The last Sunday in October begins National White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week, which focuses on providing education to the public regarding the harms of pornography and the resources available to help those affected by it. In light of this, I’d like to take the opportunity to shed some light on the problem of pornography in our society and what we can do about it.
According to the results of a study conducted by the Barna Group in 2014:
• 29 percent of men under the age of 30 view pornography daily.
• 63 percent of men under 30 use pornography multiple times per week or more.
• 37 percent of Christian men and 7 percent of Christian women view pornography several times a week or more.
• 64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women use pornography once a month or more.
• 21 percent of Christian men either think that they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to pornography.
Unfortunately, it’s not hard to become a pornography addict, because research has shown that pornography hijacks the brain’s reward systems in the same way that cocaine does. Individuals can become chemically addicted to pornography, needing increasingly more extreme content to “get their fix.” And, of course, the multi-billion-dollar pornography industry actively seeks to find new customers and get them hooked for life because it’s good business.
This prevalence of pornography usage and addiction is detrimental to many individuals and families. Multiple studies have shown that regular pornography usage has a negative impact on brain health, even causing decreased brain function. It also teaches people to objectify other individuals, causing a skewed view of relationships and sexuality. As the Catechism states, “[Pornography] does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others” (CCC 2354).
Pornography usage especially harms spousal relationships, being a factor in the breakdown of many marriages. To illustrate, in 2002 the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that 56% of the divorce cases they studied involved one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.” And availability, accessibility and usage of pornography have increased significantly since 2002. Many marriages and families are hurting because one or more members are using pornography.
Pornography is not just an adult problem. Children and youth are being exposed to hardcore pornography at an alarming rate. In fact, the average age of first exposure to pornography is now age 8. Furthermore, the largest consumers of internet pornography are kids ages 12-17. Children often having easy and unrestricted access to the internet has opened up a Pandora’s box in this regard. For many children today, it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN they will be exposed to pornography. And, again, it is easy for them to become addicted.
Parents and grandparents must, therefore, be vigilant in protecting their children and grandchildren from pornography and in helping them to know how to respond when they are exposed to it (often through no fault of their own). Parents cannot take a back seat and think “my child would never do something like that.” Rather, it is important for parents to educate their children on proper use of the internet, to take action steps to restrict what kids have access to on devices, to monitor internet use, and to have open (age-appropriate) dialogue with their children about pornography. Most of all, it is important to build trust in this area, so children and youth feel comfortable coming to their parents to tell them they saw something inappropriate on the internet or if they are struggling with an addiction to pornography.
Open communication and proactivity are necessary to both prevent exposure and to provide healing for those affected by pornography. If you or a loved one is struggling with pornography usage or addiction, help is available. Many faith-based resources have been developed to help protect you and your family from pornography and to help those who are addicted find freedom and healing. To learn more, visit www.DBQArch.org/find-freedom.