Some of the young ladies in my office made the mistake of watching Oprah the other day, and they were scandalized. No, it wasn’t the Sarah Palin interview. It was an episode on “Women and Porn”.
My colleagues expected that Oprah would examine the real destructive impact of porn on women. Instead, the show was basically a promotional commercial for the porn industry, with the goal of encouraging women to indulge in that particular vice. Thank you, so much, Oprah, for selling women on something that will do no good for them, and will hurt them and so many other people.
For the real impact of porn on women, Oprah should have presented:
- The number of child sexual abuse victims who wind up in the “sex industry”, perpetuating the abuse and damage even further.
- The human trafficking industry, which enslaves women and children for profit and keeps them captive by violence and abuse.
- The realization that that every time we look at porn, the woman depicted is likely there because she was forced into it — and we are actually looking at a rape.
- The number of “porn actors” who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, who suffer from severe psychological ailments, and who have died from drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and homicide.
- The number of “sex workers” whose health is ruined by sexually transmitted diseases and violent crime.
If you want to get into the effect of porn on marriages and families, her show would also have addressed:
- The cyclical effect of porn, in which the user is dragged progressively into worse and worse varieties.
- The close correlation between porn use and sexual crimes, especially child sexual abuse.
- The desensitization of porn users to authentic sexual desire and activity, which destroys the intimate marital relationship and leaves both wife and husband feeling empty and used.
- The feeling of betrayal that wives feel when they learn that their husbands seem to prefer the imaginary women of porn to their real, live spouse.
- The waste of money and time spent on addictive behavior like internet porn.
- The marriages that are destroyed by infidelity, largely induced by porn, sex talk over the internet, trips to “gentleman’s clubs” and prostitution.
At this point, it is almost impossible to understate the terrible effect of porn on men and women. It is also unfortunately impossible to understand the male experience of sexuality without appreciating the negative effects of porn. It is present everywhere, and people are exposed to it from a very early age.
Pope John Paul once pointed out the essential problem with porn. It’s not that is shows too much — it certainly does that. But the real problem is that we don’t see enough. We see only images of a body, and not a person made in the image and likeness of God. We then use that body as an object for our own pleasure, never seeing the real live person who is desperate for authentic love, but who instead is being exploited.
This is an issue that strikes home with me. Thanks to lots of grace, and with the help of the authentic love of my spouse, I am trying to live the teaching of our Church (especially the Theology of the Body). But I can never get complacent or over-confident. I always have to keep in mind that “it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16). In my marriage preparation talks, I urge the men to get porn out of their lives, to throw out the magazines and movies, and to take close care every time they go online. I speak to them with a conviction born of bad experience. I pray that they listen.
Thanks to things like this Oprah episode, I realize now that I’ll have to address my remarks to the women as well. Some progress.