get some attention from attractive men), what he thinks when he sees her isn’t “Oh look at how beautiful she is., I want to talk to her and buy her dinner.” What this man told me is that when he sees such a girl, he thinks to himself, “Wow, she really wants it, and I can “help her out’.'” (I think we can all figure out what the “it” is). In fact, in some instances of rape the man is not conscious that his victim is truly not consenting. His porn use and our society at large have “taught him” to think that girls who seem to resemble those he has seen in porn – even on TV – want to be treated like that.
What Goes in, Must Come Out.
Dear readers, we have gotten ourselves into quite the pickle! Thomas More’s Utopia rings so true when he said, “if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.” In a society that operates largely through the prism of porn, that promotes its themes in even regular TV programming, how can we really be surprised at the devastating effects that are taking hold? The question we must ask ourselves is what do we do about it??
Let us return to our premise: What Goes In Must Come Out. Could it really be that simple? Change what we culturally consume, and that will change the culture? Yes, I believe that it can be that simple. We’ve explored 3 different areas in which we have determined that what we engage in or consume – be it gossip, violence, profanity, or pornography – affects not only our own behavior, but society at large as well. What if we turned it on its head? What if we instead turned off the violence, avoided the profane, boycotted the 23 shows in Prime Time programming that were named by the PTC in the above statistics, disengaged from gossip, and called porn what it really is: evil and wrong? Then what if we sought healing for the parts of ourselves that may have been hurt by the consumption of these things, and filled ourselves instead with the Word of God, with prayer, with spiritual reading? What if we spent time in front of the Blessed Sacrament? What if we watched shows that spoke to the beauty and dignity of the human person? What then? What would become of us and our society? Well, I’ll say it one more time: What Goes In, Must Come Out.
***** A note for those who may be struggling with porn or sexual addiction:
There is most definitely healing and hope available if you or someone you love struggles with this insidious addiction. Most mental health professionals, and addictions counselors agree that the most effective and beautiful freedom and healing can be found by actively participating in a 12 Step Recovery Group that focuses on the 12 Steps originally from Alcoholics Anonymous. To find one near you or to get more information, check out http://www.sa.org/.
(1) First-person: the culture of pornography, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Baptist Press, 28 December 2005
(2) Reports of child exploitation up. USA Today Snapshots, 17 February, 2005.
(4) Internet Pornography and Loneliness: An Association? Vincent Cyrus Yoder, Thomas B. Virden III, and Kiran Amin. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, Volume 12.1, 2005.