Thursday, 1 June 2017

Why is Porn essentially wrong?


By Isaac Withers

This all has to start with the day I was watching News Round with my brothers. If you're not somehow familiar with News Round, it was the CBBC's news for kids and as a kid, you endured it as the boring bit of programming in between the good stuff. To demonstrate how not news this kids news was, this particular day they were covering the hard hitting stuff of Brittney Spears's new song (#fakenews). They spent maybe 10 seconds on it, and then moved on. My thirteen year old mind however, did not move on. I'd seen something. I remember firing up the Windows XP and finding that music video on YouTube. I could tell you the name of  the song, and I remember the scenes and how sexual it was. I returned to that music video a few times, and this developed into me looking for similar things privately online. Quickly, this led me to porn. From the beginning, my young mind knew that porn was wrong, but I couldn't have told you specifically why. Maybe I just knew it was the last thing that my family would want for me to be viewing.

This developed into a habit in my teenage years, and when I arrived at university the combination of endless free time, complete freedom and less and less control around porn could get pretty diabolical. As my faith and my intellect became adult, my self control around porn was getting worse. There were good weeks and bad months, almost always the bad days outweighed the good and it depressed me. There were plenty of times I thought, 'if I could press a button and get rid of this, I would', but I couldn't.

If you're reading this and you're a young person, you already know that very little of my story is unique. Extensive research carried out by neuroscientists states that among millennials 63% of men and 21% of women say they view pornography at least several times a week. A study carried out by CyberPsychology and Behavior showed that 93% of men and 62% of women have viewed porn before the age of 18. Both statistically and culturally, it seems that porn is the norm.

And yet, for something so huge in our culture, it can seem like this activity is underground, and that there isn't a real conversation going on about it. I'll always remember one of the few conversations I had about it in my kitchen at the beginning of uni. My friends were joking about porn, and I just chipped in at the end of the joke, that for something that should be satisfying, you never leave it feeling better, the feeling is usually, 'oh... well, I could have used that time a lot better…'. We all agreed that it was a waste of time and that we definitely were not our best selves when we were watching it. It wasn't a moral argument at all, it was just true, and we all shrugged for a moment and kept talking.



Recently, I've been reading this phenomenal book by Matt Fradd called, 'The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography', and in it, he nails down this feeling of dissatisfaction.

'Porn promises freedom, but it enslaves us. 
It promises excitement, but it ends up boring us. 
It promises "adult" entertainment, yet it makes us increasingly juvenile. 
It promises intimacy, but leads to isolation.'

So why is porn so unsatisfying? Knowing why it's wrong in its very essence is important. Fradd's got a ton of good YouTube content too, and in one video (The Essential Reason Porn is Wrong by Matt Fradd), he gets into the details.


'If the problem is that it's misogynistic, then let's see to it that the industry begins to create non-misogynistic (if that's possible) porn. If the problem is that young people are exposed to it then let's see to it that they're not. But again, if we could fix all of these consequences of pornography, I think we'd still say there's something about pornography... there's something about it that's intrinsically disordered.'

So even though all of that is true, none of it is the heart of the matter. Why is it essentially wrong? He goes on to give this answer:

‘The problem with pornography isn’t that it shows too much, 
it’s that it shows far too little of the human person
That it reduces a person with all of his or her complexity and mystery and individuality and
sort of just flattens them into a sort of two dimensional, lowest common denominator thing 
that I consume instead of a person to be loved.’

I think he’s right. Porn lies at the heart of the conflict between love and use. This is why I had always felt it was wrong. People are obviously more than objects, and in the world of porn, that's all they can be to us.

It was this conflict between what I knew I could be and what I was stuck in, that started to make me hate porn. My bar for a good day, became a day without porn, which is a dishearteningly low bar. But I'm happy to be able to write that this all changed.

Like every good student, I left me dissertation to the Easter break and spent a whole month doing one thing: going to the library and working. Everything else in my life closed down or took a back seat: family, societies, friends etc. Accept, of course, for porn. That was still very much there, and I became acutely aware of how much of a backdrop it had become to my faith, my relationships, my friendships, my dreams and my duties. In short, I had never known adult life without it and it had reached a stage that felt undeniably like addiction. As Terry Crew's, outspoken former NFL star and actor once said, 'If day turns into night and you are still watching [porn], you probably got a problem,'. I knew I had been in this stage for years.



In terms of my faith, porn had eroded my prayer life down to nothing. I had stopped going to confession, because I was living an apathy that made me unsure whether I was really sorry about it anymore, which meant that I was also out of communion with the Church. It was in this month that I saw clearer than ever the two halves of myself tearing at each other. So I started to pray again. For my friends, for strength, and for Jesus to become closer to the experience of my life.

The way out, for me, was outrageously Catholic. One night I was praying the rosary before sleeping and as usual I didn’t finish it, so tied it around my wrist so that I’d finish it in the morning. The next day I felt the first urge to turn to porn, and realised that I still had this rosary tied around my wrist. This naturally, made it impossible for me to continue down the path of porn. I’d have to take it off, or leave it on.

Now I know that sounds kind of funny, but it was way more than some kind of weird chastity belt thing for me. The rosary reminds me of my family, of praying together, of the times I've seen prayer change the people and situations around me. Essentially, it stands for my best self, the self I would choose to be. And so, I left it on, and it’s on me as I write this. Like nothing else it has been a total mental block down the addictive route of porn, and a visual encouragement to pray whenever I see it. I can’t tell you what that feels like. Knowing life without porn has been profound. It’s like I have my time, my creative energy and my sense of real joy back. The last month has been a month of good days, a day at a time.



Now, that’s obviously not going to work for everybody, but if you’re reading this and it’s a struggle you’re facing, there’s a few things you can do. Start to recognise the situations that lead you to porn, and just divorce tech from your bed. Read up on it, I can’t suggest you read Matt Fradd’s book enough! You can get software that helps with this (Covenant Eyes is the go to), but I think my biggest suggestion would be talk about with friends about it. I've got about four guys who I have this ongoing conversation about porn with and it does me unending good.

What’s really heartening, is that more and more people are coming out as anti-porn, from Terry Crews to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and from Rashida Jones to Russel Brand. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious movement of people against porn that you should definitely check out. There is already a cultural rebellion taking place, that essentially wants to fight to reclaim the dignity of the human person, and it’s a conversation well worth having.

There were plenty of times where I had basically given up on the idea of life beyond porn, but it's completely possible, day by day. This is a struggle that our parents generation just didn't have, and I really believe that it's an opportunity for our generation to stand for authentic love and virtue more than any before us.

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2 comments

  1. Matt Fradd has also recently released a porn app, only for iOS so far, but hopefully for Android and other operating systems soon.

    It even features an accountability button where users can choose up to three accountability partners. In a moment of temptation, users can press the button and partners will be notified on their phones (even if they’re locked) that the user is in need of prayer. Partners can also periodically connect with the user to see how the battle is going.

    See here for more info: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cant-beat-your-porn-addiction-this-new-app-is-for-you

    God bless you, and thank you for your article, which no doubt will help many people.

    Paul Hammond (retired from Youth 2000 many years ago, but still a supporter).

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    1. Thanks so much Paul! The response to this piece has been really amazing, do keep us and this project of sharing testimony in your prayers. GB, the Youth 2000 writers

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