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Contributed by Tori Black

United Families International: Dedicated to informing you about the issues and forces impacting the family.

Author Mary Day Winn once said, “Sex is the tabasco sauce which an adolescent national palate sprinkles on every course of the menu.” Adolescents are highly responsive to novelty, they are impulsive, and more likely to take risks. This is because the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating behavior is not yet fully mature in young people, and they lack the experience and wisdom that accompanies age which would help them navigate and avoid risky behavior.

Older people can also have difficulty modulating their actions. Even as our stores of wisdom (hopefully) grow, our cognitive skills decline with age, leaving us vulnerable to bad choices. My husband, who is skilled in flying commercial aircraft – clearly no dummy, and who knows the safety rules that accompany the use of power tools, nevertheless made an unwise choice recently that cost him the tip of a finger on his left hand.

An ancient obsession

It would appear that today’s society, and this is a world-wide phenomenon, is seeking novelty and simultaneously ignoring the wisdom of the ages with its wholesale embrace of pornography. And unlike Mary Day Winn’s observation of the adolescent national palate, our doses today are not sprinkles that lightly garnish every course, but full portions ladled out in heaping measure.

The word “pornography” originated with the Greek pornographos which means “to depict prostitutes”. In 1842, the French pornographie, from which we get our word, meant an “ancient obscene painting, especially in temples of Bacchus.” Although there is ancient historical evidence of erotic images, what constitutes art as opposed to pornography, which is designed to elicit sexual arousal, can sometimes be hard to legally distinguish. We are left fumbling for meaning like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who, in an attempt to define obscenity for the purpose of censoring pornography, coined the expression “I know it when I see it.”

Creating a legal definition

If it is hard to define pornography, it is even harder to regulate it. That’s because pornography enjoys First Amendment speech protections. It wasn’t until 1973 that the Court established criteria for what constitutes obscenity and, therefore, what can be censored:

  1. The average person, applying local community standards, looking at the work in its entirety, must find that it appeals to the prurient interest.
  2. The work must describe or depict, in an obviously offensive way, sexual conduct, or excretory functions.
  3. The work as a whole must lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values”.

It’s easy to see how employing a “local community standard” is problematic when those standards are always changing, and in the case of pornography, ever degenerating. Pornography today is not what it was 10 or 20 years ago, much less a century or millennia ago. The first pornographic film was made in 1897. It was one minute long and showed a woman disrobing. The end. Pornographic films today are hard-core, often violent, and easily accessible through the Internet.

You don’t have to leave your home or show an ID to access it. Not only is porn ubiquitous, it’s big business. According to one New Yorker magazine article, one online porn site had 78 billion page-views in one year, and some porn sites “get more traffic than news sites like CNN, and less only than platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and PayPal.”

The far-reaching impact of pornography

I recently heard someone comment that pornography can only impact you “if you let it.” This is a seriously gross underestimation of the repercussions that pornography use has on the lives of those who don’t use it. Fight the New Drug shares the following examples:

  1. Pornography can impact relationships with members of the opposite sex. Porn users experience less love and trust in their relationships, are more likely to see marriage as a “constraint,” have less stable relationships, find their partners less sexually attractive, and are more likely to divorce.
  2. Porn leads to lower sexual satisfaction within a relationship. Researchers have seen a connection between porn use and low sex drive, erectile dysfunction and difficulty reaching orgasm.
  3. Part of the reason for sexual dysfunction is due to porn users finding it harder to have satisfying physical relationships with real people. Real people can’t measure up to the pretend world of porn. And no woman ever says “no” in a porn film no matter how degrading, painful or violent the sex acts. 
  4. Teens who use porn are more likely to initiate sexual activity at younger ages, have more partners, engage in riskier kinds of sex which increases their risk of contracting (and passing along) an STI. Adult men who use porn are more likely to go to prostitutes who won’t decline performing degrading or dangerous acts found in porn.
  5. Porn is linked to violence. Hardcore pornography today is extreme and increasingly portrays sadomasochistic sex that features degradation, humiliation and abuse of women. Even if there is no physical violence in a porn film, men are shown as powerful and commanding, women submissive and obedient, encouraging male-female power dynamics that promote the acceptance of aggression and abuse towards women and girls.
  6. Those involved in the production of pornography are often coerced, and you can’t tell the difference. Actors often do not realize the abuse to which they will be subjected when they agree to be a part of a pornographic image or film.
  7. There is a strong connection between pornography and sex trafficking. Whenever someone is forced to participate in the production of porn, that person is being trafficked. There is no such thing as consent in child porn. Users of porn are less compassionate towards victims of sexual violence and exploitation. Both traffickers and buyers get ideas from porn and demand trafficking victims re-enact porn scenes.

Dispelling a myth

On October 23, 2019, a Florida man was arrested in the trafficking of a 15-year-old girl who had been missing since February. The girl’s mother found videos of a sexual nature of her daughter on Periscope, Pornhub, Modelhub and Snapchat. Authorities were able to connect the girl to a man in the videos using surveillance video and the report of a store clerk that recognized the girl and called the police. This young woman did not “let” herself become the tool of some sex trafficker any more than a woman “lets” herself experience the degradation that comes when her husband brings pornography into their relationship and bedroom.

There is a reason that pornography has been declared a public health crisis in 16 states. Jennifer Johnson, associate professor and chair of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, agrees with these state resolutions based on findings from her research that leads her to conclude that pornography is “not a benign form of media, it has an impact.” That impact goes beyond the person doing the viewing and touches the lives of partners, families and communities. So the next time someone tries to tell you that pornography only affects those who use it, make sure they leave you a little better informed about the widespread harm pornography inflicts on innocent lives.