This is the transcript of a talk given to Clergy by Fr Anthony Percy.
“Ironically, pornography has become almost invisible by virtue of its very ubiquity.”Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality
Pornland is the most disturbing book I have ever read. After reading the introduction I felt a profound sense of sadness and sorrow.
How did pornography begin?
Hugh Hefner set out to turn the “family man” into a “playboy.” His express aim was to move men away from people to things. He wanted to convert men into consumers. Playboy began in December 1953 with 53, 991 circulation. By 1959, its circulation reached 1 million. By the 1970’s it had sales of over $200 million.
In the April 1956 issue of Playboy, Hefner wrote:
What is a playboy? Is he simply a wastrel, a ne’er-do-well, a fashionable bum? Far from it. He can be a sharp minded young business executive, a worker in the arts, a university professor, an architect or an engineer. He can be many things, provided he possesses a certain kind of view. He must see life not as a vale of tears, but as a happy time, he must take joy in his work, without regarding it as the end of all living; he must be an alert man, a man of taste, a man sensitive to pleasure, a man who … can live life to the hilt.
In other words, Hefner was attempting to make pornography acceptable to the masses.
He was trying to take away the stigma associated with nudity and lewdness. Note also his vision of the good life – of man as a consumer. We are dealing, then, with the triple concupiscence and not just lustful sex when we are dealing with pornography:
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world (1 John 2:16).
In some ways, when you read Pornland you get the distinct impression that with pornography it is “lust of the eyes” first, “lust of the flesh” second. Money first, sex second.
Sexual violence and sexual slavery
Our assumptions about pornography are most likely wrong. Things have moved very quickly with the internet. We are no longer dealing with simple centrefold pictures or graphic nudity. In many ways, what can now be witnessed on the internet is akin to a war and perhaps worse than that.
To illustrate this, Dines says we can simply type “porn” into Google and we will discover some of the most popular acts advertised and depicted on websites. The result of this simple search is more than disturbing, but it is “normal” for porn websites now. There the viewer can witness:
- Vaginal, anal and oral penetration of a woman by three or more men at the same time
- Double anal, in which a woman is penetrated anally by two men at the same time
- Double vagina, in which a woman is penetrated vaginally by two men at the same time
- Gagging, in which a woman has a penis thrust so far down her throat she gags or vomits
- Ass to mouth, in which a penis goes from a woman’s anus to her mouth without washing
- Bukkake, in which any number of men ejaculate, often at the same time, onto a woman’s body, face, hair, eyes, ears, or mouth. In some of these movies, the men ejaculate into a cup and the “money shot” is the woman drinking the semen mixture (Pornland, p. xviii-xix)
The average age for first porn viewing is eleven years of age. What does this mean?
This means that, unlike before, porn is actually being encoded into a boy’s sexual identity so that an authentic sexuality – one that develops organically out of life experiences, one’s peer group, personality traits, family and community affiliations – is replaced by a generic porn sexuality limited in creativity and lacking any sense of love, respect, or connection to another human being. (Pornland, p. xi)
Dines told her own son as he entered teenage years:
I said that should he decide to use porn, then he was going to hand over his sexuality – a sexuality that he had yet to grow into, that made sense for who he was and who he was going to be – to someone else. Why, I asked him, would you give anyone something so valuable and precious, something that ultimately is yours, not theirs? (Pornland, p. xii)
Dines asks, “So what are the stories porn tells the user?” The stories say something about women, men and sex. The narrative is ugly. As regards women, porn says:
- Women are always ready for sex and will do whatever men want, no matter the pain, the humiliation, the harm
- “No” is not a word when it comes to sex
- Women are whores and prostitutes since they have a price on their body
- Women are never concerned about pregnancy, STI’s or damage to their bodies and are “astonishingly immune to being called cunts, whores, cumdumpsters, sluts, bitches, hot slits, fucktubes, squirty skanks and stupid hoes.”
- Women enjoy having sex with men who express nothing but contempt and hatred for them
As regards men, porn tells us that:
- Men are soulless, unfeeling, amoral
- Men use women for sex and violence
- Men are robotic studs
Consequently, sex no longer has a unitive and procreative meaning:
- Sex is devoid of any intimacy and love (there is no connection, empathy, tenderness, caring, affection)
- Sex is about hate, violence, fear, disgust, anger, loathing and contempt
- Sex is not about “making love,” but about “making hate”
Where to from here?
- www.stoppornculture.org is a good place to begin. This will raise awareness among our parents and families. They have two educational slide shows: Who wants to Be a Porn Star? & Growing Up in a Porn Culture.
- www.stopusingpornography.com is an Australian response (Jonathon & Karen Doyle – Choicez)
- Educate Parents: Tell them what is happening and encourage them to monitor closely what their children are watching. Encourage fathers to talk to their sons about the meaning and value of human sexuality.
Confessional Advice ~ Spiritual Direction ~ Pastoral Counselling
- Mercy: Since the average age for first viewing porn is 11, we should assume that there is not a lot of moral guilt. Compassion and gentleness are always the best approach as this will encourage the return of the penitent. Most importantly, encourage people to reflect on the merciful love of Jesus Christ. It is a love that not only forgives, but transforms evil into good. Pope John Paul II was particularly eloquent about this:
The true and proper meaning of mercy does not consist only in looking, however penetratingly and compassionately, at moral, physical or material evil: mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man. (Dives in Misericordia, 6)
Help them to see that the wound of pornography can indeed be transformed into a fountain of love and hope with the grace of Christ. This is absolutely essential, because it is true!
- Intellectual and Moral Guidance: Porn is not normal. Be clear and confident about this. Porn is about treating people as objects. With the usual conditions satisfied, it is grave sin. It is important, I think, to explain that sin is an offence against God, in as much as it is offence against our human dignity (St. Thomas). We offend God by offending ourselves. This is particularly true of the sin of pornography.
Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It 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. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic material. (CCC 2354)
- Emotional up building: Intellectual and moral clarity is often not enough. Strengthening the emotional life is indispensable. St. Thomas, I-II, q. 22-48, deals extensively with our emotional life. His treatment of the emotions is, in fact, foundational to his metaphysical and moral thought and is the most systematic of any theologian:
- Concupiscible (humanae) emotions
- Love, Desire, Joy
- Hate, Aversion, Sadness
- Irascible (utilitarian) emotions
- Hope and Despair
- Courage and Fear
- Concupiscible (humanae) emotions
Encourage them to develop a real love – emotion of love – for human sexuality and intimacy.
Encourage the person to develop a real hatred – emotion of hatred – for pornography. I have found that young men, in particular, are helped greatly by this advice.
Likewise, get them to develop a real anger for the injustice done to women.
- Imagination: Help the person to imagine how he is going to reject the temptation in the future. Encourage him to picture imagine himself rejecting the temptation with a strong emotion of hatred and aversion.
- Relational thinking: In this regard, try and help them to see the distinction between experience and encounter. In modern life, the former is often understood in a narcissistic way, whereas real life is always with and for others.
- Good Sex: Part of the battle is sexual curiosity – especially for adolescents. Books like Sex-Love in Christian Marriage may prove useful since they speak candidly about the sexual act and demonstrate its symbolic and relational character.
- Psychological help: Since we are often dealing with an addictive behaviour, reference to a good psychologist and good websites that offer help will be necessary.