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Sex Education and Pornography

For social progressives, the sexual revolution was one of the greatest achievements in the history of the human race. At long last (the sexual revolutionaries proclaim), sexuality could be enjoyed outside of the framework of the old-fashion religious beliefs that had done nothing but induced crippling guilt and robbed generations of the pleasures of sexuality. 

At the heart of the sexual revolution is the principle that all sexual behaviors, as purely private matters, are outside the purview of public judgment. 

“Consent” is the one and only criterion that must be met. Outside of this, anything goes. If someone finds it pleasurable to engage in a particular behavior, then there is no basis to criticize him or her, so long as the behavior does not cause overt harm to another and is not imposed upon another without his or her consent. 

Pornography Isn’t Simply “My Body, My Choice”

It is difficult to overstate how radical a departure this is from the Christian understanding of sexuality, and ethics in general, which understands the body and sexuality as possessing a deep, intrinsic meaning. 

“[S]exuality is not something purely biological,” proclaims the Pontifical Council for the Family, “rather it concerns the intimate nucleus of the person. The use of sexuality as physical giving has its own truth and reaches its full meaning when it expresses the personal giving of man and woman even unto death.” 

However, for the modern mind there is something deeply appealing about the idea that “freedom” means simply having the ability to engage in whatever behaviors we like, without having anyone imposing external standards of “meaning.” Instead, the individual person chooses or discovers meaning for themselves.

“My body my choice” is a principle that social progressives take as fundamental and apply to more than just the issue of abortion. This principle justifies everything from progressive calls to decriminalize hard drugs, to the “right” to undergo mutilating surgeries in the name of “transitioning” to another “gender,” or the “right” to engage in so-called “sex work.” 

If there is one issue that social progressives view as clearly being a case where privacy and choice trump moral judgment, it is that of pornography. As such, it serves as a fascinating test case for this principle in action.

For decades now, social progressives have argued that viewing pornography is an entirely private behavior that causes no overt harm to anyone. So long as the pornography being viewed was produced by companies that obtained consent from the “actors” and “actresses,” then there is no basis whatsoever to criticize this most private of all sexual behaviors. 

How interesting, therefore, that one is increasingly finding instances of leftist activists and commentators expressing profound misgivings about the extent to which pornography has permeated our culture. Many of them are discovering (to their surprise) that being far from being a meaningless, “private” affair, pornography has profound impacts not just on its users, but upon the whole of society.  

Related: Against Abortion? Quit Porn.

The Guardian: Porn Ruins Lives

As a case in point of this new trend, we find two recent articles published in the far-left UK newspaper The Guardian. 

One of the articles, called “The Secret Life of Porn Addicts,” traces the myriad negative consequences of pornography addiction. The article begins by recounting the story of “Tony,” a man in his 50s, who recently took the time to catalogue the total amount of his life that he has been spent viewing pornography. All told, it added up to approximately eight years. 

“The result was horrifying,” he says. “I can barely think about it. The sense of failure is intense.” Despite many attempts to quit pornography, he has never succeeded for long. 

Tony, however, offers a sobering thought: at least he mostly grew up before the Internet came along. He had a more or less normal adolescence. He went to parties. He had real friends, and girlfriends.  

“Boys like me don’t stand a chance now,” he says.  

The statistics suggest that Tony is right. As The Guardian notes, the average age of first exposure to pornography for children in the UK is 12. According to government statistics, a third of all adults in the UK viewed pornography in a single month.  

Porn Addiction is Real, and It’s Destructive

Strangely, the medical establishment has been very slow to acknowledge the reality of pornography addiction. This is strange, because one need not look far at all to find online groups of tens of thousands of people sharing their stories of how pornography and masturbation took over their lives. 

The stories of many of these people are the same: early exposure, growing obsession, and an escalation of the kind of content, from “ordinary” pornography into the violent and otherwise perverse.  

It is encouraging, therefore, to see The Guardian quoting various psychologists and healthcare professionals stating the obvious: pornography addiction is real and should be formally recognized.  

One researcher who is studying the impact of pornography on the sexual health of men told The Guardian that there is one problem with doing this kind of research. “[I]t is more or less impossible to find a control group that is not using pornography from a young age,” he said, “and at the same time is not morally against its consumption.”

In other words, researchers can’t even find significant groups of men who aren’t using pornography! So, they cannot create reliable studies about what, exactly, the impact of pornography is. It’s not just that porn addiction is real: it is that we are now a society of porn addicts.

Violent and Degrading

One’s concern grows when one begins to take seriously what kind of content our young men and women are consuming. 

And this brings us to another interesting shift in the public conversation about pornography. Not only are more and more people on the social left beginning to talk openly about the impacts that “private” pornography viewing can have on the life of porn users, but they are also beginning to openly express concerns about the nature of much of the pornography that they are viewing. 

Another article published just days ago in The Guardian raises the alarm on this score. Again, this is extremely interesting, given that The Guardian is one of the most socially liberal papers in the UK.  

This article points to the growing trend of “choking” during sex. As the article notes, one recent study found that 65% of respondents under the age of 35 reported either choking or being choked during a sexual encounter. 

I’ve written about this grotesque phenomenon previously, and so I won’t revisit the details. However, what’s absolutely clear to anybody who spends even a moment looking into this issue is that this is a direct consequence of the spread of violent, degrading pornography. 

No young man or woman naturally thinks to themselves that what they would like to do during a sexual encounter is to choke or to be choked by their partner. Historically speaking, only the tiniest minority of sexual deviants had ever even heard of the idea of sexual choking, let alone practiced it. 

And yet here we are, in a world in which the majority of sexually active young men and women have engaged in, or been victimized by, a sexual practice that even some of the most villainous libertines in history might not have even heard of.  

So much for pornography use being a purely “private” affair! On a staggeringly large scale, pornography has shifted sexual norms, spilling out into the real world, with devastating consequences for relationships and the overall common good. 

We must ask ourselves, what kind of a world have we created for ourselves, in which a young woman who is interested in a young man must live in fear that he will demand that she engage in a sexual practice that she finds terrifying and repulsive, or—even worse—that he might unexpectedly and violently assault her during a sexual encounter. 

We are so, so far from the Catholic Church’s rich vision of sexuality as possessing a deep, intrinsic meaning through which a husband and a wife express a fruitful love for one another. It is difficult to put into words.

HLI marriage enrichment program in India

‘I Might Have Been a Good Husband and Father’

In “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality,” the Pontifical Council for the Family contrasted these two understandings of sexuality. 

On the one hand, “Sexuality, oriented, elevated and integrated by love acquires truly human quality,” writes the Council. “When such love exists in marriage, self-giving expresses, through the body, the complementarity and totality of the gift. Married love thus becomes a power which enriches persons and makes them grow and, at the same time, it contributes to building up the civilization of love.” 

However, when this connection between sexuality and meaning is lacking, “a ‘civilization of things and not of persons’ takes over, ‘a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used. In the context of a civilization of use, woman can become an object for man, children a hindrance to parents…” 

Once one has encountered and understood the Church’s understanding of sexuality, and particularly when one has seen this understanding lived out in holy and happy marriages, the fundamental principles of the sexual revolution can appear as nothing short of demonic, destructive lies. 

The sexual revolutionaries somehow thought that they were “liberating” the human race. They thought they were ushering in a new era of freedom and pleasure and fun, in which relationships between men and women would be free and easy. 

Instead, what we get are men like Tony, sitting in front of their computers and giving over their minds to dark, dangerous fantasies that twist and pervert their minds, while the porn companies rake in billions and billions of dollars in profits. We get, as the Council of the Family put it so well, the “civilization of things and not of persons.”  

Men and women like Tony are treated like “things” by the porn companies, who are happy to use their compulsions (the compulsions that they continually inflame) to generate profit. And porn users like Tony are treating the men and women in the videos they watch as “things,” i.e., mere means by which he can achieve pleasure. Thus, we dehumanize one another to such a point that sexuality, rather than an expression of love, becomes a raw expression of power in the name of taking one’s own pleasure without the slightest regard for the other’s good. 

Tony’s words to The Guardian’s reporter are heartbreaking. “The version of me that isn’t porn addicted might have made a good husband and devoted father,” he said, “but I became sexually bored, and I always hid my addiction – I was never authentic.” 

How devastating. 

Spend a moment pondering that sentence, and you will understand how utterly his words destroy the sexual revolutionaries’ lie that sexual behavior is a purely “private” affair that cannot be judged. That Tony’s addiction has robbed him of his dream of being a loving husband and father is not a purely “private” affair. A world composed of good husbands and fathers is a better world in which everyone benefits.  

How many Tony’s are there in our world? The plummeting marriage and childbirth rates would seem to suggest that they are far more numerous than we would like to think. How devastating to contemplate the number of marriages not made, of children not born, of lives squandered on dark, fleeting pleasures. All of this, because of the sexual revolutionaries’ decision to throw to the side millennia of human wisdom and to embark on a radical experiment based upon the shallowest ethical principles.  

How desperately this world needs the Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage! It is up to us to educate ourselves on that teaching and to confidently and courageously proclaim it to a society that is desperately sick and looking for the cure that the Catholic Church holds in trust.  

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7 Comments

  1. Dara on July 10, 2024 at 6:29 AM

    “Heart of Mercy: Mercy is the Heart of Love” examines different forms of sexuality, and touches on sexual addictions. Dr. Deirdre McNamara

  2. Pauline Farley on July 9, 2024 at 12:08 AM

    Private actions always have public consequences. I was taught this axiom in my teens. Leftist ideology cannot work, because it all comes from the devil and is, therefore, evil.

    Odd to see a leftist newspaper finally declaring something truthful – experience is a bitter teacher.

    The political Left have NO good ideas. Not one. True history is seldom taught in schools these days, because knowledge of history always reveals both the success of Christian-based Western civilisation and the catastrophic failure of Leftist ideology.

  3. Alexander A LoBianco on July 8, 2024 at 2:37 PM

    Fr. Mike Scmitd(sp?) offers a free crash course on TOB:
    https://ascensionpress.com/pages/tob-course-51024

  4. Jean Sockoch on July 8, 2024 at 12:14 PM

    Well said. Thank you so much. Too bad the TOB classes are soooo expensive.

  5. Josephine on July 8, 2024 at 11:55 AM

    This is very educative. Thank you Father

  6. Hales Karen on July 8, 2024 at 11:50 AM

    Could not agree with this article more. Thank you for the research. May we all be enlightened in this social experiment we call Life. I pray there is a way out. May God be kind and merciful.

    • MARY on July 8, 2024 at 3:12 PM

      Thank you for putting this information out there. It is so vitalerally anybody realizes. How dangerous pornography is period having been exposed at a very young age. I can certify that it has an impact on your life at the way you view yourself and others around you period I’m so grateful that Jesus Christ saved me, He forgave my sins And made me a new creation period I am born again in the spirit of God lives in me now.I don’t live for myself anymore.I’m so grateful and humbled that He loved me so much to die for me So I could have a real life with Him leading me!!!

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