FIRST-PERSON: Confronting the scourge of pornography
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The pornography industry has had another STD scare in its ranks. No one should be surprised. Its mistreatment of the human body and complete disregard for human dignity is bound to lead to the destruction of those who engage in it.
But pornography destroys not only those who engage in making it. It also destroys those who view it. While men and women are attracted to pornography for different reasons, the impact is devastating. Pornography introduces women to a fantasy world of false relationships that substitute for the real thing. It enables men to imagine sexual relationships without responsibility. For both, the result is isolation from members of the opposite sex and the loss of relationships that give meaning to life.
Pornography also devastates marriages. The loss of genuine intimacy is one of the leading causes of marital problems, including divorce. Women who discover their husbands are viewing pornography feel a deep sense of betrayal and insecurity. Their feelings of betrayal arise from the knowledge that their husbands are actually fantasizing about other women while they are engaged in acts of intimacy with them. They are insecure because they believe they are no longer personally appealing enough to their husbands.
Men who discover their wives are viewing pornography feel a deep sense of betrayal and isolation. They believe their wives are engaged in the equivalent of affairs with other men. This can lead to a sense of insecurity as they believe that they have failed to keep their wives' interest. It also results in greater isolation in the marriage as the wife looks to others for emotional engagement and interaction.
Some advocate viewing pornography as a way to enhance the physical experience between couples. This is outrageous. Couples aroused by viewing pornography end up using each other as a means of self-gratification. God intended the sexual relationship to be an act of selfless giving, where the partners are focused on satisfying the needs of each other. In God's design for sex, personal satisfaction results but it occurs within the context of mutual giving. Pornography reverses this and makes the desires of each person the central focus and the satisfaction of the partner a byproduct.
Pornography is not only destructive to marriage. It also destroys the viewer's sense of decency. A multitude of studies have demonstrated that people who view pornography start out watching what is mislabeled as "soft porn." Eventually this level of pornography is no longer stimulating, and the viewer seeks out more graphic forms. In time, many viewers end up watching things they would have originally thought to be thoroughly sick.
Pornography also destroys male attitudes toward women. Pornography is principally about violence against women. In pornography, women are merely objects for male aggression. No meaningful emotional relationship is developed in pornography. It is all about the male's satisfaction at the woman's expense. Pornography is implicated in nearly all acts of sexual violence. It feeds the basest aspects of the male psyche and produces in some men an insatiable desire to fulfill their violent fantasies in real life.
The sexual relationship is the ultimate form of intimacy between a husband and wife. God intended it to be something unique and special between them. Through it a husband and wife become completely vulnerable to each other, engaged in an act of complete self-giving. The physical act is only part of all that is supposed to occur between a husband and a wife in the sexual relationship. Pornography reduces this beautiful expression of human bonding to a mechanical act devoid of anything except selfish physical gratification.
Our children, our marriages, our communities and our nation all have a stake in ridding our homes of pornography. Let me encourage you to make sure that no one in your home can view pornography on any device. Do all you can to keep computers in public spaces in your home. Put accountability and filtering software on your computers that prevents access to pornography and that also sends a record of Internet sites visited to another monitoring computer. Anonymity is pornography's best ally. Accountability is the best defense against it.
If you are struggling with pornography, don't think lightly of it. It is corrosive and utterly destructive to the user, to all his or her relationships, and to communities. Find a trusted friend that you can talk to about it, and start with your spouse and your pastor. Then find some professional help that can guide you back to an appropriate, biblical attitude toward sex and all of your relationships. Finally, I hope you will work to eliminate pornography from your neighborhoods, and work with local and federal lawmakers to help put in place some effective policies that will rid our homes of this destroyer of all that is good and pure.
Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. This column first appeared at ERLC.com.
Baptist Press and SBC LIFE have carried articles over the years relaying pointers for how men, women and families can strive to combat the influence and damage of pornography in their lives.
-- Make time for God every day. Praying, reading and memorizing Scripture will make a big difference in your life.
-- Commit yourself before God to avoid situations on a computer or in a bookstore where temptations may abound.
-- Place computers in a common area of the home, clearly visible to all members of the family.
-- Don't roam the Internet aimlessly. Always have a definite destination in mind. Avoid surfing the Web late at night when you're alone and tired.
-- Find another individual with whom you can be accountable. Share your struggles and hold up a moral standard for each other.
-- Decide what online activities and how much time online are acceptable and communicate these to family members.
-- Share phone and computer passwords with your spouse.
-- Monitor children's computer and smart phone data usage akin to monitoring their TV viewing.
-- Periodically review file names stored on a computer. Names ending in GIF, JPG, BMP, TIF, PCX, DL and GL commonly refer to video or graphic images you can check.
-- If struggling with any form of pornography or moral impurity, your pastor or a biblical counselor recommended by your church likely can help you. A pastor or counselor also can help relationships damaged by the pain of pornography.