The Problem with Porn

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By Liam O’Toole, Director of Washington D.C. Operations

Be honest. How many of you clicked on this link because it has the word “porn” in it?

Jokes aside, pornography usage is increasingly rampant. The statistics that I could find on this topic concluded that 79% of men from 18-30 say they have viewed pornography at least once a month and 63% say they have viewed it several times a week. In addition, 76% of women aged 18-30 have viewed it at least once a month; 21% several times a week. Even amongst Christians, 64% of men and 15% of women view pornography at least once a month while 37% of men and 7% of women view it several times a week. That’s right– even many religious people use porn religiously.

Of course, pornography has been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and most denominations of Christianity. As is often the case, there is a disconnect between what the church teaches and how people actually live their lives. Is the church being too authoritative in this regard? Is pornography just as innocuous as, say, anime? (Ok, bad example.) What, exactly, is wrong with pornography?

To answer this question, we need to do some research (no, not that kind of research. Get your mind out of the gutter.) What exactly is pornography? Pornography is basically material, in the form of books, pictures, or video, that depicts erotic behavior intended to cause sexual arousal. According to the Church Catechism, pornography “consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties.” Basically, pornography takes real or simulated sexual acts and puts them on display to a third person uninvolved in those acts.

The problem lies in the third person viewing the situation. The person watching pornography is disconnected with the real act of sexual intercourse (and is even more disconnected if the act is simulated). The Catholic Church views sexual intercourse as an act of intimacy between a married man and woman, for the primary purpose of having children. Pornography is, if you will, a perversion of that. A porn user doesn’t know the people onscreen. He’s likely never met them. He’s simply watching them and pleasuring himself to their acts of intimacy (whether that intimacy is real or simulated). The Christian ideal of sex comes from love the unifies a couple. But pornography has nothing to do with love– only lust.

Even without the moral problems, pornography clearly has some negative effects. According to a study from 2006 to 2014, divorce rates amongst married couples who use porn are double the rates of those who don’t. In addition, pornography may have incredibly harmful effects on the brain: watching pornography causes the brain to release large amounts of dopamine (which is a response to pleasure receptors) and repeated porn use means that the same amount of dopamine won’t trigger the same sense of pleasure. So porn users will begin to watch porn more frequently just to get the same pleasurable feeling– this is how porn is similar to drug addiction. Finally, porn usage may lead to sexual failure (including erectile dysfunction) in real life, because a porn user’s sex drive is already being satisfied by pornography and won’t work during real world sexual experiences.

Based on all of this, pornography is morally wrong and can be incredibly harmful to one’s relationships. This is why the prominent anti-pornography group Fight the New Drug touts the slogan, “Porn kills love.” That’s why, as Catholics, we should avoid pornography at all costs. Of course, none of this is easy, and many Christians (as noted earlier) struggle with this issue. But the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging the problem exists. And there are some major problems with pornography.

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