The trouble with pornography

Pornography has long been easy to come by in America, especially after the rise of the Web. Chances are you’ve come across some in your life, accidentally or intentionally. I have come across pornography frequently, usually on purpose, for over a decade, for nearly two decades if I’m honest. My lustful passions are something I’ve only recently begun to try to conquer and it is a hard road. In the past, I have taken a few tentative steps onto this road whispering like Blessed Augustine once did ‘Oh Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet.’ Now, though I may stumble, I will not, by the grace of God, turn back. This post is a confession of a small part of my sins. It is a caution to those tempted by thoughts of lust. It is finally a reminder for myself of why I am struggling to overcome my passions and the demons that tempt me.

When we lust after someone, we make them an idol that comes between us and God. When we choose to let lust inflame our hearts and rule our passions we also weaken our ability to love our neighbor as Christ instructs us because we turn the object of our lust into just that: an object. We dehumanize the person we lust after by viewing them as a sexual item rather than a human being with family, friends, with needs and desires, troubles and triumphs. We commit adultery in our hearts (Matthew 5:28) and abrogate Jesus’ two commandments that we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and that we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37,39). This can happen in our minds when we fantasize sexually about someone we find attractive. It can happen to a much greater degree when viewing pornographic images or videos, where one may lust after any number of people in a short span of time. When we succumb to the passion of lust, we become idolaters and adulterers.

All pornography presents people not as humans, but as sexual objects, as idols for our sexual worship. However, there is a disturbing (and disturbingly large) portion of pornography that centers on violence against women. This pornography centers on causing women pain and/or humiliation (whether simulated or not) and the women’s suffering is part of the sexual appeal. While it can be argued that all heterosexual pornography reinforces sexist, misogynistic and pro-rape ideology in men by objectifying women, a horrifying proportion of pornography does so explicitly by calling women demeaning names, showing scenarios where women are tricked into sex or otherwise assaulted, abused, raped, and exploited for the purpose of increasing the sexual excitement of viewers. It is no wonder that someone is raped or sexually assaulted in America every two minutes. Pornography, particularly violent pornography, contributes to our brokenness as a society and as individuals. Pornography is by no means the only factor in, and is not likely the cause of, violence against women, but it does serve, along with so much of mainstream American media, to reinforce the worldviews of those who are violent to women or see them as less than men. Pornography is a symptom of our fallenness.

Furthermore, many women who participate in porn do so due to hardships including abusive partners, such as Linda Boreman, better known as Linda Lovelace, who was physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by her husband Chuck Traynor, or poverty in the case of many Eastern European and Southeast Asian “camgirls.” Every time I watch(ed) porn, I participate(d) in the abuse of these women.

May your prayers be with me and may God forgive me and take mercy on my soul. And may your prayers also be for all the women and men whose lives have been affected by pornography either in its production, its consumption, or by indirect means.