Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Perceiving Pornography

Until last year I was very naïve about the pornography industry. To me, it wasn’t something that existed, wasn’t something that people wanted to look at. In a conversation with friends last year, the topic of pornography came up and I was surprised to learn that it was something that so many people on campus struggled with, people who I cared about and people who I never would have expected to struggle with it. Since then I’ve talked with friends about it, trying to figure out if it was true and what it all meant.

What I’ve learned from these conversations is that pornography is something that everyone, and especially men, have to deal with at some point in their lives. (Women are affected as well, but historically it has been far more prevalent among men.) In a conversation with a friend on how he fell into porn, he described it as an “innocent accident”: “you can find anything online these days, just type something into Google and hundreds of thousands of possible sites come up. All it takes is being a little too curious and clicking the wrong link and you find something you never intended to see…for me, as a boy just hitting puberty, when I would see swimsuit ads of course I was going to be curious. It doesn’t take much at first to get the hormones running as there is no desensitization. One nude picture would be enough to get sufficiently aroused, but as time progresses it takes more. And more.” As this testimony suggests, advertisers understand that men are very visual and use this to their advantage. Once boys view porn, even if it’s on accident, they are going to be bombarded with more ads, making it a struggle for boys to consider not looking at porn.

Viewing porn, especially continuously over a long period of time, has a huge effect on a person’s mind. Having struggled with porn for several years, my friend suggested that “porn is a perversion of love in the ultimate sense. Instead of giving fully of yourself, you are taking from another. In viewing porn all I would care about is my pleasure, how to get what I want…I was literally killing my sense of love. Pope John Paul II tells us very clearly that we live to love, while pornography told me you live for my lust. It rewires the brain such that I would see others as objects for my pleasure and not as humans with dignity…Once porn has turned your definition of love on its head, you turn to it instead of proper sources of love. When you’re stressed, super busy, get rejected, or searching for something to do all it takes is just one little click of the mouse and you are back into it. In all of those cases, I was looking for love and instead of turning to friends or family, pornography filled that hole.”

Movies rated X often have displays of pornography
Unlike drug or alcohol addictions, porn addictions are never talked about on campus. We persuade ourselves that as Catholics or good students, this is something that surely does not affect our friends or family members. Or if we are struggling with it, we persuade ourselves that it is something that we must struggled with alone; in some ways, it is not something that we are not allowed to struggle with. Rather than shying away from this topic, however, it would be much more fruitful to acknowledge its presence. Challenge friends we know who view porn to stop.  As my friend suggested to me, “I cannot count the number of times I wish I had been caught. Deep down I wanted someone to discover it, to force me out, to bring the shame to the surface so I no longer had to hide it…I was a lucky one though, for just as porn had driven me away from an understanding of love, my friends and family, and the love that we shared brought me back. After years of struggle and finally opening up to some friends with similar struggles, I was finally able to dump porn altogether…Pornography distorts love. That is its most basic and harmful aspect. The best weapon we have against that is living a life of true love by gift of self. ” Perhaps in bringing to light some of the effects of porn in conversations with friends we can work to change the culture. 

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